Yael Tamar of SolidBlock tells us about her secrets to success and navigating through the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Yael Tamar: Wow, that is a loaded question. These are super tough times for everybody – obviously healthwise and business-wise, but I feel really lucky. My kids and I are healthy and got into the rhythm of working and studying from home during lockdowns – but that definitely took time and effort.
I remember everyone was struggling during the first lockdown – right as we hired initial members of our team last year. One specific instance I remember was that I kept moving one phone call with a supplier I really wanted to work with because I had to interrupt and help my kids get on zooms. Someone who is a sort of a digital nomad and doesn’t have kids. And he emailed me back after I moved the call for the third time, saying he doesn’t want to work with me. And that really hit me because it likely did indeed look like I didn’t have it together at that time to someone who doesn’t get what it’s like to have a startup and a few kids in the middle of the pandemic. But human beings adapt, and within a few weeks, we got into a rhythm. At the end of the day, my kids gained certain independence that now allows me to put in many more work hours than I could a year ago.
Besides, Israel is vaccinating everyone over 16 who is willing and able, so, of course, I’m vaccinated. Actually, our entire Israel-based SolidBlock team is vaccinated, so in that respect, we are indeed lucky.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SolidBlock.
Yael Tamar: I actually managed to travel the world just to find my way to SolidBlock. I was born in Crimea, a peninsula on the northern part of the Black Sea. I grew up swimming, yachting, diving and dreaming of exploring the world beyond the sea. When I was 16, I got my first chance and flew to the U.S. as an exchange student in South Carolina. Now, that was a big jump and my first culture shock, but I really thrived on all the new experiences. Later, I was lucky to be able to complete my undergrad and graduate studies in New York and worked on Wall Street. Moving to Israel was amazing; in this third continent, in less than a decade, I was able to spread my entrepreneurial wings. After a stint in a few M&A and PE consulting firms and a financial group, as well as a public telecom company, I ran my own business and moved into the startup world. In 2018, I met Yuval and joined him as Co-Founder of SolidBlock. Today, here I am – the company’s Co-CEO; I have to say that so far, it’s been an exciting ride, and I can’t wait to see all the places we’ll go.
How does SolidBlock innovate?
Yael Tamar: Great question. We innovate by predicting where the market will go. We can’t do this too much in advance, but about 3-6 months will do. And you will see most players will go in a similar direction, but we like to be there first. We do that by asking ourselves, what do we need to make this go mainstream? In other words, what’s the biggest bottleneck in our industry? And we work to solve that bottleneck with our tech.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Yael Tamar: As I mentioned earlier, COVID-19 took and continues to take its toll on most businesses. For us, on the one hand, the pandemic sabotages our attempts to close some deals where people (rightfully so) feel more comfortable meeting in person and shaking hands. Zoom is great, and we use it to the fullest, but honestly, there is no real substitute for that direct face-to-face human connection. On the other hand, COVID has forced us to really think out-of-the-box, both with respect to marketing and product development. We are witnessing a rapidly evolving world, and we are hustling to be at the forefront of the industry’s disruption. And just like it happened with work from home with the kids, we will adapt to closing deals and investment on zoom. It may take a bit of time, but we will get there by selecting partners and investors who are ready to cross that bridge. And it will make us a stronger global company because of that.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Yael Tamar: I guess we are lucky with respect to human resources as well. Even during the pandemic, we continue to grow. I am totally convinced that the company is only as good as the team is happy and committed, and we try to take on people who share our passion and energy. So far, it’s worked out well. I, myself, sometimes can’t believe how well we work together, especially considering that we are spread over four continents with people in Israel, the U.S., CIS, Canada, and Southeast Asia.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Yael Tamar: I don’t think we have a set toolbox for carving customer management relationships. Our guiding principle is to understand and respect each customer, client, investor’s needs, and custom-tailor solutions to meet those needs. In our ecosystem, there is no one size fits all solution to managing customers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Yael Tamar: Another great and timely question. Right now, we are in the midst of applying for various government grants, especially for bilateral cooperation with partners in other countries, as we have developed many excellent relationships in our industry, and that is definitely an area that we are looking to expand. Identifying, researching and writing government grants is a work-intensive process, and we hope to learn from our present experiences and establish an effective mechanism for winning those coveted awards.
Your final thoughts?
Yael Tamar: I hope these aren’t actually my “final” thoughts, but I try to keep in mind two separate but interrelated ideas. The first is that nobody owes you anything, and the second is that happiness is contagious and energizing. No matter what project, personal or professional, that I am working on, I keep to my own values, don’t let the doubters and the negative Nellies interfere and surround myself with people who exude the positive energy that I both crave and hope to share.
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