Omer Molad of Vervoe

Founder Coffee episode 031

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every three weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this thirty-first episode, I talked to Omer Molad, co-founder of Vervoe, a leading hiring solution that enables you to hire employees based on their skills instead of their experience.

After his military service in Israel, Omer worked at a few startups. After this he moved back to Australia, where he used to live as a kid. He then went to law school and worked at big companies in management positions for many years.

It was only after a chat with his co-founder David that they decided to start their own adventure and launch Vervoe. The starting point: a conversation about how the top performers in their teams weren’t the ones with the best resumes.

We talk about his pivot from small to big companies, about how to focus on the journey step by step, his chaotic schedule, and how he started trusting his team, stepping away and empowering people.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen: Hi, Omer. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Omer: Hi, Jeroen. Great to be here.

Jeroen: You’re the Co-Founder of Vervoe. For those who don’t know Vervoe, what do you guys do?

Omer: Our mission is to make hiring about merit and not background. We’re a skills-assessment platform. What that means is that instead of companies using things like resumes to decide who to hire, we show them how candidates perform tasks that are relevant to the job. And so, they can see candidates doing things like exercises in Excel or editing a sales deck or handling a customer or writing code, or really anything that’s related to the job. Then that helps them make a decision on who’s actually going to be good at the job that they’re trying to fill.

Jeroen: Right. Are the tests standard or do you also provide custom tests? What is the ratio between the two?

Omer: It’s actually almost all custom, and we believe very strongly that it should be custom and context-dependent. That’s because, if you think about it, a graphic designer who works at, say, a Series A startup versus a graphic designer who works at a major accounting firm, they’re very different jobs. There will be some overlap in skill, but it’s a very different type of environment to work in, different risk parameters, and speed, and people you have to deal with. So we instantly create bespoke custom assessments based on the requirements that our customers have for the job.

Jeroen: If I’m not mistaken, you sell this through a SaaS model, right?

Omer: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a SaaS delivery model, and our customers are mainly mid-market and enterprise. Up to a certain price point, we have monthly, but probably 80 to 85% of our revenue is over six to twelve month contracts, usually 12 months. But still it’s SaaS and we charge based on the number of hires. Typically, companies tell us how many people they need to hire and that’s the main variable based on which we quote a price.

Jeroen: Okay, and then you guys start creating specific content for these hires for that price?

Omer: The way it works is we have pre-existing content. We have over 80,000 questions and tasks in our library, and our clients have two options. One is if they have an existing way of testing that they like, that they use offline, they can bring it onto our platform, so we have a content builder. Or, most commonly, they tell us what they’re looking for and a test is automatically generated for them out of that huge library of questions.

Omer: We use natural language processing to do that. We ask them to describe the person they want to hire. They’ll write something like, “I want to hire a graphic designer with a growth mindset and very strong sketch skills,” or whatever, and then our AI assembles a test for them and then they can swap questions in or out. Then that will be delivered to candidates. They’ll complete it, and then we automatically grade it. Our machine learning models will automatically grade the completed assessment.

Jeroen: How did you actually come to this idea, because if I’m not mistaken, you didn’t come from, let’s say, the HR industry?

Omer: Yeah, that’s right. In fact, both founders of the company, David and I, are industry outsiders, which has made it, in some respects, difficult. In other aspects, we have a fresh perspective on things. We both experienced the hiring problems ourselves, and there were a few things that happened.

Omer: I actually grew up in Tel Aviv, and I went to a very good high school. I served in the military. I worked at a couple of startups. Then, in my early 20s, I moved to Australia. I applied to about 100 jobs and couldn’t get an interview. I didn’t have a degree and no one could pronounce my name. My so-called credentials or resume, which was good in Israel, wasn’t really valued, and I found that very frustrating to be eliminated and disqualified and not even given a chance to get in the room.

Omer: Then years later, I was running a very big team in a big bank, and David was running a big team in the valley, and we had this conversation about how the top performers in our team aren’t the ones who went to the best university or have the best resume, and conversely, we keep interviewing all these people with very fancy resumes and they don’t end up being the best people.

