The Fundraising Debrief

The Fundraising Debrief (Ep. 10) - Yoav Oren (Zoog $2.2M Pre-Seed)

Episode Summary

Yoav Oren, co-founder and CEO of Zoog joins Vlad Cazacu, co-founder and CEO of Flowlie, to discuss their latest $2.2M Pre-Seed Round, leadership during difficult times, and the role of the CEO for an early-stage business.

Episode Notes

Yoav Oren, co-founder and CEO of Zoog joins Vlad Cazacu, co-founder and CEO of Flowlie, to discuss their latest $2.2M Pre-Seed Round, leadership during difficult times, and the role of the CEO for an early-stage business.

00:01 Introduction and Background of the Hosts

00:16 About the Podcast and Its Sponsor

01:10 Interview Begins: Current Situation in Israel

01:30 Challenges and Coping Strategies During War

03:50 Role of a CEO During Crisis

06:04 Adapting Business Operations Amidst Crisis

08:56 Introduction to Zoog and Its Origin

11:54 How Zoog Works and Its Impact

13:42 Yoav's Career Journey Before Zoog

20:27 Transition from Textile Industry to Tech

21:47 Experience at SimilarWeb and Decision to Start Zoog

25:26 Thoughts on Being a First-Time Founder

26:48 Being Honest and True to Yourself as a Founder

27:17 The Importance of Resilience and a Strong Support System

27:57 Facing Rejection and Maintaining Optimism

29:11 The Role of Vision and Optimism in Entrepreneurship

30:00 The Journey of Raising Capital for Zoog

30:40 The Challenges and Successes of Pre-Seed Funding

38:35 The Importance of Relationship Building in Fundraising

40:22 Learning from Mistakes in Fundraising

42:20 The Impact of ADHD on Entrepreneurship

44:05 The Role of Mentors and Gratitude in Career Success

47:00 Closing Remarks and Future Plans

You can find Yoav Oren on LinkedIn at and learn more about ZoogI at

Learn more about Flowlie and how the platform helped thousands of founders from 70+ countries around the world raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Build your dream cap table with Flowlie's all-in-one Fundraising Hub at

Stay up-to-date with all our episodes by checking our website at, following us on Twitter at, and on Instagram at

Episode Transcription

The Fundraising Debrief (Ep. 10) - Yoav Oren (Zoog $2.2M Pre-Seed)



Yoav Oren: [00:00:00] My name is Yoav Oren and I'm the co founder and CEO of Zoogg, an Israel based startup that has revolutionized family communication. We allow family members to interact in a fresh and fun way and we have successfully raised 2. 2 million dollars in a pre seed round.


Vlad Cazacu: Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in and welcome to the Fundraising Debrief, the podcast where we share the real stories behind successful founders and the recent VC financing rounds.


Vlad Cazacu: My name is Vlad Cazacu, and I'll be your host today as we interview Yoav Oren for an incredibly thoughtful episode. We touch upon his international journey, the edtech industry, his fundraising story at ZoogG, and the reality of being a CEO in times of war. He brings tactical advice on leadership, empathy, fundraising, and company building, making this one of the most special conversations we hosted on this podcast.


Vlad Cazacu: For more information about running a successful fundraising round, including show notes, highlight clips, and exclusive scenes, Follow us on Twitter and Instagram with the fundraising debrief as well as on our website at thefundraisingdebrief. com.


Vlad Cazacu: This episode is brought to you by Flowlie, the all in one fundraising hub used by thousands of founders from 70 plus [00:01:00] countries to plan their rounds, research investors share their pitch decks and track access.


Vlad Cazacu: Now, let's dive right in.


Vlad Cazacu: Yoav, such a pleasure to have you on board on fundraising debrief today. Really appreciate taking the invitation.


Yoav Oren: Thanks for having me, Vlad.


Vlad Cazacu: I know it's quite a situation back there in Israel so I cannot be more grateful for you taking the time to share more about your background and your story with us and our listeners.


Vlad Cazacu: And I'm really curious to understand just in the beginning, how's, how's the situation there? How are you, how's your family? How are your employees?


