Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and requiring constant peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”
“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”
Ep. 69 - With Yoni Bloch, Founder & CEO of Eko
The Pivot: from musician to entrepreneur
Yoni was an early adopter of the internet – his dad had an internet account back in the 80s, and Yoni spent a lot of his time using the computer and entering chat rooms. “I was a geek when it wasn’t cool”, he says with a smile. Even when he started his music career in the 90s, he published his songs online as it felt natural to him.
After his 3rd album, which only saw success much later, he searched for something to fill a void. So, with his bandmates and the director of the album’s music videos, they forged a founding team for a startup from an idea they had while playing music together.
Luckily, since they already knew each other so well, and had a safe and good dynamic as a team, this was a thrilling adventure to embark on.
As musicians, they knew from experience what the bizz was missing and how technology could help: “A lot of our thinking was about the fact that the internet is a place of interactivity, and not per se a lean back experience. But when you watch a video off the internet, for example, you are supposed to lean back and relax, rather than stay engaged. So, our thought process was to make the rest of the internet follow that same standard.
He gives the early cinema as an example to a similar process, wherein the olden days, movies were shot from afar, just like a play, where you could see everything, so the experience was flat. Only later, someone had the idea to start shooting in closer shots, which made a huge difference. That's the same process that’s occurring on the internet, as it is still learning how to utilize videos.
Working together as entrepreneurs VS musicians
When I asked him about the similarities and differences in working together as musicians VS entrepreneurs, Yoni had an interesting and slightly surprising answer: “It has its pros and cons, but if you’re my friend, I want to work with you. I don’t really have the separation between my personal life and work, so working with my friends makes total sense to me. There’s a lot of issues with that, as you can imagine, but because most of us created music together –which is much more emotional and personal because as artists you are the product– it made working as a company much easier, because suddenly we all had a product together that is not ‘us’.”
Yoni also shares that the inevitable downside of mixing those two worlds together is when you need to talk to your friends about your co-founders or your co-founders about your friends, you can’t separate the two again. Still, Yoni and his co-founders found the advantages in this situation, as it forced them to speak more openly about everything and being clear in what ‘hat’ they are speaking at each moment. It also led them to gain a much deeper self-awareness that helps them keep their relationships healthy– as humans, co-founders, and musicians (since they still play and perform together).
Navigating between the different parts of your identity
When I asked Yoni how he defines himself, he answered openly: “I don’t know yet. It’s somewhat of a constant identity crisis. I think the most challenging part is the context switching, and what I try to do is blur the lines in a way that will be productive and contribute to both parts. But I’m still on the quest to make it work.”
One way in which both worlds of music and entrepreneurship complement each other is in performing. As an entrepreneur, he needs to stand and represent their company and product in front of audiences, a skill that he developed as a performing musician before.
On the other hand, because as a musician he was used to working at such an emotional level, when it came to the company, he had a hard time separating his work and personal lives. For example, if someone left the company, it is business driven, and not something against him on a personal level, so he had to find this understanding and separation. It was a change in perspective he needed to make, which touched a lot of different aspects in the way he conducted himself and in the way he was leading: “We had this ritual before every show where I would get very anxious, and our stage manager would say ‘do you want me to cancel? I’m cancelling the show’. It was a joke, but it became a part of how we moved forward. In a way, even as the leader of the show I was allowed to take that space, but you can’t do that in front of your company– you can’t show those emotions in the same way. Remember, when you’re the product it’s more emotional but you can always record another album and it’s still you, but when you’re in a company you’re dedicated to a much bigger impact, and when things get harder you have to stay dedicated.”
Their company is in an interesting time right now, with planning their future. Yoni wants to take everything they learned through the years as musicians and entrepreneurs and use it in a productive and impactful way: “The potential of it is bigger than we dreamt, and the challenge is very obvious as well”. Luckily, Yoni likes challenges.