Omer: At the time, we were inspired by Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, the company that invented WordPress. What they were doing over there was auditions. They weren’t even using technology. They were just literally bringing people in to do a project with, and working on something together. We thought, what a great way to actually get to know someone and make a hiring decision. That inspired us to basically take the concept on an audition but bring it online and do it for a lot of people simultaneously, fast, and based on data, and that’s really it. Then we started researching this topic and started building something.

Jeroen: That’s interesting. We actually, at Salesflare, we also try to do this, but it’s mostly with developers that it’s easy to do, like to give a task and see how it’s performed. But for a lot of positions, it’s often very difficult. I don’t know how you guys deal with it then, because the tasks are way less concrete and more difficult to check on the quality.

Omer: Yeah, you’re right. Coding is a very common way that the engineering industry has embraced this method of evaluating people early. And other industries, the film industry, that’s how you get a job in a movie or a TV show. You audition for the job. But in everything else, it’s very traditional. We recognized very early that we don’t know how to test for every role. We’re not experts in every job. So what we did was we built a library. We used content from experts. We attracted people who are experts in a certain industry. It can be marketing. It can be sales, customer service, whatever, design or even psychologists or recruiters. We asked them to create content, and we have a model where we share revenue with them, so it’s a content marketplace. That’s how we created all this content.

Omer: We built very immersive functionalities – video, audio and multiple choice. We embedded the Google app suite so you can ask candidates to do work in Google sheets or slides or docs and then we added code testing functionalities too. So it’s very dynamic.

Omer: Then in terms of, how do we know if it’s the right answer, our machine learning basically starts by analyzing candidate behavior. What I mean by that is, imagine a group interview scenario or an assessment center where you’re watching over people’s shoulder all day and looking how they interact and how they do tasks. We do the digital version of that. We collect 68 data points from each candidate, not personal data, but things like typing speed, how long it takes them when they start, all sorts of things. We analyze the transcripts from their video responses.

Omer: We then looked at thousands and thousands of candidates, and we looked at how they’re behaving and what scores hiring managers and recruiters are giving them, and detected very clear patterns. So we can now basically take any assessments, no matter how bespoke, and we can predict the score that a human will give with about 80% accuracy. That allows us to instantly auto grade anything. Then, once the employer starts grading, we learn from their preferences and start recalibrating.

Jeroen: Cool. How did it actually happen that you do all these things in Israel, military services and stuff, and then decide to move to Australia? What was the motivation behind that?

Omer: I was born in Tel Aviv, and when I was four and a half, we moved to Melbourne, Australia, and lived here for seven and a half years. So I had a portion of my childhood here. Then we went back to Israel and I did high school in the military. So I was kind of a gypsy as a child. I moved back and forth a few times.

Omer: That was kind of good and bad. It was tougher because I kept moving schools and I never really knew where I belonged. But it really gave me a perspective, a global perspective, and I grew up in two very different countries. I felt like after I finished the military, I needed a change in scenery, and required more than a vacation. I moved to Melbourne and instantly loved it and just felt more comfortable here in terms of the culture. Then I ended up going to law school and I met my wife, and life kind of took over. I love living here, so it’s a great place to live.

Jeroen: Right. Then somehow from law school, you ended up in a bank?

Omer: Yeah. I spent most of my career working at big companies with the exception of two years. There was a two-year period where I worked at Red Cross in the humanitarian sector. But most of my career, I worked in banking. In Israel, I worked at a couple startups but as an employee. This is the first startup for me as a founder. But I had a very strong sense particularly the last few years, that I was a bit lost. I didn’t want to be in a big company anymore and really reached a point where I wanted to create my own job and build a company and lead a company, and I didn’t quite know how to do that. It took me a while to figure out how to make that happen. But it was very obvious to me that that’s the path that I need to go down.

Jeroen: So after your studies, you worked in a few startups and then took a huge startup break to now get back there again. Right?

Omer: Yeah. It’s funny because after the army, I worked at a couple startups. That was an instinctive thing for me to do. In Israel, it was very easy because there were so many. Then I moved to Melbourne and somehow went to law school and ended up in really big companies. Part of it’s environmental because in Australia, certainly back then, there were basically no startups. In Israel, you bump into entrepreneurs in the street. The whole country’s full. It’s kind of like Silicon Valley. I think part of it was the environment I was in, and part of it was just that I hadn’t quite found the right journey for me. It took me a little while to get there.