Yoav Oren: Oh, it's a charged question. Um, I think that. First of all, um, as I said earlier, I think it's probably one of the hardest periods that anyone in Israel has experienced in their lifetime.


Yoav Oren: Certainly the hardest period that I've experienced in my lifetime. And we've been through wars here, uh, participated in wars as a soldier myself. But of [00:02:00] course, going through this as a father and seeing the atrocities that were done to families and children, uh, some of which I knew. I've attended a bunch of funerals in the last few weeks of people that I knew and families that I know who were killed and it's been extremely difficult, um, on a national level and also on a personal level. Um, You know, for my team, very difficult to stay focused, it's, it's really, it's, the war is consumed most people, uh, and because it really is a small country and in the end of the day, everyone is affected, everyone knows someone, you know, not, if not directly, then once removed, uh, and it creates a situation where everyone is part of this national war.


Yoav Oren: Um, really grief that we're going through right now. My team is dispersed. Some of our, some of my team members, their spouses experienced like real nervous breakdowns and had to leave the country. I have team members right now are in Germany and [00:03:00] Austria and Argentina and Japan, some of their stuck and can't get back.


Yoav Oren: And it's definitely taken a toll at least on the morale of the team. I think one of the things that's gets us going. And I constantly, I'm saying to my team that one of the ways, or one of the key ways that we practice resilience is by continue building the things that we're passionate about.


Yoav Oren: We fight this in this way, and the fact that we just keep on building, keep on doing the things that we know are significant, especially a product like Zoogg that is here to connect people in a meaningful way, I think now is the right time to do so more than ever before.


Vlad Cazacu: I can't even imagine what you're going through right now, but I think resilience is a great term that resounds of what you do and what your team and then the rest of Israel is doing right now. And I'm curious to understand, maybe we're jumping a little bit ahead, but I think it's a great segue into what's the role of the [00:04:00] CEO of a tech organization when his country is at war.


Yoav Oren: Um, that's a great question. I'm trying to figure out myself. Um, because again, like on one hand, you're going through this trauma with everybody, and I think that what's worked for me. It's just to be brutally honest and sincere with my team, right?


Yoav Oren: Not to say, Hey, nothing's going on and we're fine and just focus on the business and keep on working and we'll, we'll be good, but actually to take, you know, take a real pause. I think the main role of the CEO is to really make sure that he has a good or she has a good understanding of the psyche of the team and how they're doing on a mental state and to offer them any.


Yoav Oren: Kind of support that you possibly can, if it's, you know, just reaching out and sending them private messages or calling each person and seeing how they're doing and what they need from you personally, we've also had group sessions where we just had every one of [00:05:00] the team just share how they're doing and people were, you know, crying on the phone, but also to be honest and share what you're going through.


Yoav Oren: And I think that when. Your team sees that this has an impact on you as a CEO, and that you're taking this in a very personal way that aid allows them to open up and share, but also it allows for really for us to come together and kind of each one of us, um, hold each other together, and make sure that we're as a team, uh, we're moving forward and we're, we're, we're trying our best to, to, uh, to cope with the situation. As I said, being honest and being sensitive to the team, to the team's needs. We have people on the team who are serving right now, went back to reserve duty. So, and I think like as many touch points as we can to, to, to an extent that really that I find that it's helpful, I'll do with the team on a personal or in a collective way.


Yoav Oren: Um, yeah, we're making this up as we go. As I [00:06:00] said, this is not a situation that we've ever been in before.


Vlad Cazacu: And I'm curious in terms of prioritization, in terms of figuring out how does the business continue going in a situation like this? Yeah. How have you adapted the business of Zoogg to accommodate for?


Yoav Oren: So I'll say the other one of the thing that that I install in my team, or I try to install this in my team is really hope and seeing kind of the light at the end of the tunnel.


Yoav Oren: And it's really hard to see when you're in the midst of a crisis or in the midst of a war, but really showing them and explain to them, look what we're building. Look what you are doing, look how much light we're bringing into the world and let that be a focal point or a north star of hope. And I think that once they see that, kind of take away, step away and look at the, at kind of the outskirts of the photo, right?


