Venture Capital in Tel Aviv: Meet Michel Abadi, Managing Partner at Maverick Ventures

Todays's interview is with Michel Abadi, Managing partner at Maverick VenturesPrior to joining Maverick at inception, Michel was the Global Head of Product Development at Gems Fund of Funds, which at its peak managed over US$7.5 billion, for over a decade. From 1995 up to 1999, Michel was a portfolio manager for local and off-shore Brazilian hedge funds totaling US$ 1.5 Billion at Banco Patrimonio, a Salomon Brothers joint-venture in Brazil. Michel became Head of Products for the Local Private Bank after its sale to Chase Manhattan Bank, and soon after, J.P. Morgan. In this function Michel was responsible for the designing, structuring and implementation of local fund of hedge funds worth US$ 1 Billion, as well as for an advisory desk for local markets, trading currencies and creating structured trades. Michel holds a Production Engineering degree from the University of Sao Paulo, and a Master of Business Administration conferred jointly by Kellogg School of Management and Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration. Michel is also the Chairman of Aish TLV, which bridges the gap between religious and non-religious young leaders. He is also the Chairman of Beit Brasil, which helps brazilian Olim in their first year in Israel.

Read the interview below; to learn more about Maverick Ventures, click here.

Michel Abadi and Maverick's founder Yaron Carni
Michel Abadi (on the right) and Maverick's founder Yaron Carni in the Western Wall, Jerusalem

What is Maverick's story? How did everything begin?

Maverick started as both myself and Yaron Carni my partner met for the first time in a Torah class in Tel Aviv. We were both at career turning points, and we discovered that we had the same goals and very complementary skills, and then we started to explore the possibility of joining forces to get there. From that point, it took some time to get the strategy right, the economics, and soon we hit the road for the fundraising. It's never easy, but we made it and are now already two years and a half into investing the Fund and with 10 very amazing companies in the portfolio.

What does a day in Maverick look like?

In a typical day, we meet two/three companies pitching their ideas to us, and then we spend one or two hours with some of our portfolio companies helping them either with Strategy, Hiring, Biz Deving or introducing them to potential investors for their next investment round. Lastly, we also spend some time researching themes that are connected to companies that we own or fields that we see ourselves getting involved with.

For you what are the most attractive types of investments? What is Maverick looking for in the moment?

In our business, there is no recipe, as it is not an exact science. It's all about the team, the idea, the click, the incentives, the timing, the sustainable technological edge, the potential market, the creativity, and a lot of pure luck...

What differentiates Israeli entrepreneurs from other entrepreneurs around the world?

I have a theory, not proven yet. I think that the Israelis are, in general, so bad in marketing their company that the good ones compensate that with a lot of creativity and a real strong technology behind the scenes. As such, even with the obstacles that end up existing, the backbone is so great and creates such a demand for the product that in the end they reach the golden path. In other places, as much as I have seen, the emphasis is usually more on the go to market strategy, network effect or business model creativity and less on the tech itself, which comes naturally as in these places the human factor is string exactly in those areas and less on the technical side. As such, since I see these complementary skills, one strategy that we are trying is to take the best of both worlds and combine wisely the good tech backbone from Israel with savvy entrepreneurial business models from abroad. Let's see the results in the coming years... 

In your opinion what is the strongest factor that makes Israel the Startup Nation?

If I had to choose one factor only, I would say that is the experience that these geeks acquire in the tech units in the army. There is no parallel to that in the real world, to be given such huge budgets and responsibility in such a young age and be able to experiment - without failing - fears is something truly outstanding that these youngsters get the opportunity to live through, and it gives them tools and experiences that nobody else has.

What are the advantages of being an investor in Israel? And the disadvantages?

The main advantage is the more realistic valuations that companies usually go for here. The second best advantage is that companies are born already with an international mindset, which facilitates a lot the strategic discussions and developments. There are many others like the strong legal system, the relatively small community that facilitates all the personal checks, and especially that all the eyes in the world in our space are looking into what happens here. The main disadvantages are related to the Israeli physche and infamous business behaviour, which in our case translates in the usual over negotiation of investment rounds and distribution agreements and these sorts of things. But there are ways to overcome that too.

What do you miss most about Brazil?

Mostly the good typical food (pão de queijo, água de côco e requeijão)...rsrs. Seriously, I miss the good friends and the very dynamic financial markets where I was bred. You don't find those almost anywhere else.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I would love to be managing Maverick's 5th VC fund, and hopefully a little bigger than our current fund, but not too much, as I don't want to change the essence of our investment strategy (although I am surely open for innovation!!!).

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Best,

Luiza Rezende
High Tech Lawyer, YouTuber and Writer

Innovation in the Tourism Industry: Meet Frédéric Simons, WorldCraze's Co-Founder and CPO

Today I am interviewing Frédéric Simons, WorldCraze's co-founder and CPO:

Master in the art of developing startups, Frédéric runs with perfection all the creation of a company, being it making a business plan, designing the user acquisition or making it grow. He is the co-founder of WorldCraze and also author of "Startup Tools & Tips", a book on entrepreneurship

Frédéric Simons
Frédéric Simons
In the interview Frédéric talks about the creation of WorldCraze, the main challenges and what to expect from the future. Check it out (you can also read the original interview in French in the end of the post). WorldCraze's social links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn

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What is the history of WorldCraze? How did it all start?

We have met in 2010 with Guillaume Cayard in the Young Innovative Company of my computer school Epitech. We quickly hit it off and embarked on our first startup project in 2010; in December 2012 we started developing WorldCraze. I was traveling in the United States and found it disturbing to find different prices for a jeans when compared to France; I thought that there was a niche in the industry. I spoke with Guillaume about the subject and our knowledge from older startups and we thought it was the time to do it!