Jeroen: I understand. If I asked you who inspired you the most in the startup sphere – someone you follow, a friend or family, who would that be for you?

Omer: There were so many. It really depends. I read a lot and listen to a lot of podcasts. For example, I love Seth Godin’s altMBA. I listen to a lot of podcasts about sales or about company building. I listen to a lot of podcasts about the industry that we’re in, so recruitment. Particularly I like to learn from people who’ve built fast-growing companies and have done it the hard way, not necessarily the ones who are kind of in the Silicon Valley and raise money from Sequoia. But I like to see the less orthodox paths, and look on a personal level, my team. My co-founder, my team, I don’t need to go outside our company for inspiration. The team works so incredibly hard, and some of the sacrifices that people have had to make on this rollercoaster journey that we’re on, that is the inspiration. But I’m always learning from people outside the company as well.

Jeroen: Okay. You briefly touched company building. How do you look at that when you think about Vervoe, and what is the approach you take there? What is the thing you see in the future?

Omer: I like to educate myself on different areas that are the problems we’re trying to solve at a particular time. For example, the first problem was, I know it’s a cliché to say product market fit, but essentially, validating demand, getting the first customers, and answering the question of, does someone actually want this thing that we built.

Omer: When we were trying to do that and to get our first 10 customers, I was obsessed with the process. I consumed so much material. I wanted to learn from anything I could on how to get those first 10 customers, because that’s all that mattered. Then, once we did that, we had to validate the next thing. So I focused on that. I’ll give you an example later on. Then when we decided to build a sales team, I had to learn everything about how to deal with a sales team, how to hire salespeople, how to compensate sales people. Comp is like a whole new world. You could do a PhD just on remuneration in sales, and what are the different types of selling and how to build a repeatable sales process.

Omer: I spoke to CEOs. I spoke to VPs of sales. I read. I listened. I did so many things. Now I’m trying to solve a different problem. Now we’re raising money and we’re scaling and thinking about building culture across geographies, and so I’m educating myself on that. It’s hard to think too far ahead, so I typically try and become an expert in the problem that we’re going through right now or the next stage of growth, and understand how to be really good at that.

Jeroen: That makes sense. For the listeners that are building a company now, back to the product market fit part where a lot of startups are struggling, what was your biggest learning there, going through that process?

Omer: We made a couple of mistakes early on. One was we were too quick to try and build something scalable, repeatable, automated, and we probably early on should have invested more time in just doing things that aren’t repeatable, like literally just going and talking to or trying to get one customer at a time. Not like implementing Intercom and trying to have repeatable stuff. None of that really matters. We were probably too clever and we really should have just gone and tried to talk to like 100 people and tried to get one customer at a time. That’s ultimately what we did, but I think early on, we probably invested too much in trying to have something scalable.

Omer: The other mistake we made was we weren’t good in the beginning at explaining the value of what we do, and it took us a little while, and so we sent the wrong message. People would come to the website and think we sell apples and turns out we sell oranges. So then it would confuse them. What would happen is we’d attract the wrong people or we’d attract the right people but they’d then come into the product and be disappointed and confused or whatever.

Omer: We basically learned that it’s easier to figure out how to talk to someone, but it’s harder I think writing it all. I see a lot of people making this mistake. That doesn’t translate to the way you write or what you put on your website. We realized that, okay, we actually can figure out how to explain this in person, but then the website says something totally different. How can you actually write the way you speak? Once we started communicating through all our channels, communicating the right message, the right story, things started to click and people would say, “Yes, this is a problem that I have and you solve it. Now let me see if this is good for me and whether I’m willing to pay for this.”

Omer: I think they’re the only things that matter in the beginning, just getting to the right people, understanding that you solve their problem, communicating to them that you do solve their problem. Then, looking at whether they are willing to try it. That’s all that matters in the very beginning.

Jeroen: So you think it’s all about talking to people, understanding them and fine-tuning your messaging while talking to them?

