Hi, my name is Nitzan Shaer. I’m the CEO of WEVO. WEVO is a user research platform that delivers reliable insights in a fraction of the time of traditional tools. We leverage human augmented AI to do the heavy lifting of user research enabling our customers to get customer feedback rapidly. We work with leading global brands and agencies to help them create the best possible customer experiences. Bottom line - WEVO takes a process that is typically 50 hours and enables users to do it in about 30 minutes. This is the 4th startup that I’m either joining as a co-founder or joining early on. Somehow I find myself going back time and again to this incredible startup ride. I’ve always been fascinated by what drives people to make decisions. And WEVO is exactly in that space of helping people understand what is working and what isn’t working in an experience and how to deliver a better customer experience.
What inspired you to start your own company?
Back when I was at Skype, we were serving a very wide range of customers from 150 countries and territories around the world. Understanding how they would respond and what would be the best for each was almost impossible for us to understand. We did the best we could, but we knew we were missing a lot. I also fell in love with the idea that for some products, if you drop the cost enough, demand goes through the roof. At Skype, for example, we took $5 a minute for international calls and dropped it down to $0.02 or free. Once I understood the magnitude of the issue that was facing user experience professionals, product managers, and even marketers around the world, the scenario of trying to understand what their customers will like, what they want, and how they can deliver a better experience for them. And understanding that there was a path to deliver it to them in a fraction of the time it takes them today to do it, I really wanted to take that opportunity on and create a company that delivers those reliable customer insights effortlessly.
What is your long-term vision for WEVO?
Today, most decisions regarding customer experience design and content are taken based on judgment calls, intuition, and gut feelings. Few of them are based on hard data or an understanding of how customers will respond. Many professionals have a customer-centric approach, but getting that feedback is usually cumbersome and takes a lot of time, takes a lot of effort, and takes professionals that have the time and the capacity to do it. We envision a world with WEVO where every customer experience is created on the base of reliable human insights; not some but all customer experiences are based on reliable customer insights. An analogy that many find helpful is spell check. Imagine a world where you have to invest 10 hours to spell-check an email. Ten hours of paging through dictionaries and grammar books to get the email just right. How many of us would do that? Well, that’s the current state of user experience research, literally. It takes close to 50 hours of professional time to do the analysis and put together the insights; even then, the results are typically anecdotal based on 8 to 10 customer feedbacks. WEVO cuts those 50 hours down to 30 minutes of effort and provides statistically significant insights that you can rely on.
What advice would you go back in time and give yourself when starting your own company?
First off, I would say triple any time estimate that I had. Whatever we’re planning seems to take longer and cost more than we initially planned for. It’s that ability to see inevitable hiccups along the way and detours that you take. I would say the second piece of advice is over-communicating the vision and plan to get there to investors, team members, and customers. I often have a vision of where I want us to get; I have great conversations with our advisors, our customers, and our incredible team to help refine that vision and improve that vision and get a better plan. Still, once we are locked on that - over-communicating that to make sure everybody is on the same page is something that’s not trivial just needs a lot of time.
What part of building a successful startup do you think is the most difficult?
So out of the elements required to build a successful startup, I would say by far the most important and the one I spend the most time on is hiring the best people. I know it’s cliche to say that people make the company, but people are what makes the company and not settling even when you’re scaling fast, and I don’t think we have settled at all. We’ve done an incredible job of hiring outstanding people - and that is a hard thing to do, a top-of-mind thing. The second I would say is finding the right balance between growth and profitability. I’m not sure I would have said that a year ago, but in this market of 2022, we all have big expectations of WEVO. We want to take it to be a billion-dollar company, and we have no patience to get there, but we do have to, in this day and age, balance growth and profitability, so not a trivial thing to say, and we devote quite a bit of time thinking about.
As a founder, what question are you asked more than any other?
Probably the question I hear most is, “how do you know you’ve reached product-market fit?” At least in the early stage of the company, we kept hearing that question. Honestly, I don’t think I have a perfect answer; beyond, when you see it, you know it. For us, it was just an exponential growth that started to happen in both new sales and renewal of existing users, and people were suddenly delighted like never before.
Which CEO, past or present, inspires you most?
So, I know he’s not technically a CEO, but a person that inspired me, and I just read a lot of books about him, is Winston Churchill. Talk of leadership in times of peril and overcoming challenges like the number of challenges that were thrown in front of him and what he had to overcome during World War II is incredible in how he brought a country together and people together. The decision-making, building consensus, building support, and ultimately triumphing is incredible. So I definitely pick up those books I can find about Winston Churchill. To answer the question specifically about a CEO, I think there’s a lot to learn from Reed Hastings. Netflix has gone through multiple pivots along the way; understanding when you need to create the next business model for the company and when you need to change is something that is inspiring for any CEO that knows how important it is to be listening to customers and to listen to market changes that are going on around us and just the radical transparency that he advocates. We try and do as much of that as possible at WEVO because I believe it empowers the team to get the best job done once they know everything that’s going on.
What do you think is the most important trait for entrepreneurs?
That’s hard to choose one. I think the first I would choose is a learner. Somebody that is continuously able to take input from advisors, from team members, from customers, from the market, from books. I feel fortunate that every week on the job, I feel I learn a ton. And I think that the ability to continue to learn to continue to grow is critical for entrepreneurs, especially in high-growth situations and a continuously changing environment. If I could put in a couple more - I would say - grit and hunger to succeed because it’s a hard path out there. And leadership - the amount of what you do is important but what you inspire others on your team to do is by far more important.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Dream big. I think we’re all in this to make a real difference in the world; I know that’s what I find the most fun and inspiring about this crazy job we took on as entrepreneurs. And if you’re not making a big dent, why spend all the time, the sleepless nights, and hard work? So hopefully, we can improve the world in some way and make a real dent in it. I’d also say listen more. As entrepreneurs, we have to create that balance of determination and going the path forward, but we have to balance that with listening to team members and advisors and the market and finding that right balance. And finally, I think that most entrepreneurs, at least most entrepreneurs on our team, don’t need to be told this - but run fast. The market is continuously changing, and the advantage of a small company over a large company is just the speed that we can make things happen. A smart man once said - It’s not the big who beat the small; it’s the fast who beat the slow. And that’s a mantra I stand by.