Yoav Oren: Or look at the frame and say, Oh my God, [00:07:00] we're really doing good here. And I say to them all the time, this is where I get. Strength from the fact that I use work as, as kind of a way to run away from everything. And if we can do that together as a team, I think that it works well. And I think that it's proven itself too.


Yoav Oren: So in the past month, we are continuing the same growth that we have been in the past quarter. Um, we're growing on average month over month by over 20 percent in terms of revenue, in terms of new subscribers. And I think, you know, to answer your question, Vlad. In a time like this, you need to focus on the essentials.


Yoav Oren: What are the ground essentials that, um, that actually can move the needle and make sure that you're not falling behind. You're staying in that same growth trajectory. You're focusing on. What is absolutely necessary and everything else that is not absolutely necessary can wait. So for instance, like me personally, I, you know, I like to do a lot of partnership [00:08:00] meetings where I'm trying to find new partners for us for For content partnerships.


Yoav Oren: We speak to big animation studios publishers all over the world in the last few weeks. I've taken it down a note Right. We know how to produce content by ourselves and we do it very, very well. Uh, and only the last week I started to pick up and have these meetings because I felt that I myself, I wasn't in that I didn't have that mental capacity to actually sit down and have normal meetings with people.


Yoav Oren: It was more in the midst of a financing round and instead of going out and speaking to new investors, I was really focused on just getting the current round going, trying to wrap it up just so we have enough money in the bank so we can continue building and doing what we're doing. Uh, but really, as I said, narrow down, focus on the absolute essentials and be very, very sensitive to the team and the team's needs.


Vlad Cazacu: This is great advice and you're alluding to some of the items at the [00:09:00] mission you have at ZoogG, but I think it's a great opportunity for you to introduce what you do at ZoogG and how did it start in the very first place?


Yoav Oren: Sure. So ZoogG was, uh, started, its birth was really at the heart of COVID.


Yoav Oren: So both Matan, my co founder and I were both parents, young children. And when COVID hit. All of us really, uh, then we were stuck at home and we were isolated from our families. And the first thing that we tried to do is to get our kids to communicate with any remote family member and really primarily with their grandparents.


Yoav Oren: And we tried to do this through Zoogm and FaceTime or any other live communication product. And we quickly learned that video communication with our kids, uh, was just awful. Our kids could not handle small talk conversations at all. They weren't interested in these type of calls. My kids had, you know, could last about 30 seconds on a call and they're done.


Yoav Oren: Just not interested in anymore. And we saw that as created frustration on all [00:10:00] sides, you know, my parents were frustrated because they were used to connecting with their grandkids and suddenly the grandkids have want to have nothing to do with them. And I was frustrated because I had to bribe my kids to spend a few minutes on the phone with their grandparents.


Yoav Oren: And that. Was not pleasant and my kids were, you know, upset because I kept on shoving the phone in their face and expect them to speak. Um, but on the flip side, what was interesting about covid was that you had this point in time where suddenly video communication became mainstream, right? So suddenly the world adapted to video communication, right?


Yoav Oren: And everyone, you know, Enterprise software companies were selling enterprise software on Zoogm, which before that it was a taboo. We raised capital from investors that we actually never physically met, right? If I would have said this to investors a few years back, they would probably look at me like I was crazy.


Yoav Oren: Educational systems adapted and even grandparents adopted. So you had this point of time and I think it's a, you know, it's a crucial thing for any startup, right? Yes, you need to have a problem that is significant. Yes, you need to have[00:11:00] the right founder product fit. There has to be a lot of moving parts, but the timing is actually a really huge thing there.


Yoav Oren: I think that the timing was right to create a really cross generational product that really was built for this specific use case. It's a huge market. You have 70 million grandparents in the US alone and even without COVID, they're seeing their grandkids about twice a year. So by default, the way that they're communicating is through phone or video.


Yoav Oren: We really wanted to build a product that really worked. And this is where the idea for Zoogg came. And we saw that in order to get our kids to actually connect and to stay connected, they had to be entertained. There was kind of no way around that. So we said, okay, what happens if we make the grandparents really the star in the Children's content?


