There is a reason that Israel’s high-tech startup scene is called Silicon Wadi. Known as the “Startup Nation”, Israel has between 4,300 – 6,000 active startups and produces 1,000 new startups yearly*. No wonder Hillel Fuld, an entrepreneur, journalist, vlogger and leading startup advisor, has his hands full! I was lucky enough to catch him for a few minutes to learn a lesson or two about how to navigate in this robust world of startups.
- How do you find yourself in the position/ job that you are in today? What lead you here?
I started my career as a technical writer. I was writing guides and documentation for SMS systems at a company called Comverse, who at the time were one of the largest tech companies in Israel. And while I was sitting at my desk, I asked myself “Why am I writing user guides? I have thoughts on technology – I love tech, I love writing! I should be doing more interesting things.” And so I started writing my thoughts on tech. I would get to work every day and write a blog post – I didn’t have a strategy or a business model, just my passion for technology. After a while, startups began to reach out to me and I’d meet up with them. I mostly helped them to understand that no one cared about their algorithms and technology, but more about why they were building their technology. So I went about doing my thing – helping out as many startups as I could – and not taking any money for it. Slowly but surely, this started to scale, which led to companies which I had helped in the past to get in touch with me and offer a position to work together – become an advisor, take equity in the company, and in some instances (my “babies”), take a more active role in the company. ProoV, Hometalk, and Intelligo, are three companies I’m fortunate to work closely with.
And that’s basically what I do today – help as many companies as I can. 95% of them are no-strings-attached and I help them with whatever they need. It takes me 5 seconds to send an email, whether to connect people or to advise on marketing. I have found that when you help pave the road to success for others in business, you end up going down that road as well. Helping as many people as I could, turned out to be really good business for me.
- What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
I genuinely love meeting entrepreneurs who want to solve a real problem or pain point. They know how to make the technology but have no idea what to do following that. So I sit with them, take their idea and turn it into a business – that’s really what drives me.
- How do you feel you are helping to improve the industry?
I think Israel as a tech industry is undergoing this transition away from ‘Startup Nation’ to something much greater. If I can help these companies scale on a global status, whether it’s on the press side, fundraising or development – using the tools and resources I have, I will. If I can help this ecosystem scale even a little bit, then I think everyone wins.
- What software/apps/tools can you not live without?
I’ll discuss mobile. On a regular basis, I use IOS as my main phone but I do walk around with at least 2 phones. iPhone and Huawei – so both Android and IOS.
Other apps that I use regularly are Slack, a photo editor called Snapseed and another called Touch Retouch which helps me edit and remove things from photos. And Flipboard! Anything I am reading on the internet, I am reading on Flipboard.
- What pain points do you encounter in your line of work and how do you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is sustaining what I do. I work 20 hours a day so keeping up with it is definitely a challenge. There are a lot of startups in this country and everyone needs help. I don’t think I have an answer for how I overcome it. It’s really the accommodation of the fact that I am fortunate to do and work in a field that I love, so for me, I don’t really view it as work. I do work many hours a day and I don’t really sleep much but I am able to do that because I genuinely love what I do – and I work hard at what I do.
- What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I have a lot of those! But definitely, the best and smartest one that saves me hours every day is the keyboard shortcuts on iPhone and Android. I set up shortcuts for phrases and sentences that I say regularly. For e.g, my email address which I can end up writing out a hundred times a day has a shortcut saved on my phone. So when I write “Hilz”, it automatically displays my email address. Quite often people are asking to meet, check out their resumes, etc., and I try to meet/ help who I can but often instead of writing out a long email apologizing that I can’t meet, I have a whole dictionary of responses for these situations set up to send out when I need to.
- What is the one book you would recommend someone to read?
One? That’s hard! It depends on who it is. One book that really impacted me on a business level was a book by Ben Horowitz called “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”. On a more philosophical business side, “Give and Take” by Adam Grant. And on a personal level, “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss – these are all incredible books.
- What’s the best advice you have ever received?
I don’t know if it’s direct advice I was given or taken from leading by example. In business and life in general, life is too short to focus on ‘taking’ as opposed to ‘giving’. Many of the role models that I have in my life have given an example of how giving – whether it’s giving content, advice, connections, or just giving value – I ended up gaining more than if I were selling or taking something. This is why I focus on trying to ‘give’ in business. This is something I have learned from both business role models as well as family/ parents/ personal role models. It is the most important fundamental principle that I try to live my personal and professional life by – which is to focus on facilitating the success of others and everyone wins.
- How do you prepare for meetings?
Today, entrepreneurs neglect being prepared for meetings (which is actually extremely important!) It causes meetings to get off on the wrong foot which ultimately wastes everyone’s time. So before a meeting, I try to be as prepared as I possibly can. I look very carefully at who connected us, how we originally connected, what the goal of the meeting is and what we are meeting about. I also try to to do as much research on the person I am meeting with, so I don’t have to ask the basic questions of “Who are you?” and “What do you do?”.
In general, I find that business interactions and communication is fundamental to doing good business. Making sure someone’s name/ title is correct, that there are no typos in your email, etc., might seem trivial but can either make or break deals. I’ve experienced several instances where I have tried to make introductions or tried to associate some business interaction and the person responded in a way that made me cringe – and everyone ends up losing. He looks like a fool, I look like a fool for connecting him and the connection gets discouraged to work with him. So it is extremely important to be thorough and prepared and ready for business meetings as early as possible.
- Tag the one person in the industry that you would love to meet and interview
Hillel Fuld has over a decade of marketing experience with leading Israeli and Silicon Valley startups and currently collaborates with many global brands in an official marketing capacity including Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Huawei, and others. Hillel covers the dynamic local tech scene for many leading publications including Entrepreneur magazine, Inc, TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators and can be found on Twitter at @Hilzfuld.