Omer: Exactly.

Jeroen: And then you translate that into repeatable marketing messages that are as close as possible to that real conversation you’re having.

Omer: Exactly. As close as possible to that real conversation and using customer language, listening to the words that they’re using, and actually writing in a way that is closer to where you talk and more natural, and then understanding who’s your audience. Another thing that happened to us is we got that right, and something crazy happened. Once we got our positioning right, we started getting all this interest, but it was from a different place to what we thought it would be. We thought that the market was going to be lots and lots and lots of small businesses.

Omer: Small businesses do have a problem in hiring, but they’re not hiring frequently. They hire a few times a year, and they don’t have a budget and they don’t have a dedicated person to do that. Large companies, they have a talent acquisition function and a budget when they’re thinking about this problem. What we realized was once we started communicating properly, what we do and the value of the problem we solve, we got a ton of interest from very big companies, and we were totally unprepared for that. All of a sudden we had massive companies come to us and want to work with us, but they had all these demands like data sovereignty and insurance and security and all this kind of stuff, and we were like, “Okay. Wow. Now we know where the demand’s coming from, but we haven’t prepared ourselves to meet that demand,” which is, by the way, a great problem to have. But you’ll only discover that when you’re actually sending the right message.

Jeroen: Yeah, but you got the message by talking to small companies. Right?

Omer: Yeah. We got the message by starting to talk to small companies. They were our first customers. We translated that to the website and then SEO started to kick in, so big companies started arriving. We also went to a conference as an experiment. Basically, two other founders twisted my arm, and I just thought it’s a waste of time. Anyway, I went in the end and we did this competition, this speech competition, and it was crazy. We had people lining up at our booth after that, and we got massive customers. Then we realized, okay, that’s where the interest is, and big companies, they talk to each other. All these things that we did by accident, but we did them in the right way, completely changed the way that we were attracting interest in the market.

Jeroen: Yeah. Maybe with customer interviews early on, you could have included big companies and come to the same conclusion.

Omer: I think that’s right, and I also think there’s the traction book which talks about the bullseye method and the 19 different traction channels. I think most founders have read that, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s so true. We did try a number of different channels in the beginning, and we continue to. But now we have a really strong sense of what works and where to invest. But the channels that worked, that ultimately worked for us, were not the ones that we guessed or thought would.The ones that we thought would work didn’t, and the ones that we thought wouldn’t work did. Basically guessed a whole bunch of things wrong.

Omer: What we never got wrong was the vision and mission and the problem we solve. That has never changed. That has always been the same, the problem we solve and the way we solve it. But the way we explain it and the marketing channels and the type of customer, all that has kind of evolved over time. So I’d recommend, in a really measured way, trying different things even if they seem crazy. Even if they seem like they won’t work. It’s still worth spending five grand, $5000 or a bit of time or whatever, to try it.

Omer: The other thing about channels is that something might not work a year ago, but it will work a year from now, because the market changes or your product changes, and so it’s worth also trying things again later on.

Jeroen: Again, I identify with that. If you solve a big core problem, you’ve identified one, then that might be the main constant in your company, and things around it might change, but that will ultimately keep driving the company.

Omer: That’s right.

Jeroen: A bit back to today and what you’re doing. What is it that keeps you up at night lately? What are the things that you’re really spending your energy on?

Omer: I had someone once say that there are three jobs for an early-stage CEO. Don’t run out of money. Build a great team is the second one, and the third is a combination of tell the story and get product market fit, which can be similar things because you’re essentially having to tell the story to the market to get the product into the hands of the right people. That third one used to keep me up at night, now less so, because we’ve been growing fast and things are sort of clicking. But the other two, the other two keep me up at night. So, capital and the team.

Omer: I spend a lot of time thinking about how to capitalize the company and the team, and they’re related. For example, capital is not just about raising money. It’s also about what should the burn rate be. Are we spending too much? Are we spending not enough? I see my job as allocating capital to the right things. For example, if I think the burn rate is too high, well, does that mean we have to make a change in personnel? You can just see how that thought alone can keep you up at night, having to fire someone, having to hold back on things.

