Today's interviewee is Eli Bukchin, CTO and Co-Founder at Taranis, an Israeli company that helps farmers to be more efficient. He talks about Taranis, working in high-tech and being an entrepreneur in Israel. Hope you enjoy the interview!
What is Taranis?
Taranis enables farmers to obtain the information they need for increasing their yields and cutting costs. By monitoring dozens of different parameters in real time, Taranis provides an early warning, so that farmers can spray against fungus or pests in advance to mitigate risks and maximize yield. They know how to use the exact amount of fertilizer, in the right spot. Farmers can also avoid spraying just before rains, which wash off costly materials. The Taranis system is a web dashboard using advance technologies like: proprietary weather forecast model, satellite imagery, weather stations sensors and a mobile app for activity in the field.
How did everything begin?
Everything started when Ofir and I had an interesting talk. Ofir, who comes from a family of farmers and has extensive R&D management experience, suggested to combine our overall knowledge to help farmers with meteorologically related problems. Soon, we included Ayal and Asaf ( the other co- founders) and started to play around with this idea and to bring it to a working product. Using Ayal’s rich background in product management and data analysis and Asaf’s 20 years of experience in software development and design we started to developed the first version of the product and even managed to start few pilots with several farmers. After we saw that there were positive reactions to the product we formed Taranis as a company. And the rest is history.
What does a day in Taranis look like?
We start our day by eating breakfast (cereals obviously) together. During the day each team member has his responsibilities, with a lot on overlapping topics, this was most team members get to work with one another on different aspect of the product or technology. We have experts in Agronomy, Meteorology, Computer Science, UX and Business development. This way, and in addition to weekly sync meetings, we all keep a concurrent vision of the product Sometimes we go to the field to test our products, meet the farmers and make sure we stay connected with the farmers and have fun!
Your background is in Physics. How was the transition to the "high-tech" world?
I’ve always been a tech Geek and my formal education is just a small part of my interests, in addition to my studies in the area of Physics, a big portion of my life I spent studying programming and fields of computer sciences. In my opinion, physics was a really important and helpful tool in adjusting to the multi-disciplinary and fast varying aspects of a startup’s technological base and coming up with ad-hoc solutions for scientific and technological challenges. Though, the pace and focuses of a researcher is a bit different than that of a high-tech worker. In the “high-tech” world one focuses more on correctness, preventability and delivery pace instead of focusing on the method and completeness of solutions in the scientific world. Once I found a “sweet spot” between all the different items and managed to adjust to the new demands while not neglecting my scientific practices, the productivity and quality of my work has improved. I believe that the ability to combine and explore the different fields is what makes Taranis a great and unique company.
What are the advantages of starting a company in Israel? And the disadvantages?
Israel has a great startup environment, mainly because many Israelis need to rely on tech skills to earn a living. In Israel there is almost no natural resources or low tech industry. The IDF provides opportunities for technologically oriented people to further their interest and transform them into a profession. The biggest disadvantage is: Israel is a small country and therefore a small potential market. In order to develop your business further and reach big scale costumers, one needs to offer his products in bigger markets overseas like Brazil, USA and China.
|Working on Taranis' dashboard in the field|
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a CTO?
Taranis is the first company that I am the CTO of and every day has something new I have to solve/manage. That doesn’t mean that I have no advice to give new CTOs. As a founder of a company, my first instinct was to be involved and micro manage every decision regarding the company. I soon realized that this is not productive nor helping the company in any way. I guess, my advice is: to trust your partners to do their job and focus on your responsibility, this is very relevant to small startups. Second, and this is quite obvious, know your field, I advise new CTOs to get to know the field they operate in on a greater scale that the job requires. Many times I have thought of solutions and implemented new methods and technologies that were learnt while reading materials not 100% related to the company’s technological scope. Always be vigilant for scientific and technological breakthroughs and paradigm shifts to keep your technology as up to date as possible.
|Daily life at Taranis|
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a startup in Israel?
There are a lot of programs such as accelerators and incubators to help young entrepreneurs to kick start their ideas. Taranis participated in 2 accelerators. First the EISP 8200 accelerator and later at the Microsoft Ventures’ accelerator in Tel Aviv. I recommend a small start up to enlist in any of the accelerator programs.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself still as the CTO of Taranis after expanding its technological scope to nearby fields. Being a CTO is really fun (most of the time ☺).
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