First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eyal Cohen: G-d willing, we are all doing well, healthy, and fortunate enough to be able to work remotely during these unprecedented times. We certainly are grateful and don’t take it for granted.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Zentap.
Eyal Cohen: When I was growing up, I never really knew what I wanted to do. My dad was an entrepreneur, and I believe that his journey of resilience when first starting his company was what inspired me with the ambitions to start my own business. I’ve always been aggressively curious and determined to solve complex problems and felt that building a business successfully revolves around solving a very particular problem and believe this is why entrepreneurship was so attractive to me.
One day, I decided to shoot my shot at building an online dating business. Something about that subscription-based business model attracted me, and I felt space was lacking good software. Fast forward a year of complete failure and thousands of dollars spent, I decided to attend community college to learn more about business so that I can eventually resume my journey with a bit more knowledge on the business component, which I so heavily lacked.
During my last year of college, my father got diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer and Emphysema, and I decided to drop out to be there with him. A few months later, he passed on, and after a few months of grieving, I decided to start working mindless jobs just to pass the time until one day, in 2015, I’ve had enough and decided to take my first sales role at a document preparation company.
I spent several months working more than was expected of me and asking thousands of questions in order to really learn who our customers were and how to increase my sales volume. In my first year, I became the top-performing salesman on our seasoned team of 100+ sales reps. My performance and ambition led me to partner up with my employer to co-start a new company: Zentap.
I was 23 and a naïve first-time founder that wanted to earn his place. I spent the next 3 years actively taking on role by role not only to understand the different facets of the business but to understand the nuances of our customer journey. This was critical both in the development of our organization and how to best serve our customers.
Within 6 months of bootstrapping our business, we went from 0 to 250k MRR and within 14 months reached 450k MRR. We eventually raised over one million dollars from VCs to help us scale, but when COVID-19 hit, we were forced to slow down and make organizational changes, making it difficult to maintain a positive work culture. I was appointed Chief Customer Officer and spearheaded this cultural shift that the pandemic forced us into. With the help of our incredible team, I have been able to grow as a leader in addition to kickstarting a healthy and successful work-from-home culture.
Four months later, I became the CEO of Zentap.
How does Zentap innovate?
Eyal Cohen: We believe that there is a huge digital transformation happening where business professionals of all industries need to invest in solutions to help them scale relationships and relevancy with their target audience. By leveraging data from various MLS associations and local market APIs, we are able to automate the creation and advertisement of meaningful data-driven content for thousands of real estate professionals nationwide. Our mission is to continue capturing market share in the residential real estate market before expanding to adjacent industries that need our help like Fintech, etc…
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Eyal Cohen: I am an optimist and truly believe that finding the silver-linings in an unfortunate situation is what will allow us to stay focused and overcome adversity. The pandemic has accelerated most industries into this digital climate we weren’t quite prepared for yet. This, fortunately, worked in our favor as it only solidified the need for affordable solutions in streamlining digital marketing for business professionals.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Eyal Cohen: While we didn’t really have to make any difficult choices, we were forced to execute swiftly in transitioning to allow our employees to work remotely, which was extremely challenging. Not only this required new tools to effectively manage our team, but it required creating new processes and aligning our organization on new principles that protected our culture from being damaged.
I believe a huge lesson learned is that an organization’s culture represents its pulse and is what ultimately makes or breaks a company. It’s why a lot of companies from many different industries have been able to thrive during these unprecedented times, and this pandemic has certainly opened my eyes to the importance of keeping a finger on that pulse and ensuring its health.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Zentap in the future?
Eyal Cohen: Dealing with stress and anxiety is never easy, and I think it has become more manageable over the years. I do my best to use it as energy in order to remain present. It becomes very easy to compound the effects of stress and anxiety by worrying too much about the future or dwelling on the past. I’ve found that meditation enables me to shift my focus to the present moment. Since the future is nothing but a series of present moments, it becomes almost impossible to fail when investing all your energy into it.
Early on, we wrote and signed off on our mission, vision, and values, and since then have religiously followed it as our north star for every decision we make as an organization. This allows us to keep focused on the present moment, which we genuinely feel like is the key to success in anything you do in life.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Eyal Cohen: We have a few, like Back At You Media and market leader; however, competition is what breeds innovation, and without it, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today. We believe that bridging big data and marketing automation is what will allow businesses of all sizes and industries to effectively and affordably scale relationships and relevancy with their target audience. The acceleration into this digital climate the pandemic has forced us into has widened our addressable market. We plan to stay ahead by staying true to our values and staying committed to our mission of serving 100,000 real estate professionals by the end of 2025.
Your final thoughts?
Eyal Cohen: While it may feel lonely and difficult at times, it’s important to remember that we are now more connected than ever before. If you ever need a friend, support, or words of encouragement, feel free to connect and reach out to me on LinkedIn. Stay safe, remain positive, work hard, and remember that staying resilient through times of adversity is how we grow. We will all get through this stronger and better than ever before.