Ilan Harel of Consolto tells us about a website-based video conferencing solution.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ilan Harel: Thanks, we’re doing OK. Most of the family is already vaccinated, and luckily we’re working, unlike many others. Multiple quarantines here in Israel have impacted everyone, including the Consolto team – kids at home while we try to work. Long, never-ending workdays that creep into our personal lives…
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Consolto.
Ilan Harel: The idea of Consolto originated in 2012 while I was a senior Hardware Engineer at Intel. I’d grown tired of the corporate grind and felt exhausted by the petty politics and endless meetings that just got in the way of getting things done. I wanted out of the rat race and dreamed of entrepreneurship so that I could control my own destiny.
But even at that point, I realized that my pain wasn’t unique. I knew that there were others, many others, who felt exactly the same way. I spoke about my frustrations with different groups of talented individuals, and they all described similar frustrations with the corporate career path. They also wanted freedom and entrepreneurship but didn’t know how to market and sell their talents to the rest of the world.
With that problem in mind, I launched the first version of Consolto. It was an online marketplace for freelancers to connect with clients. And it failed spectacularly. Consumer tech simply wasn’t there yet — smartphone technology was still maturing, and the broadband network didn’t have the bandwidth it does today. So Consolto was put in a box on a shelf and left to wait for the rest of the world to catch up with it.
Fast forward to 2018, and I decided to brush off the dust. The gig economy was picking up steam, and there was a lot of buzz around this new way of working. I saw that there was no solution for individuals and small businesses to market and sell their skills. So I pivoted towards embedded video chat as a way to amplify the capabilities of websites without access to the same resources as the big boys. I figured that Consolto could supercharge my audience with a website-based video conferencing solution that came with a full set of back-office capabilities to enhance customer interactions, simplify sales and retention and organize back-office operations.
How does Consolto innovate?
Ilan Harel: Innovation happens in two planes: The long-term innovation plane which leads to our roadmap is fully customer-driven — thanks to the nature of Consolto, we still videochat with our customers on a daily basis. They come to our website (potential and existing customers), and we start these video chats on the spot. This helps us fully understand their use cases, pains and needs. We use their feedback to invent new ways of making their lives easier, focusing on developing relationships and communicating with their customers.
The short-term innovation plane happens internally when the team comes up with ways to improve our workflow. These ideas come from R&D as well as Marketing. Our people just look for ways to use Consolto more effectively — it’s a mindset that we cultivate in our hires. We do a lot of brainstorming and have developed an inclusive company culture that rewards out-of-the-box creative thinking.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Ilan Harel: Covid-19 hasn’t been bad to Consolto. As a company that provides a videochat platform for any business that uses video conferencing to converse with customers, we’ve enjoyed lots of attention during the pandemic. More and more businesses turned to digital as their best hope to generate new revenue. As a result – Consolto’s website was hit with a flood of organic traffic. Across the world, freelancers, consultants, salespeople and other businesses required quick, no-hassle personal meetings to operate. Moreover, our users enjoy the organization that Consolto brings to the data coming out of these meetings. Internally, we say that it’s not about video-conferencing. It’s all about how you organize and follow up on the outcomes of the meetings.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Ilan Harel: Not yet. Hopefully, not any time soon.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Ilan Harel: We eat our own dog food. In other words, Consolto is embedded on our website, and we manage all our customer relationships with it. We believe in real, personal human experiences, and nothing’s more personal than Video. That’s basically why we built Consolto in the first place — to make video chat warm and immersive so that it feels like you’re sitting in the same room.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Ilan Harel: Luckily for us, we’re on the benefiter’s side of the pandemic. That’s why we’re not eligible for any gov. grants or such.
Your final thoughts?
Ilan Harel: It’s a super special time. Maybe (hopefully) the last pandemic in our lifetime. We hear tragic business stories on a daily basis (“the pandemic crashed our business”), and we’re doing our very best to help our customers set up with Consolto quickly, so they can get back to work (and back on their feet), even if it’s remotely. We’re looking forward to the world after the pandemic – what will change in the customer-experience-expectations triangle and where Consolto can shine there. We feel that COVID has impacted our society and specifically – remote-society – in a way that no other force in the world could have done.
The world has changed. It’s exciting and hurts at the same time.
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