Omer: I think the other things that trouble me the most that I kind of lose sleep over, are if I am making the right decisions about hiring and firing and how quickly to invest and make sure that the company has enough capital to continue so that we can reinvest and grow at the rate that we want to and basically keep everything going.

Jeroen: Right. What is your approach towards when to invest in a certain thing like marketing or an extra developer? How do you decide when is the right moment?

Omer: We think about what our objectives are, and then we think about what are the probabilities of success. Let me take a hypothetical situation. Let’s say that we’re converting very well but we don’t have enough traffic, okay, so our funnel works pretty well and our sales team is selling well but we need more leads, then we’ll look at all the ways to get leads and get traffic. If we know that SEO works well for us and happens for us, we start analyzing that. That’s a good example because SEO does work. We get a lot of inbound interest from organic search, and it’s also a channel that converts very well for us.

Omer: Then we say, “Okay, how do we invest in SEO?” The answer to that can actually be, hire another engineer, because there are a whole bunch of things that you can do, or hire a designer. There are a whole bunch of things that you can do on the side. Or it might be getting an agency and investing in link building. Then the next step is what’s that going to cost me per month and then you compare that to other channels. There might be another channel that we think will end up having the same return but costs three times as much to invest in.

Omer: We look at what problem are we trying to solve, what’s the return we’re going to get, and what’s the investment that we need to make. I’ll give you another example. We know that conferences work really well but they’re expensive because you have to fly to wherever in the US and that costs a lot of money. There are some things that we know work, but they’re too hard to invest in. There are other things that we know work and they make a lot of sense to invest in. And there are other things that we are not sure if they work or maybe we’ve ruled them out.

Omer: Now, the most frustrating thing is when you know something works, you want to do it, but you don’t have enough money to do it. Then it becomes a question of, okay, should you actually raise more money rather than delay, because it’s very frustrating to think that you can invest in a channel that’s profitable, but you have a constraint or you don’t have the ability to do that.

Jeroen: Yeah. I got it. Then that’s when you think about raising money. But to go to raise, you still need a lot of money. At least when you’re going for sort of a VC capital. A loan is easy, but I feel that doesn’t work.

Omer: Yeah. When we think about capital as a good story for investment, is to say we have a lot of traction and we have growth, we know where to invest but we’re constrained. Because investors essentially want to know if you’re growing. I mean, in the beginning it’s very different, when you’re doing pre-seed or seed and they’re asking like, okay, they don’t expect you to have a lot of traction or maybe have nothing and the questions asked are around if the thing is going to work or if you are the right team to give it a go.

Omer: But once you get into revenue, essentially, investors want to know, if I give you money, do you know how to spend that money? Will you get a return for that money? And they don’t want you to be guessing. So a good story to have is to say, “Well, we know how to access more customers. We’ve proven that can get customers and convert them,” and whatever the cycle happens to be. In our case we do pilots that then convert to an expansion, and we’ve done that enough times. Then now we need money to go and get a thousand more of them and we know where to get them and how to get them but we don’t have the money in the bank to go do that. That’s typically a good story for investors, as opposed to, I’m going to guess and experiment with your money. No one wants to hear that. Certainly not once you’ve got a product.

Jeroen: It sounds like you have a very pragmatic approach about all these things, about how to run a company. Now, I’m wondering, when running it, what are exactly the things that give you energy? Why do you do it? What keeps you getting out of bed every morning?

Omer: Yeah. It’s interesting. My co-founder and I are very different people. We both have a very strong need for intellectual stimulation. But he doesn’t want to manage people and he wants to be an individual contributor. He wants to sit in a room with a whiteboard and solve problems and innovate and come up with the next product innovation. Whereas I get my energy from people, and particularly from the market, so I like to talk to customers. There’s nothing more energizing for me than talking to a customer, and so I like to also get out into the market and have conversations, talk to investors, talk to people that are in the industry, talk to other founders, talk to other founders doing things in a similar space. I’ll go and give presentations at conferences. I don’t necessarily love doing that. That can be quite terrifying, but I do like to spend time with customers and in the market, and I love to spend time with the team.

