Magazine

Whiz kid

By the time he turned 15, Tomer Hen had become an expert in the new field of mobile marketing and advertising. Today, four year later, he’s a multimillionaire with his own company

Tomer Hen
Photo by: Courtesy, Or Kaplan
With the arrival of the first so-called “smartphones” (cellular phones utilizing a mobile operating system) in Israel around five years ago, Tomer Hen was just a typical 14-year-old Netanya high-school student. But after getting his hands on one of these new multipurpose mini-computers, things started to change. Hen stopped paying attention in school and started getting into trouble with teachers, often being thrown out of class due to his obsession with his phone. His grades started to slide, greatly troubling his parents.

However, little did his teachers, parents or friends realize it at the time, but Hen wasn’t using his phone to goof off; he had understood this new technology’s potential as a tool for generating income. Within less than a year, Hen, at the age of 15, had become an expert in the new field of mobile marketing and advertising.

Investing around NIS 12,000 of his bar-mitzva money, Hen started buying mobile media, or advertisement space, on prestigious mobile applications and mobile-based Web pages, to assist companies in Israel and around the world to promote their businesses.

Not only was Hen working with global companies to place their ads on mobile networks, but after school he began working out of coffee shops teaching others how they could develop mobile marketing strategies to earn additional income.

Word of Hen’s method, at NIS 80 per session – hardly peanuts for a 15-year-old student – began to get out.

The demand for Hen’s expertise was so great he began leading NIS 500 workshops for a diverse client base of people in the world of online marketing.

“I was holding online mobile marketing sessions for all types of people – students, soldiers, mothers on maternity leave, pensioners and others who were trying to supplement their income,” says the now 19- year-old Hen from the spacious office of his own multimillion- shekel mobile Internet marketing and training company in Tel Aviv’s business district.

Hen’s firm, known as the “Tomer Hen mobile marketing college,” now has 12 employees who run weekly seminars teaching aspiring mobile marketing professionals the tricks of the trade. Participants include small business owners who want to learn how to implement effective mobile advertising campaigns or individuals seeking to generate income by helping other companies successfully advertise their business or service.

At the same time, Hen’s company works with businesses of all sizes, serving as a one-stop shop for companies looking to launch mobile advertising promotions.

From creating the concept and message to designing the mobile banners, writing the text, and placing the ads in the appropriate media, the company handles all aspects of the campaign.

“The world of mobile advertising is so much different than the Web,” says Hen. “Most people think it’s the same as the [Inter]net, only smaller, but that’s not the case. With mobile phones you have two seconds or less to get your message out there. Most companies still don’t understand how that’s accomplished, and that’s where we come in.”

According to Hen the field of mobile marketing and advertising is a $60 billion-a-year business which is expected to double by 2016.

But how comfortable are Hen’s students, business clients and even his employees relying on the abilities and business sense of a just-out-of-high-school 19- year-old? “I’ll admit,” says Hen, “people who come to my workshops are initially skeptical. We’re talking about people who have master’s degrees and sometimes doctorates.

But then they realize I know what I’m talking about and they can see that I have the confidence. The same holds true for those who consider using my business services.

They might at first think I’m just lucky or say I’m inexperienced, but once they see that I’m delivering, and making them money, they don’t care about my young age, or possible lack of experience.”

Hen, who made his first million by the age of 16, says that he was working alone until the beginning of 2012, but then started hiring as his business grew. He admits that at first it was awkward being the youngest in the office while also being the “boss,” but says he has learned to adapt to the situation and accept the responsibilities that go along with it.

“At first, since I had never been an employer or even an employee in an office, I didn’t know anything about running an office or paying salaries, or taxes, etc. But then,” he adds, “using my instincts I was able to create a positive work-environment and establish positive ‘boss/worker’ relationships where those who came in were able to dismiss possible preconceived notions about what it might be like working for someone so young.”

IN ADDITION to running his successful business, Hen has just started fulfilling his duty to the state via National Service.

A back injury prevented him from enlistment in the army, something which disturbs him greatly.

“I wanted to enlist in the IDF Spokesman’s Unit,” he says, “but due to my medical condition I wasn’t accepted into the army. I’m still hoping that through my sherut [service] I’ll be able to volunteer in the IDF Spokesman’s Unit.”

At this point, due to his business success Hen has no plans to pursue a college degree.

“I’m a practical person,” he says, “and I don’t think learning theory for years and years is for me. I prefer taking in real-life lessons from those people who are already accomplished in the field.”

As far as goals for the future of his company go, Hen hopes to expand his business to a point where it is able to essentially operate on its own. He also plans to combine his professional success and knowledge of the world of mobile phones to give back to society.

“Africa is a leader in mobile marketing,” Hen says.

“Most of their experience using the Internet is not through a computer but through the phone. I would love to be able to give back and assist the disadvantaged communities there through education in order for them to better their lives.”

With a thriving career and lofty goals for the future, Hen insists that outside the office he is a normal 19- year-old. “When I go home at night [he lives in his own Tel Aviv apartment], I’m a regular 19-year-old. I watch TV, play sports, and go to parties with friends.

In fact my friends say that there are two Tomers, the one at work and one outside of work.”

Hen admits that while it’s difficult when those worlds collide, he’s learning to adapt.

“It can be hard when my work and personal life mix,” he says. “Like when a friend is a customer in a workshop, or a friend visits me in the office. But I’m starting to understand that when I’m... myself at work, I’m more successful. I’ve started to develop the confidence to understand that in the office I shouldn’t pretend to be someone that I’m not. This has made mixing my worlds a bit easier.”


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