Yoav Oren: And if we merge that content and communication into one, and that was kind of the birth of Zoogg. So Zoogg today is, it's an asynchronous communication experience. Essentially you open up our app and [00:12:00] once you enter the app, you'll see this variety, this huge library of content and the content today includes anywhere from books to songs and karaoke style. We have a category of dad jokes even and, and, and short facts about life and stuff that are fit for very, very like toddlers and stuff for fit for kids a bit older and every con is completely different.


Yoav Oren: And all you have to do, Vlad, as a user, you start, you know, select what you want to record and we actually insert you into that content. So, as you record, we change the backgrounds, the animations, uh, 2D animations, 3D artwork, we add a soundtrack and we add, we add, we complement this with AR technology as well that changes, uh, based on the character that you're depicting in each scene. So every scene, you'll have a different AR mask, and it's just this really easy, incredibly fun, very entertaining experience [00:13:00] that then the grandparents or any recorder can share. And the kid actually doesn't have to download the app, they can view the recording on any device at any time. Uh, they then have the opportunity to reciprocate, to ask for their next content, leave video messages, send back emojis.


Yoav Oren: Um, yeah, and it's, it's a beautiful experience. And of course, everything you record on Zoogg is also saved forever in a family memory album. So kids have the opportunity to view your recordings not only You know, as many times as they want, but also for years to come.


Vlad Cazacu: It's a really fascinating concept at the intersection of a interactive storybook and a Snapchat designed for children. And you're, you're very right about the timing, right? And COVID and 2020 being really the catalyst for this remote work and remote relationship building, not just in fundraising and business, but also at home and with our Close relatives, but I'm curious to understand your [00:14:00] background before Zoogg, maybe let's say a little bit less traditional for a founder in the family tech space.


Vlad Cazacu: So how let's walk a little bit for your first decade of career, because I think it'd be very interesting for some of our listeners to understand also, Yoav before Zoogg.


Yoav Oren: Okay. So as I said, it's going to be, it's, it's not a common story I think I'd like to think. My focus for the vast majority of my career has been China. I have always been passionate about China. And I say really passionate because my love to China started from a very young age. And I always knew that eventually I was going to go to China. I am a martial artist in my, in my heart. Uh, and I still practice to today. I've been doing it for 30 years now and it was always a dream of mine to go and train in China.


Yoav Oren: And after my army service, So that's what I did. So I actually [00:15:00] went to New York and I worked in a consulting firm in New York to make money to go to China and, and train in China for about a year. And actually I went back and forth every year. I went for a year, but then every year I would come back in between semesters for more training periods with my teacher in a godforsaken, like, place in the middle of China, like, it's just, I wouldn't recommend anyone to go there, but the martial arts are exceptional, and that kind of was my childhood dream. My dream is to go and train in China and to see what happens if I take a period of my life where I do just that and it was amazing. And for a long period of time, I trained, you know, eight hours a day. Um, and it was. You know, painful and, and, and, and fascinated and difficult. And I was completely alone, but I loved it. Um, and what happened in China, I was 23 years old, I lived my lifelong dream. And then I was, you know, at the point where I was like, okay, now what?


Yoav Oren: Do I [00:16:00] stay in China? Do I become a monk? What's, what's next? And I said, okay, I love China. I love the martial arts, but I don't want to rely on it financially, but let's not take a step too far back and let's see how I can continue learning other aspects of China. And this is around 2005 where all the papers were talking about the rise of China and the, the, the economical boom in China.


Yoav Oren: And I said, okay, let's get smarter about China and actually went and studied, you know, Chinese and I did my degree at Columbia University majoring in East Asian studies and Chinese. Uh, and through Columbia, I actually had to got to do a Chinese business program, uh, studying Chinese business, um, studied abroad in China and Jiatong University.


Yoav Oren: And I actually interned in the Shanghai Foreign Investment Association after that, and the year following that I was part of the U. S. delegation to the World's Fair, uh, the U. S. [00:17:00] basically selected 80 students from around the U. S. who spoke Chinese to represent the U. S. in the Expo in Shanghai, and I got to be part of that delegation, which was an incredible experience.


