Yuval started his career in the army. He grew up abroad speaking Hebrew, English, Portuguese and Spanish and was recruited to 8200’s technological unit as a translator. Though the translator position was terminated, he stayed in the unit which is how he got involved with tech. He ended up staying in the army for 10 years.
“Living for the learning curve”
At the end of his service, he had the rank of Major; he was managing dozens of people directly and another hundred indirectly and feeling that his learning curve was beginning to plateau. The passion to learn is the beating heart of his work, so as it subsided, he turned to see what else was out there.
He met with Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger and joined Onavo even before they fundraised any money. Unlike the army, where he was used to a regimented system of rules, he got to make the rules and break them if he saw fit. The experience was amazing and educational for him, and he discovered that building something from scratch brings him great pleasure; it is what fuels him. He was at Onavo for its first two years but then left; it was eventually acquired by Facebook for $200 million, which at the time was considered an exceptional success in Israel.
Yuval left to start Fundbox, which he believed would be even bigger than Onavo. Yuval shared that every experience of leaving is bittersweet – it's hard and you don't want to leave unless you know that the business is in good hands. Before Yuval left, he was very concerned about who would replace him – he was determined to check that whoever would take his place could take care of the company. After all, we want to work with people we like, care about, and can have strong relationships with; when our time has come to leave, we want to make sure that everyone will remain in good hands. For Yuval personally, it was very important.
Luck plays a role
Yuval mentions the well-known phrase, "Luck favours the prepared". Many people interpret the sentence as a need for being thorough; the only way to succeed is to be as prepared as possible, but Yuval actually sees it the other way around: "You should never get confused when you’re not very lucky." As a person who invests in many companies and is involved in companies in the early stages, he has learned to appreciate how much luck plays a role: "It gives you perspective - yes, you can be very good at what you do and bet on a great market, but in the end, luck still plays a big role in the outcome. Speaking of mental health and how we perceive ourselves in such situations, what we don't often talk about is entrepreneurs who see similar companies, competitors, and friends, who raise a lot of money even though they’re not really in a good place. It leads you to reflect inwards which can make you feel confused about your own abilities. We need to recognize that there’s a lot of luck in this equation because then we can contain these feelings."
An element that is woven into the entrepreneurial culture is the performative angle through which we are used to looking at and measuring other entrepreneurs. This plays a big role in the evaluation of our performance and that of others, and in addition to this, and perhaps also from this, there is a discourse in which 'everything is always fine, excellent, and successful. But in a world where everything changes in a second, there’s no such thing. And yet, we cling to this appearance, afraid to tell the truth; to show vulnerability. Yuval experienced this both from the angle of an entrepreneur and later as an investor and wanted to create a more open, more genuine dialogue with the entrepreneurs with whom he works.
The roller coaster is an unavoidable part of the entrepreneurial journey, and Yuval believes that it should be respected, given the space it deserves as it is such a large part of the package when you choose to be an entrepreneur. As someone who was also an entrepreneur, he understands how a painful gap can arise between entrepreneurs and investors: "I think it's this thing that, if you haven't experienced it, it's very difficult to develop empathy for. In the end, to create strong relationships over time, ones that give value and that people can use as leverage you must have empathy. It’s very difficult to develop empathy if you haven’t taken this journey."
The transition from an entrepreneur to an investor
He takes his place as an investor very seriously– when he invests, he commits to someone's journey. There’s no expiration date for this road and it means a lot to him. "This is exactly what separates generic investors from investors I would like to work with– this commitment to the 'lows'. Everyone knows how to be committed during the 'highs'."
The transition to being an investor was very gradual. After Fundbox, Yuval wanted to start another company and turned to LionBird, the VC that led Fundbox’s seed round. Many of those who work there were entrepreneurs themselves. Yuval points out that much of what makes them great is that they went through this journey themselves. He joined them as an EIR (entrepreneur in residence), and after a few months, they offered him to be a General Partner for their second fund.
Yuval wasn't sure if he wanted the position as he had never done anything like it before. He communicated this to them, and since they understood the predicament, he was in, they offered him to try the job for two or three years, and if after that he still wanted to start another company and not work with them, they would be the first to write him a cheque. They really saw him, and that expression of trust was what he needed to take that risk and dive into the unknown. "I really enjoyed being an investor. From the analytical work of understanding what trends and entrepreneurs to bet on and developing what I call ‘co-founder conviction’ to having the conviction to realize that if you weren't in the investor's seat, you would want to jump in as a co-founder are aspects of the job that always guided me."
Things don't go according to plan
"Things usually don't go according to plan. This is another guiding principle in my career. In the end, there’s a plan, and the plan is great for understanding how people think, but it will probably change." Yuval has experienced this. This is a significant part of his career perspective, which helped him to understand and adjust his expectations to reality, and act accordingly.
Sometimes life drops bombs out of nowhere. On one seemingly regular morning, on the way to work, Yuval found out that one of his best friends had committed suicide. This loss shocked him to the chore and made him ask himself what is important in life. Can you really say that you have a good life if those with whom you are close don't feel the same? Do we really know people as well as we think we do?
Dealing with the loss took him years and he learned two big lessons from it: respect how temporary things in life can be, and it is important to talk. At first, Yuval didn't share how he was doing regarding the suicide; he kept everything inside and tried to carry it all alone.
"There’s always something in me that is afraid to bring up such things, not because of the thought that it will paint me as weak, but because some part of me feels that I’m taking a space that is not mine to take. These are thinking patterns that I need to work on."
Many entrepreneurs who I (Gali) talked to who have experienced loss or difficulty describe a similar feeling – even though they may want to share something, they have a cynical, judgmental voice towards themself. They feel as if ‘who are they to talk about it?’
This is what Yuval believed, and the internalization of this belief led to a difficult period in his life, in which he shared that he made destructive and unhealthy decisions, both in his personal and professional life. Only after he learned to share was he able to come back to himself. Despite the great pain that will always remain, after coming out of this dark period, he said that he is now living a happier life.
And this is exactly what we can do in the face of the chaos of life– take the things we go through as an engine for growth, to see how we become more precise, wiser, with a joy that is not naive. We know that painful things have happened and will happen, but precisely because of that understanding, every beautiful moment is appreciated so much more.