Omer: When I feel flat, usually that’s a sign that I’ve spent too much time in the office. I learned this early on. Someone once taught me, if you’re ever feeling down, go talk to a customer. I think that’s very applicable to me because it absolutely works. You just feel energized again. Certainly I do. To me, that’s like the real thing. My job is not to do business inside the company, it’s to do business with the world and tell our story. So I get a lot of energy from doing that.

Omer: The other thing is celebrating little, small victories. We just, today, true story, we just got ISO 27001 certified, so that’s what we’re celebrating.

Omer: That’s like a security thing. It’s not a sexy thing, but wow, it was so much work, and that sends a really strong signal to the market that we take information security very seriously, and we invested so much in that. For the enterprise, it’s important. I wouldn’t recommend if you’re selling to SMBs or startups, I wouldn’t recommend going through that process. But we have to celebrate that. That’s a great milestone, or when we get feedback from a customer or one of our customer’s candidates. We love that. It’s the little things. It’s not just revenue or the financials. I think they’re the things that give all of us energy in the company.

Jeroen: If I had to imagine a day in your professional life, what would it look like?

Omer: Wow. You know all those people who you read about like the Tim Ferris kind of people that get up at 4:00 AM and drink mango juice and whatever and meditate, I’m not one of them. I’m the opposite. I do meditate by the way sometimes, but basically I have quite a chaotic schedule. Part of that is because I live in Melbourne and our sales team is in the US, and we have customers in the US and a board member. Our engineers are in Europe. We’re distributed globally. So much of our company’s around the world in terms of the team and customers and investors. I basically spend so much of my time on the phone or video to people in different time zones. I just learned that there’s no way to structure that. I have to be flexible. There’s no point trying to structure my day.

Omer: What I do instead is, I embrace that. I have phone calls with people at 6:00 AM while I’m walking the dog and getting a coffee. Sometimes I’ll go to the gym in the afternoon when it’s quieter. I use the flexibility to my advantage. But in terms of what I do, I basically spend my time on the three things that I said. I try and spend as much time as I can outside the company on the market, so helping the sales team, doing media and PR and telling the company story. Then the next thing is the team and spending time with the people in our team. I also need to spend time thinking and making sure that I don’t get into the weeds, and that I’m not missing something big.

Omer: Sometimes I go for a walk and try and step away or talk to one of our advisors and make sure that I’m investing my time on the right things and not micro-managing or doing silly things that someone else can do.

Jeroen: Yeah. When you’re here, you explain all these things you do, one might wonder how you keep all these things balanced.

Omer: Not very well. I don’t think I’m a good example of the work-life balance. A couple things that I’ve over time improved, one, I’ve been able to give some things up and basically step away from them and just stop doing them and let someone else in the team do them. That has been very good both for me and for the rest of the team, because actually they’re very capable and then I can just butt out, and it’s given people an opportunity to step up.

Omer: I’ve learned to do that. I’ve learned to focus my time on fewer things. The other thing I’ve learned to do, not very well still, but better, is to switch off. I had to spend three weeks in the US, so I flew 10 days earlier. For the first nine days, I went hiking in Utah, no phone, completely disconnected from the world. I had no idea what was happening in the company. I didn’t look at one email. Basically, I turned off all notifications. All I had on my phone was Instagram and WhatsApp to talk to my son and my wife, but no work.

Omer: It took me two days. The first day I was very anxious. Then after that, I totally just disconnected and it was so good. I just got to such a healthy place and I came back and I was relaxed. Actually, the team had the best week ever at that point. I didn’t feel insecure. In fact, I felt relieved. I felt like, wow, that’s so good. I actually now just step away and focus on bigger things and not micro-manage. That taught me a really important lesson, I think. I think everyone was happier after that.

Jeroen: Yeah. What do you actually like to spend your time on when you’re not working?

Omer: I’m married and I have a three-year-old boy, and we have a dog. So I try and spend as much time as possible with them. Between work and family, there’s not a lot left. But the two other things I really like is, yeah, I read and I consume a lot of information through podcasts and books. I use audible a lot. It’s not always work. I just like to educate myself on a lot of things.