Yoav Oren: And that was my passion. And I knew that I wanted to focus on China for my career. And really, I was looking for any place after that that would enable me really to be the bridge and open business for a Western company in China and be the nexus kind of in between, uh, kind of the Chinese side and the Western side.


Yoav Oren: And I looked in Israel and I looked in the States and what happened was I got an opportunity to was called, I, you know, I had a few, few opportunities, but this one was spot on and I was very, very. You know, in particular, I didn't want to compromise, so I had a few offers from different tech companies to say, listen, China's interesting, but we're not there yet as a business.


Yoav Oren: So why don't you come and do this job first? And then later we'll talk about China or come, we'll do, you know, [00:18:00] 20 percent of your time to focus on China. And I was gung ho. I was like, I've invested a lot in this. I'm passionate about China. I'm sticking to China, and eventually I got an opportunity that was completely off of my radar.


Yoav Oren: It was joining a, one of the world's largest institutional textile companies that happened to have, you know, 24 factories around the world, including in Israel. So the company is based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, but it had a factory in Israel, an office in Israel, but it had also its largest factory in China.


Yoav Oren: And I took a, and they said to me, you come, you join us, we'll train you in Cincinnati and then you'll be the nexus between the Israeli operations, the Chinese operations and the U S operations. I was like, amazing, like that, that to me was my dream. It didn't matter if it was tech or, or textiles, even though the textile company itself is very much technologically oriented, they have over 70 patents, a very [00:19:00] much focus on the tech side of the textile business and developing a lot of products for hospitals primarily. But in any case, what ended up happening is after my, I did like the six months intensive training course in Cincinnati, and I took a business trip. with my then boss. And when we got back from that trip, we were already supposed to go back to Israel.


Yoav Oren: He said to me, we're not sending you back to Israel. You got to go to China. And I had at 28, this amazing opportunity. They offered me basically to open up and manage the entire business operation in greater Asia. So all of Asia. And it was, It, it was an outrageous and, and amazing opportunity as a 28 year old to do so because at the time the company wasn't really selling at all in Asia.


Yoav Oren: So I had the opportunity to go out and open this market for them. Assemble a sales team, start marketing activity and actually do this. I told [00:20:00] my then girlfriend today, wife, that we're doing this and she, of course, uh, was gracious enough, uh, to, to oblige and to support me on this move and yeah, it was amazing. We moved to China for three years.


Vlad Cazacu: And at what point you're making the decision, well, there was also an intermediary step between the textile company and Zoogg, um, but I'm really curious on this, uh, this background on, on, on textile. Now you're making the decision to go into tech more traditionally.


Vlad Cazacu: Let's say, and then at some point become a founder. So walk me through those a few years right before Zoogg as well.


Yoav Oren: Sure. So, um, we were in China. We're supposed to stay for two years. We ended up extending for an extra year. And that year our son was born in China. And after, when he was about one years old, we were like, okay, it's time to go back.


Yoav Oren: We weren't in Israel for close to seven years because we were both studying in New York before that, Cincinnati, [00:21:00] then China. So altogether, that's about seven years we were out of the country and we decided now's the time to go back home. And I knew that, first of all, I always knew that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but it took me much longer to kind of say, okay.


Yoav Oren: Now I'm taking the jump. I kept on convincing myself that I need to get more exposure, more experience in order to do so. Um, now, if you know, Israel, Israel, there aren't a lot of, um, there are a lot of industries. There isn't, you know, a, you know, significant car industry. Even a textile industry is non existent anymore.


Yoav Oren: What we do exceptionally well is we do tech and this is what This country produces, um, on a per capita basis, probably better or more than any other country in the world. So I knew that I was coming back to Israel. I knew that I wanted to do what I did for standard textile, but for the tech industry in Israel.


Yoav Oren: And I was completely adamant about opening [00:22:00] up the China market for, for technology companies in Israel and same thing I was, you know, I got different offers for me to come on board and do, you know, this job and this job in a tech company and I just simply was not interested. I was absolutely interested and fascinated about doing this, opening the Chinese market, start selling our Israeli technology goods inside the Chinese market.


Yoav Oren: And eventually I got a great opportunity to join similar web, which is a publicly traded company today. Back then, we're about a hundred employees and, and the CEO at the time was like, okay, let's, in the beginning, in the beginning, they offered me also a different position and I turned it down and after a few weeks they got back to me and I said, okay, let's do this.


