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Tal Slobodkin, Managing Partner, StageOne Ventures
Can you kindly take us through your journey across several industry verticals?
As a resident of Israel, I served in the Israeli Army for three years, and I established a military academy focused on training the next generation of R&D leaders for the various branches of the Israeli defense force (similar to West Point and the DARPA program). With this foundation, I joined R&D teams of various organizations, such as the Israeli Intelligence Corps, which is involved in developing various technologies in the army. And that was the backbone of the technical background I have in my career today. Later, I relocated to the U.S. in order to expand my knowledge and experience in the business world and worked as a warden for a business school in Philadelphia for two years. Following that, I joined Goldman Sachs in New York as an investment banker. My next step led me to join Cisco’s corporate development team, which runs investment, acquisitions, and strategies for the company. Having spent a decade in that industry across different geographic locations, I migrated back to Israel to enter the venture-capital world and run all the investments and acquisitions for enterprises in Israel and parts of Europe. In this background, I decided to kickstart StageOne Ventures in 2013 to strictly focus on venture capital.
What would you say are some of the major challenges and trends that have been impacting the enterprise startup space lately?
We all have heard the mantra–survival of the fittest– and it really fits well with the world of startups. The current landscape has brought an opportunity for startups to establish a modern infrastructure, leaving obsolete systems for a much faster and efficient manner of developing solutions. However, startups typically tend to build their own infrastructure and data centers in order to develop a solution, and promoting these solutions to their target audience is now becoming significantly more competitive. The reason? Today, countless companies/startups all compete for the same customers’ attention. And a plethora of providers and platforms now available in the market has put businesses/consumers through choices. While this huge number of competitors creates a choice overload for the consumer, it isn’t just a significant problem in the consumer world; it’s an issue in the business landscape as well, putting businesses through vendor fatigue. So the question remains: How startups can stay current in the violent waves of changethat have completely transformed the very nature of today’s startups.
In your opinion, how can investors help in mitigating these challenges?
Investors are usually called financial backups for startups. They tend to always follow a strategy—while investing in startups—that stands atop two main pillars.
“The current landscape has brought an opportunity for startups to establish a modern infrastructure, leaving obsolete systems for a much faster and efficient manner of developing solutions.”
This can be better explained with two case instances where we (StageOne Ventures) have recently invested in companies to boost their presence in the global enterprise market. One such company is NeuroBlade—an AI chipset solution provider for both edge and server computer units. The company has realized that many of the enterprises move toward e-memory databases for accessibility of data quickly even though the solutions might not be good enough. So, NeuroBlade developed an AI-based chipset to turn CPU power into a memory chip card, delivering high performance at low cost and power. This novel nature of NeuroBlade’s solution has really made us invest in ground-breaking technology innovation.
Similarly, we have also invested in an HR company, Canditech. The company is focused on developing a ground-breaking solution for streamlining the businesses’ recruitment process. Their solution helps HR managers in modernizing their tasks while conducting interviews and sorting the resumes. To step up further in the market, the company has recently developed an innovative solution leveraging AI, enabling the manager to run tests that are very similar to the real work environment and tackle the potential candidates with tough scenarios. And we, by sharing our experience and background knowledge, have enabled these young entrepreneurs to commercialize their solution and meet the market demand, helping CHROs, CIOs, and other enterprise leaders have a pulse on their workforce.
Is there any particular piece of advice that you would like to give to budding entrepreneurs looking to embark on the startup space?
I believe that businesses should go fast and break things. While it is relatively hard for old and large companies to move fast with their legacy technology stack, today’s digital-native and agile startups can easily overtake them in the race. And the ability of startups to bring different perspectives and innovative solutions to the market is important in this regard. The advice i would like to give small is that startups should have a consumer-centric approach and pursue their visions and dreams that, in turn, allow them to stay connected with the evolving enterprise market. Equally important is having constant feedback from customers, which enables businesses to modify their products to the need of the market. Entrepreneurs should always be keen to learn and innovate new things in order to keep moving fast in the business world because that’s the biggest advantage for budding startups.