Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find 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."
Meirav Oren (Fainaru), CEO & Co-founder Versatile
Meirav is the CEO and along with 3 others is a co-founder at Versatile, a leading Israeli ConstructionTech company. On the podcast, she shares with me the amazing news of closing an $80 million Series B round within 2 weeks and no deck, led by Insight Partners and Tiger Global.
Growing up, Meirav's father was a General Contractor, who nurtured her love for construction, while her mother didn't support leaving the comfort zone she had at Intel. She talks a lot about being unemployed, and her brother, a real estate developer who lost a worker on his site. She remembers that evening clearly, including thinking to herself that there’s a gap in data within construction sites - it has to be closed and allow managers to make better decisions. That’s when Versatile was born. Meirav has a lot of gratitude to those who accompanied her in the beginning, including: Tidhar group, Autodesk, and others.
Embracing a Growth Mindset
Meirav sees Versatile’s job in changing the sequence of events, and controlling the processes within the construction site. When I asked her about the potential challenges of being a female entrepreneur - she comfortably notes that if you know what you’re doing - gender is not an issue. From her point of view, you have to focus on your path, set goals, exceed them, and hit your targets.
Meirav shares that when COVID hit, they had no idea what would happen. She believes in complete transparency with the team, sticking to the facts and doing everything she could to keep on track. That way, she kept her internal focus while showing her vulnerability, which helped her team feel more secure and committed to the common goal.
Failure is Only When we Fail to Learn
A superpower in days of uncertainty and always is to be aware of how you communicate and respond to failures. She believes in Nelson Mandella’s saying that “you either learn or win.” Meirav likes to see failures, as well-paid tuition. Her 1st ever project in Versatile was a complete failure - but it brought her the next investor. This failure made them understand exactly what they needed to improve - and the investor loved it.
A Table of 4 Legs
Meirav describes herself and her 3 co-founders like a 4 legged table - they too have a stable, synergistic, and harmonic relationship.
Each co-founder has a strict domain which he leads and manages, and the CEO makes the final decision. Meirav describes her transition from being a Founder to acting as a CEO – as the company grows, you have to bring really good people onboard, and that means - you also need to listen to them. She believes in growing your staff - listen to all the voices around the table, but eventually - as CEO, DECIDE. Then, the others can ‘disagree and commit’.
Meirav loves to checkmark ‘V’ her tasks - changing ‘impossible’ to ‘done’. That’s how she raised a series A of $28.5M within 8 weeks, and 6 months later - she scores a Series B of $80M within 3 weeks, which all happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong testament to her attitude and spirit is that her investors have already invested in Versatile for the 4th time, which conveys trust and confidence in the vision and team.
Meirav conveyed a strong message that “there is no better place to invest now than in a company in this area, aiming to disrupt the construction industry.”