Yoav Oren: And it's similar, but it was, it was a fascinating position because I, we had to kind of make this up as, as we went about and similarweb is kind of the, the digital measure, or the measure measurement tool for the digital world. And my 1st task was to really see how we can create [00:23:00] kind of a data infrastructure, if you will for China. How do we, uh, make as many data partnerships as possible in order for similar to measure and accurately predict internet behavior in a certain market, they have to be able to track a certain amount of devices in that market. So my first job is to kind of set this up and see that we have. A large amount representation of data that we're able to obtain from China.


Yoav Oren: And then the second, after that I made a transition and I had a team in China and I had a local team here in Israel, I started focusing more on the commercial aspects and seeing how we can sell similar products in China. And I sold some amazing deals with some of the best tech companies in China, including Baidu and Alibaba.


Yoav Oren: And at the time was the largest deal in company history at the time was the Huawei that I sold. And that is a whole nightmare slash good story in the end, but it was difficult. Um, and after a few [00:24:00] years in that position, uh, the CEO asked me to come on board and be his chief of staff and really work hand in hand with him.


Yoav Oren: And I accompanied him on trips all over the world. And I got to be, you know, sit on all board meetings, investor meetings, uh, you name it on management meetings. And that was, it actually. It was front row seats to how a very successful startup is run. And for me, even though before getting the chief of staff role, I was sure that I was going to go out and do something entrepreneurial.


Yoav Oren: I already had an idea I was focused on and then he gave me this opportunity. I was like, this is, this is kind of an accelerated MBA. If you will, and I couldn't give it up, but after the chief of staff role, I exhausted all my excuses. It was the end of the line. Like there was nothing and no other position that I could do that would prepare me as much to the CEO position.


Yoav Oren: And, and after that, as I [00:25:00] said, there were no more excuses. And my wife was, again, tremendously supportive and actually pushed me. She's like, you know, she was pregnant with our third child. And she said, you know what? Now's the time. Leave now. Do this now. You're not going to forgive yourself. You have my back.


Yoav Oren: Let's plan this out. You have a year to raise money. She sat down with a spreadsheet and we planned this out and, you know, we jumped in the deep end. And decided to do it.


Vlad Cazacu: That's fantastic. And I heard you say prepare quite a number of times throughout this description of your career prior to Zoogg.


Vlad Cazacu: So I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the whole concept of a first time founder and the prerequisites required in order to be successful in today's environment to raise a Pre-Seed and really lift the company off the ground.


Yoav Oren: Um, so I like to think of it. I think that a lot of times people tend to put entrepreneurs in a box [00:26:00] and say, oh, entrepreneurs are X, Y and Z.


Yoav Oren: I actually think that there's a much richer environment, you know. Much richer variety of entrepreneurs out there, but there is a common thread, and I think the common thread in a variety of founders that I've met, and I know, and I respect to a lot of them are different than I am and have different expertise and come from different backgrounds.


Yoav Oren: And I don't think that there is a single. You know, typecast these are successful entrepreneurs, I think. And what's, you know, in the end of the day, what works best, you have to be honest with yourself. And, you know, I think I try to do this also with my co founder as well and say, listen, I am not perfect.


Yoav Oren: These are the things that I have difficulties with. And I was very honest about it from day one, preparing him, like this is, these are the things that you're going to have challenges with them. I'm letting you know in advance, I think that if you are honest with yourself [00:27:00] and you are the CEO or the founder. You are who you are. You're not trying to be someone else. You're not trying to be like Steve Jobs because he was X, Y and Z or be like, you know, my former CEO at similar web. We're just very different people. So that's 1 thing. Be honest, be yourself and be true to yourself.


Yoav Oren: The 2nd thing is you have to be incredibly resilient. It is not an easy journey. Um, I try to stay away from the cliches and the roller coasters because I think it's much harder than a roller coaster. I think you're going to have to surround yourself with a very good support system and something that maybe it's not up to you, but know how to ask for help.


