Almost everyone who hears what I’ve done asks me if I’m an idiot. To sell a successful company and to give up on the comfortable life that it afforded me, sounds like an illogical move to most people.
But wait, let’s start from the beginning –
Eleven years ago, on the very day I was discharged from the military, my partner Mickey Lerner and I founded WEBSEM, one of the largest and most recognized digital marketing agencies in Israel. WEBSEM employed thirty workers (even more today), an administrative board and of course, my partner Mickey, who was my other half in managing the company.
Over the years we managed to build a unique organizational culture and structure with small autonomous teams and a strong mid-level management, institute methodical work procedures and implement management systems. All of this led to a good life at WEBSEM; the company thrived, the work environment was great and we made an effort to provide ideal conditions for the maximum balance between work and family life – so much so that it was rare to find employees in the office after 6:00 pm.
Also in this past year, the most profitable year since the founding of the company, I personally worked an average of seven and a half hours a day. I seldom dealt with work matters outside the office and took many vacations and trips with the family.
So what compelled me to wake up “one morning” and sell the company?
Firstly, it didn’t happen in one morning, nor in one moment. In the early years I felt that I was learning a lot; from the professional aspects relating to online business marketing, the managerial aspects that included recruitment, training and leading, and the financial-administrative aspects of managing the profit and loss account.
In 2009, four years after WEBSEM was founded, we became an official Google-authorized training provider for AdWords, Google’s famous advertising platform. Within this framework I presented lectures in dozens of official Google conferences in Israel, Europe, Africa and the United States. While I was teaching and instructing, I felt that I was continuing to learn and improve my ability to relay messages and captivate audiences. I was entering new fields, mastering them and trying to reach new heights.
After three years, during which I provided a fair amount of instruction, I started to feel that my ability to obtain new knowledge from instruction was minimal. I reached a certain peak and plateaued, after which the excitement also began to gradually decrease.
My journey at WEBSEM, which began as an interesting challenge and a means to learn and develop, transformed at a certain point into a stable business that provided livelihoods to many families and important solutions to clients.
When I felt a decrease in satisfaction and interest for my daily work, thoughts began to trickle into my head – is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? True, I am only in my early thirties, but if I continue down this path and don’t make a change, the years will continue to pass.
A desire burned in me to do something else, something much bigger, to build something that’s more “product” than “service company” – and when I spoke about this with Mickey, I understood that these feelings were mutual. We began to set aside two daily hours for conceptualizing; to learn, to read, to see and to test what can be done. On this journey we reached the conclusion that the best thing is to utilize the experience and mileage that we accrued in our field in order to pinpoint, and subsequently fix, its primary weakness.
We compiled the following principles for the company that we wished to build:
- The core will be a technological product
- There will be clear revenues and business models
- Preference will be given to businesses (B2B)
- There will be potential for hundreds of thousands of paying customers
- Aspiration for simple online usage (low touch / self service)
Although it was natural, given the principles we outlined, to head in the direction of Ad Tech, we realized that there was a larger issue that every company involved with digital marketing encounters: locating and recruiting qualified employees.
As we asked more businesses and companies, we understood that this was a severe problem with unsatisfactory solutions present in the market. Talks with colleagues abroad, coupled with research from McKinsey, LinkedIn and other sources, made it clear that the problem was not local, rather global.
And just like that, while simultaneously managing WEBSEM, we began to drift into this “side project” and started to build a business model, craft the product and search for the technological facet that would help us fulfill our dream.
The search for a technological partner was a quest on which I could write a full book, but to briefly recap: after endless possible directions (ranging from an “almost” partnership with a small development company in Kazakhstan to the possibility of personally delving back into the world of development), we were extremely fortunate that I met Kobi Barac while studying at the “Tapas MBA” program. The click was immediate and Kobi soon joined the team as CTO.
This “side project,” which at this point was already registered in the Companies Registrar as Qualimatch, became increasingly central in our lives. Although our work and productivity at WEBSEM was not affected, we understood that in the long run we could not continue juggling two different business. We considered hiring a CEO to manage WEBSEM, but soon realized that consolidation, i.e. the acquisition of digital marketing agencies by larger advertising companies, was inevitable. In such an atmosphere it can be difficult for a digital marketing agency to remain independent, and we didn’t want the agency to weigh us down.
We sold WEBSEM to HiLight Communication – an advertisement agency that we had known well and worked with for several years. In accordance with the acquisition deal, WEBSEM’s operations remained an independent brand, the offices remained in the same location and no personnel changes were made, from the administrative level down to the last employee (on the contrary, they already began to recruit additional workers).
The acquisition expanded and improved WEBSEM by immediately providing it with larger and more interesting clients, and offering employees the opportunity to wade into different professional fields. And of course, the acquisition also benefited the customers, who were now able to enjoy the same high level of professional service along with an increased basket of goods and services. On a personal level it is very rewarding to know that the company I founded is growing, developing, taking on a life of its own and continuing to surge forward.
So what exactly do we do at Qualimatch?
The demand for digital marketing professionals is outstanding, and finding qualified people for the job is difficult. The recruitment process is estimated at 120 hours per recruitment, and poor expectation setting results in a lot of headaches and hours of wasted time.
We believe that when it comes to recruitment, one size does NOT fit all. In order to significantly reduce the time spent on locating the most qualified worker, it is necessary to have a designated platform designed specifically for the digital marketing profession.
The platform that we built offers digital marketing professionals the ability to find their next job based on their experience, knowledge, ability and potential. This is all accomplished while taking into account their specific needs (job position, salary, office location, company’s field of operations, etc.) and while maintaining full anonymity.
At the same time, recruiters can find candidates that fit their specific job specifications within minutes, filter them according to various parameters and rank them according to different test scores (ranging from cognitive tests and Excel knowledge to professional tests in Google AdWords and additional platforms). After this simple process is completed, recruiters can approach the candidates with job offers via a simple click of a button.
At Qualimatch we make the digital marketing recruitment process exceptionally more accurate and faster.
A few words from the heart…
At the moment, we are in the proof of concept stage in Israel and are working on all fronts – technology, product, service, business development, marketing, sales and more, more, more.
It is hard for me to adequately express the feeling I get when I step in to the office. The tremendous privilege that I have to take the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained over the years and apply it to a new beginning is unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced.
While I was previously accustomed to working with quarterly and annual goals, today I enjoy working with daily goals, a change that enables me to see the tremendous progress made in all areas on a weekly basis. This, most likely, is the reason that despite doubling my work hours (from 7½ to 14), my work day flies by faster than ever.
I was blessed with two amazing partners on this new journey. The three of us complement each other like a puzzle. Add to the mix the first two employees that we recruited to the company, and we feel and work like a family.
I would like to take this opportunity to send a thousand thanks to Lior, my loving wife. It is very clear to me that I wouldn’t have accomplished even a tenth of what I’ve done without her support and encouragement every step of the way – something that is by no means a given.
Before I conclude, I would like to bring a quote from Tom Preston-Werner, the co-founder of GitHub, which provides an answer to the question posed as the title of this article:
“When I’m old and dying, I plan to look back on my life and say wow that was an adventure, not, wow I sure felt safe.”