Interview with Hoop
Startup Name: Hoop
Mission: help corporations become the best place to work for, by creating an employee centric workplace
Founders: Rachel Mendelovich & Li-Mor Navon
Year Founded: 2016
Number of employees: 7
Location: Ramat Hachayal TLV, Israel
Raised: $350,000 (we are now completing an additional round of $1M)
Tell us where it all began?
I was working as an executive in a large corporation in Israel, among my responsibilities I was asked to come up with a strategic model to attract employees from a younger generation. I came up with a collaborative, employee-centric approach that the corporation rejected saying they didn’t want employees to be able to talk and react because it might facilitate the creation of a union. This was the cue for me that I’m at the wrong place. I started looking at other companies from all sectors only to find that in almost all places the dominated theme is “one message fits all” – and how do we move from that concept to a personalized experience such as the one we see in the consumer world.
How did your team come together?
My co-founder is a close friend for the past 10 years – we have worked together time and again across companies. My CTO is a brilliant technology and data expert whom I worked with over 12 years ago and our paths crossed again (I snatched him as soon as I could). The rest of the team were people who are friends of friends and from our close circle, who believe in the vision and decided to join and contribute their talent, knowledge, enthusiasm and passion, and I’m grateful.
How different is your current product from the product you initially envisioned?
Oh god. So different 🙂 We have pivoted twice to come up with our current solution. Mostly thanks to market feedbacks and A LOT of research.
A lot of being a startup is pivoting – editing, iterating, streamlining, optimizing. What’s been the best advice you’ve received, and how did it prompt you to pivot, even if in a small (but important) way?
I’m not sure if that’s an advice, but I have participated in ICON SV1O1 program, where a very known investor and market leader had office hours and we came to talk to him. Not letting me even finish the pitch he said we didn’t have a market, the HR world is a tough audience to sell to, we have nothing that others didn’t have and we ought to close the company. Nothing we said had changed his mind, and we were devastated. After few hours of near death, we picked ourselves up and started re-thinking everything. It was the most effective way to get us to work harder at finding our way.
And on that note, what was your most unexpected pivot?
Every pivot is unexpected, otherwise it was part of the plan 🙂
Tell us a little bit about your first all nighter working on this project. What was the first thing that kept you in the office through the night?
The first time I stayed up all night (one of zillion times I had to do just that) I had to create a demo of the system because we had nothing to show potential customers. I created all the screens in power-point, saved them as jpgs uploaded them to invision and created all the interactions to make it look and feel like an interactive, working system. It took me days and nights, but when I was done I felt like I owned the world. Of course, we had changed that demo so many times, and then pivoted and needed new ones, but the thing is I remember those nights as great times of optimism and creativity.
At a standard meeting with your executive team, what’s your number one priority? Are you talking about your product first? Your market strategy? How do you and your team orient yourselves to make an impact?
Most times we talk about Product-Marketing: what are we trying to sell, to whom, what is our pitch and vision, and how does the product comply with that pitch and vision. We have heated arguments and exhausting debates, but at the end of the meeting, almost always, we make a progress that brings us one step closer to elevating the value we give to our customers.
And with that, been the most powerful way you’ve seen your project make an impact. Putting aside fancy terms like proof of concept or product validation, when was the first time you really saw – and felt – that your product could make a difference?
The first time was on a meeting with a customer, I was explaining what we do and what is our value prop. We had nothing at the time, technology wise, just an idea for the pivot and wanted to see what would the reactions be; the customer asked me, mid-sentence – how much it costs, and I can see right there and then, that he will pay what we asked for, and that was all the validation I needed. I almost jumped from my chair to kiss him 🙂 We then went on so many more meetings to make sure that wasn’t a one-time reaction. And gladly, it’s not J
And finally, how to do you hope to expand your impact in the near and extended future?
We are constantly learning and evolving to understand the future of work and what it will mean to be an employee (or affiliate) @ 2020 or 2025. What will be our customers’ challenges, from globalism to virtual employees to the fact that for the first time in 2020 there will be 5 different generations in the workforce. What will that entail? Learning and understanding the trends, the current and future challenges and make sure Hoop is aligned to bring about the best value for money, the best service and the best experience is what we’re focused on to make sure we expand our impact.