Yoav Oren: Know how to seek help, and it can be from your spouse. It can be from a close friend. It can be from an investor. But having that support system, I think, is paramount to any person's success. And whoever tells you otherwise, I think they're not being honest, um, or they're not getting enough help. I think a lot of times you have to be, [00:28:00] you're going to get, you know, I don't know about you Vlad, but I have gotten more no's that I care to admit, uh, really a constant flux of no's.


Yoav Oren: People are telling you this idea isn't good enough. You're not far enough. You do good. Whatever. A million and one excuses. And I think that you have to be a believer. And by default, you have to be an optimist. And I think that, you know, it's, it's good to have a balance between founders have one founder that's more grounded and has that ability to show you reality, but you also have to be a dreamer because at the day, a startup and a definition of the startup is doing something that's really never been done before.


Yoav Oren: That's the kind of the difference between that and opening up a business, which is perfectly fine. Of course, being a startup founder, you're necessarily doing something that has never been tried before, and you're going to have a lot of skepticism around you. You're going to have a lot of people are going to tell you that it's crap, bullshit, not good enough, and [00:29:00] you have to be an optimist, you have to be a believer, and you have to keep on expressing that belief to everyone around you at any given opportunity, internally and externally.


Vlad Cazacu: I'm really glad you brought the optimism piece as well, because I think we can focus a lot on the resilience and the struggle of the journey and the countless no's that you're going to receive throughout, but there's, there's the optimistic part of it, the visionary part of it that allows you to see The light at the end of the tunnel and to some extent fuels the resilience on the day to day, and you know, risking being a little bit more mainstream as you, as you just described earlier, like I do believe there is a roller coaster in a way, but it's an emotional roller coaster more than anything. It's the ability to actually have a stomach to, uh, to handle, uh,


Yoav Oren: each day at a time is not for the faint at hearts.


Yoav Oren: Not at all. Exactly.


Vlad Cazacu: [00:30:00] Exactly. So I'm curious now you have in your experience with Zoogg specifically around the pre seed, I think you did a great job outlining the foundation of the founder coming into this role and sort of the mindset and emotional preparedness that they should, uh, handle beforehand. And you're coming out to market and actually raising capital for this idea.


Vlad Cazacu: Yep. As a first time founder, having been an entrepreneur around a variety of different organizations and having had the chance to shadow a CEO and a founder, uh, beforehand, walk us through what really moved the needle in that pre seed round and how it came together.


Yoav Oren: So the pre seed round was definitely fueled.


Yoav Oren: We kind of did it the opposite way. So I decided early on, I am not going to go to friends and family. Um, and this, again, I had to be true to myself. I did not feel comfortable asking money from close friends and family. I did not want to change our relationship in any way. [00:31:00] We raised money from one family member after we were already raised capital, uh, it's kind of like a last resort because they really asked me and I glitched in the end, but I was not crazy about the idea. Um, and we went to VCs and I was incredibly, incredibly fortunate. I can't emphasize this enough. Um, I met, um, the folks at reimagined ventures, Izzy feature and Kevin Baxfielder back in, when I worked for the consulting firm in New York in 2005, Kevin was actually my first boss.


Yoav Oren: And, and they both had amazing careers. Um, Izzy was a partner in Google ventures and worked in Yahoo and, and Kevin worked on wall street and was also a founder after the words of the startup, uh, here in Israel. And when I came for advice. I went to see Kevin for advice. I was like, Hey, I have this crazy idea.


Yoav Oren: Um, by the way, it's not the idea we're, we're actually doing right now, but it was a completely different idea. And Kevin kind of said to me, and I'm, and I said, I'm thinking of [00:32:00] leaving my job. He said to me, let me make your life easy. Come to us, be an entrepreneur residence at Reimagine Ventures will help you like incubate this idea.


Yoav Oren: We'll help you find a co founder. And if it's good, we'll invest. And they did exactly that. They, they mentored, uh, myself and my co founder, Matan, and they have always had our back from day one. They invested in Zoog before we had really any product or really any line of code and they were our believers in the fact that we had a, a, a VC and a good VC that was willing to back us really opened the door for other VCs.