Omer: I also like getting outside. I like nature and I’m very fortunate to live in a beautiful area near a river. I walk a lot with my dog and clear my head, and I like to get outside, and that helps me as well. They’re the main things that I do, it’s basically work, family, nature and education. They’re not always separate from each other. Sometimes I’m walking outside while listening to a podcast, and then I’ll talk to someone on the phone. But they’re the things that I tend to spend my time on.

Jeroen: Cool. Talking about books, and slowly wrapping up, what’s the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Omer: Now I’m actually listening to Predictable Revenue, which is kind of very technical. But some of the books that I’ve really, really enjoyed are, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, that’s probably the number one book I’d recommend for founders, because it’s very raw and self-deprecating, and he really explains the pain. There were so many things there that I identified with.

Omer: I listen to the SaaStr podcast a lot. I think that’s a great resource for anyone in SaaS thinking about some of the problems as you’re building and growing a company. Another book is Peter Thiel, Zero to One, is a great book for people, for entrepreneurs. There are a lot of books around modern monopolies. There are a lot of books around those kind of themes that I found very helpful, and basically anything that Seth Godin does, I also would recommend. He’s just a very unusual thinker and I like his style and the way that he thinks about things. So yeah, that’s another recommendation, anything by Seth Godin.

Jeroen: Anything by Seth Godin. Is there anything you wish you would have known when you started out with Vervoe?

Omer: I think I didn’t appreciate the value of getting good advice, and we now have an advisory board that’s so helpful. But I think we could have used the right advisors in the beginning. It’s so helpful. First of all, just to have someone who understands what you’re going through, is reassuring, even if they’re not even helping you, but just to talk through things and for them to tell you, “Actually, it’s okay. This is normal. It’s not as bad as you think. You’re actually going better than you think ,” or whatever.

Omer: But then, second, to have people who can help you in a specific way – whether they’re in the industry or whether they have just built companies and they can help you solve a problem, because there’s a very high chance that every mistake you make as a founder, someone else has made it already.

Omer: Sometimes when I think about the founder journey, I think about it like this. The goal of a founder is to avoid making as many mistakes as possible, basically, because you’re going to make a ton of them. But if you can somehow learn from someone else and avoid some of the mistakes, then you’ll get to the answer quicker or spend less money on the way to getting there. A really good way to do that is having good advisors, and I think it took us a while to act on that. That’s a huge learning for us.

Omer: The other one is, I don’t know if we could have done anything different, but what we discussed before around, I would have loved to know before how to explain the value of what we do earlier, and maybe working with someone who’s really good at branding or communication, like before we even built the product. Maybe what we would have done if I had time again was to spend a little bit of time and money with someone who’s an expert in that, and say, “Listen. This is our vision. Help us articulate it even before we write a line of code.” That probably would have been worth doing and then telling our story. It would have helped us also validate demand much, much earlier. So they’re probably the two things.

Jeroen: Okay, final question. What is the best piece of business advice you ever got?

Omer: Wow. So many. I’ve learned so much. I don’t know if there’s one thing.

Jeroen: The most recent one?

Omer: Yeah. Some of the things that I’ve been learning very recently have to do with trusting the team and stepping away and empowering people. I know that sounds obvious, but I think founders are really bad at it because you’re infatuated with your own creation. I think the ability to do that typically results in a positive outcome because people feel more empowered, that typically there’s a reason you hired them and they’re capable, and you also feel relieved.

Omer: Then the other area that’s not talked about enough is mental health, or it’s talked about but I don’t think people act on it enough, is mental health for founders and really looking after yourself. Because it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I think if you can stay healthy and focused and have a clear mind, you can make better decisions for your company. Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing, and step away and actually disconnect, and you end up contributing more to your company. Sorry, I’m not sure if that’s what you were hoping to hear, but that’s what I’ve got.

Jeroen: It’s perfect. Thank you again, Omer, for being on Founder Coffee. It was really great to have you.

Omer: Thank you so much. Great chatting with you.


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Jeroen Corthout

Co-Founder at Salesflare
I'm Co-Founder of Salesflare, the simply powerful CRM for small businesses. I love growth, automating sales, and building beautiful products.

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