How would you explain WorldCraze?

WorldCraze connects travellers with people who want to buy products that don't exist in their country or that are cheaper elsewhere. The buyer places an ad on our site, and a traveler brings the product after returning from his trip. The traveler earns a bonus for services rendered to a Crazer. This is based on the principle of sharing economy: we consume less but better!

Why did you choose to invest your time and effort in this market? What is there special about that?

It's a niche sector with not so much competition and it solves a problem we all face. We saw an opportunity to establish ourselves as European leaders in this market and to offer an innovative solution!

What is a day in WorldCraze like? Can you describe?

I like to say that our days are never alike, as any good respectful startup: simple_smile: We rarely have typical days, these being often made unexpected!

Why opening the startup also in Brazil? What are the biggest challenges? And benefits?

Brazil is a growing market! It is ideal for a startup. The biggest challenge remains administrative, what requires an expertise that we don't have, so we have to surround ourselves with the right specialists! The first advantage is financial, Brazil is a country where product import is subjected to very high taxes.

What does a CTO do? And a CPO? For you, what are the biggest challenges of these two positions?

I'm not the CTO anymore, I named Thibault Apourchaux to take over this position. For the post of CPO the greatest challenges are to make decisions on the product every day, never knowing whether I am right or wrong while going to a certain direction.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a startup in France? And in Brazil?

France is a great country for all startups that are working on products related to tourism: with over 84 million tourists a year this is the place! Brazil is a paradise for reactive teams like ours! A population three times the population of France, a hard import problem to solve, and an user openness very different from what we know in France.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

We would like to follow the same path of BlaBlaCar and Airbnb: becoming a giant in our industry while rendering service to users around the world always with the objective of building a win-win relationship - where everybody wins!

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Si vous voulez lire la interview en Français, s'il vous plaît voyez ci-dessous.

Best,

Luiza Rezende
High Tech Lawyer, YouTuber and Writer

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Quelle est l'histoire de WorldCraze? Comment a tout commencé?

Nous nous sommes rencontrés en 2010 avec Guillaume Cayard dans la Jeune Entreprise Innovante de mon école d’informatique l’Epitech. On a vite sympathisé et on s’est lancé dans notre premier projet de startup en 2010 puis dans l’élaboration de WorldCraze en décembre 2012. J’étais en voyage aux Etats-Unis et j’ai trouvé ça aberrant de constater la différence de prix avec la France ne serait-ce que pour un jean. Je me suis dit qu’il y avait une niche dans ce secteur. J’en ai parlé avec Guillaume et avec nos connaissances de nos anciennes startups, nous nous sommes dit que c’était à faire !

Comment expliqueriez-vous WorldCraze à votre grand-mère?

WorldCraze met en relation des voyageurs avec des personnes souhaitant acheter des produits qui n’existent pas dans leurs pays ou qui sont moins cher ailleurs. L’acheteur passe une annonce sur notre site, et un voyageur lui rapporte son produit en rentrant de son voyage. Le voyageur gagne un bonus pour avoir rendu service à un Crazer. Cela repose sur le principe de la sharing economy, nous consommons moins mais mieux !

Pourquoi avez-vous choisi d'investir votre temps et des efforts dans ce marché? Qu'est-ce qu'il y a de spécial sur ça?

Il s’agit la d’un secteur de niche très peux concurrentiel, en plus de résoudre un problème auquel nous sommes tous souvent confrontés. Nous avons donc vu une opportunité de s’implanter comme leader européen sur ce marché, et proposer une solution innovante !

Qu'est-ce qu'un jour de WorldCraze ressemble? Pouvez vous décrire?

J’aime assez dire que nos journées ne se ressemblent jamais, comme toute bonne startup qui se respecte :simple_smile: Nous avons rarement des journées types, celles ci étant souvent composées d’imprévus !

Pourquoi ouvrir la startup aussi au Brésil? Quels sont les plus grands défis? Et les avantages?

Le brésil est un marché en pleine croissance! C’est l’idéal pour une startup. Le plus grand défis reste l’administratif qui requiert une expertise que nous n’avons pas personnellement, nous sommes donc obligés de nous entourer convenablement ! L’avantage premier est bien entendus d’ordre financier, le brésil est un pays ou l’importation de produit est soumis a des taxes très élevés.

Qu'est ce q'un CTO fait? Et un CPO? Pour vous, quels sont les plus grands défis de ces deux positions?

Je ne suis plus CTO, j’ai nommé Thibault Apourchaux pour prendre le relai de ce poste. Concernant le poste de CPO, les plus grands défis sont de prendre des décisions sur le produit au quotidien, sans jamais savoir si j’ai raison ou tord en allant dans cette direction

Quels conseils donneriez-vous à quelqu'un qui veut ouvrir une startup en France? Et au Brésil?

La France est un pays superbe pour toutes les startups qui se lance dans un produit touristique, avec plus de 84 millions de touristes par an c’est l’endroit idéal ! Le Brésil est un eldorado pour des équipes réactives comme la notre ! Une population 3 fois supérieure à la France, un vrai problème d’importation à résoudre et l’ouverture d’esprit des utilisateurs qui est bien différente de ce que l’on connait en France.

Où vous voyez-vous dans 10 ans?

Nous aimerions suivre le même parcours que Blablacar ou Airbnb ! Devenir un géant dans notre secteur tout en rendant service à des utilisateurs du monde entier toujours dans l’optique d’un Win-Win où tout le monde y gagne !