Israeli entrepreneurs fail their way to success

As part of a recently launched forum series in Tel Aviv called Fu**Up Nights, leading entrepreneurs literally take the stage to publicly air their business blunders.

At the Fu**Up Nights forum series in Tel Aviv, entrepreneurs take the stage to openly air – and grow from – their business blunders (photo credit: Courtesy)
At the Fu**Up Nights forum series in Tel Aviv, entrepreneurs take the stage to openly air – and grow from – their business blunders
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While Tel Aviv has become increasingly synonymous with the start-up boom over the past decades, Israeli entrepreneurs have not shied away from acknowledging the failures along their paths.
As part of a recently launched forum series in Tel Aviv called Fu**Up Nights, leading entrepreneurs literally take the stage to publicly air their business blunders.
In January, Israel’s hi-tech capital became the newest addition to the global concept that started in Mexico in 2012 and is now active in 53 countries and more than 140 cities around the world. The program, run by a team of volunteer entrepreneurs and young professionals, seeks to provide new generations of innovators with inspirational and insightful lessons on how to “fail your way to success” from veterans in the self-starting business industry.
“The goal is to encourage a culture of dialogue in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tel Aviv on success and failure, while emphasizing the idea that failure is part of how we learn and grow,” says Leora Golomb, director of Fu**Up Nights Tel Aviv.
The forum provides a setting for beneficial awareness, particularly as competition remains ever high in the city world-renowned for its expansive entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“We feel that failures should be a part of the discussion, especially in a country that takes pride in being called the ‘Start-up Nation,’” Golomb and Fu**Up Nights member Margaux Stelman told Metro. “Statistics show that over 90 percent of the start-ups will fail, yet we rarely hear about those.”
Therefore, during the free monthly events scheduled at various locations around Tel Aviv, three or four Israeli entrepreneurs with varying backgrounds take the podium for a brief address to eager crowds. Afterward, the presenters and attendees alike are free to network and mingle with one another.
On February 21, more than 200 attendees came to the second such event that took place at the casually trendy Katana bar in central Tel Aviv. The event served as a microcosm of the greater Tel Aviv entrepreneurial scene, with the heads of international start-ups comfortably rubbing shoulders with young hopefuls and those searching for inspiration.
The speakers featured were three former elite IDF commanders and officers- cum-entrepreneurs.
Yosi Taguri, founder and CTO at the mobile app developer Yallo, kicked off the night with an entertaining, antics- ridden presentation on his shortcomings titled “The first time I got fired.”
The 42-year-old jovially recounted the path that lead him from the humble beginnings of his first start-up, located in a fourth-floor office in a building with no elevator, to his current start-up, which raised $6.5 million in funds in 2015.
He explained how less than two years after receiving $2m. in initial investments for his venture, the start-up needed additional funds. About a halfyear after funds dried up, an acquisition deal with WPP ad agency soured, leaving Taguri at the point where he and his wife “didn’t have money to pay for hummus.”
Then, shortly after taking a job at livechat software firm LivePerson, Taguri was fired – an experience he described as “the worst possible feeling.”
“I highly recommend you feel like that at least once in your life,” he told the crowd, adding that the sentiment motivated him to make it the last time he let someone control him and his destiny or make him feel expendable.
However, Taguri took the encouraging advice of the godfather of the Israeli tech scene, Yossi Vardi, and decided to start another company.
“The number of possible failures for any entrepreneur is finite. Eventually, you won’t fail,” Taguri, in his final remarks, quoted Vardi as saying.
Later in the night, Amit Marom, the founder of Marom Group, detailed how a multimillion-dollar project between his international social investment house and the Vatican Foundation “totally failed.”
The philanthropy expert with a flair for fashion took on a social venture promulgated by pope Benedict XVI to create five Vatican-sponsored international family and spiritual centers with priority in the Holy Land. By 2015, Marom said he was rushing back and forth between transatlantic meetings on his own account and everything seemed in order.
However, after agreeing to $25m. in American funding for the project, the Vatican began to rake in control of the project over an unwillingness to relinquish an intermediary organization with responsibility to direct funds for the undertaking.
Despite Marom’s mediation efforts, the project flopped.
Marom, 41, described feeling like he was “in a movie” before things took a downward turn.
“Basically, it hurt my ego in a way you can’t understand,” he said. “You feel like you’re going to conquer the world, like you’re going to work with the pope. I actually had an office in Rome.
Despite having the knowledge and the experience in such affairs, Marom described this as “probably his biggest failure.”
To wrap up the night, Guy Katsovitch, the managing director of the 8200 EISP accelerator, used the event not merely to preach his expertise but as an opportunity for veritable self-reflection.
The 28-year-old chose to focus not on his past start-up’s tactical failures, but rather on the personal attributes that led to his business downfalls.
Katsovitch spoke about the social lending start-up Lendu he co-founded in 2012 and his self-stated character flaws that led to its downfall after about six months, noting how he “failed as a co-founder, partner and human being.”
He continued, confessing that on a personal level he believed he had also failed to handle his parents’ divorce and the past five serious romantic relationships he was involved in due to a lack of empathy and understanding.
“In my personal perspective I’m a failure in some ways; I’m a failure as a family member, as a spouse, a partner, and still I’m considered to some people in society as successful – which is a surprise,” he asserted.
In summation, Katsovich advised that before turning failure into success, one must acknowledge one’s failures and learn how to improve upon that.
In the meantime, as efforts continue to comprehend and overcome the stakes involved in starting a successful enterprise, Fu**Up Nights has scheduled its next event open to the public for March 20 at Google’s Campus Tel Aviv.