Yoav Oren: It's the first kind of, um, Pre-Seed round that we did a pre Pre-Seed round that we did. Um, we raised from three different venture capital firms which is not trivial for a startup that doesn't have anything and first time founders. And after that, that kind of opened up everything for us. And they've been involved ever since then.


Yoav Oren: After that we were part of tech stars joint program with Comcast NBC [00:33:00] universal. So Comcast invested together with tech stars, which is great. And eventually we're after that we opened up to other VCs. We brought on insight partners to invest in a Pre-Seed around, which is not trivial for insight partners.


Yoav Oren: We've got a few great angel investors. Including Patrick Lee was the founder of Rotten Tomatoes and Guy Gamsu was the first investor in Fiverr and a bunch of other great investors including venture partners at SoftBank even who invested privately. Um, and I feel like we've been, you know, on one hand, incredibly fortunate, but on the other hand, I, I can't like, it was incredibly hard, like nothing has been easy and especially if you look at the Israeli market, the Israeli market is exceptional. And anything related to security technologies. Right. Cyber stuff, man, we're, we're amazing. Right. Top notch. Uh, we're very, very good in enterprise software, enterprise SaaS. Very, very good at that. Uh, [00:34:00] anything that they, the ad tech, uh, we've done, we've done exceptionally well.


Yoav Oren: Um, with a few exceptions, Israel is not very much a B2C oriented market. So raising capital as an early stage consumer business that is focusing on baby boomers and grandparents. Who does that? It was kind of, people looked at us like, who are you guys? Like, what are you doing? You guys seem like smart people. Why are you doing this? And I said, that's where that not only resilience to that belief has to click in. It's like, no, I am completely, I completely believe in this market. I completely believe in this demographic that we're targeting. I can see the opportunity and the potential here, and we're going to do this.


Yoav Oren: And it took a lot of time and immense amount of effort. Um, a lot of crying, but, uh, eventually I was very, very fortunate to get the backers that we have and, and a lot of them are also continuing with us of insight right now are continuing with us to the next round. We imagine, [00:35:00] of course, are always have our backs and always the 1st to come on board and a few other investors in the States as well.


Yoav Oren: And, uh, we're working on getting that round going.


Vlad Cazacu: And I don't doubt that it's been incredibly difficult to attract that level of interest at such an early stage. So I'm curious to understand your perspective around too much interest, if that may be the case, specifically around dilution at an earlier stage and deciding how much support and funding do you really need?


Vlad Cazacu: Yeah. To get started when the company is not really worth that much yet.


Yoav Oren: I think, so there's two components there. One is what you need to raise in order to get to the next phase. And this is where the modeling comes into place. You really have to, you know, you asked early about planning. This is where planning comes to place.


Yoav Oren: I think if you're able, and we're doing this right now in this round to articulate very clearly to investors, this is what we need capital for. These are the KPIs that we're looking to [00:36:00] reach. These are the benchmarks that are set in place. And this is when we're looking to do reach those KPIs as well.


Yoav Oren: And this is what we need in order to reach that. And then it's very, very clear, right? If you just say, Hey, we're raising 5 million. Because we want to raise 5 million. I think it's a bad signal, but if you're very articulate and you can plan and say, this is what we're raising capital for, this is what we're going to do with that capital.


Yoav Oren: This is the plan. This is a spreadsheet showing you how we reach these milestones in that given time period. And we're, we're modeling this out not only for next year for the next round, but for next year. Ten years down the road, and this is how the company is going to reach a billion dollar valuation, then it becomes very, very clear.


Yoav Oren: Naturally, it also needs to work. Right, so doing that first pre seed, that first raise is very, you know, incredibly difficult because you're selling a dream. There's no metrics, you can't compare historical data. Right now, we've been in the market for about two [00:37:00] years right now. We've been monetizing for a bit over a year right now.


Yoav Oren: There are cohorts data, we can show progress, we can show what we've done in terms of CAC reduction, in terms of being ROI positive right now, in terms of LTV and CAC ratio. We can show the growth. At a fixed and very limited in marketing budget. And I think that if you were able to show very clearly that this is a solid team that is working incredibly lean and is talented and is, and is, you know.


Yoav Oren: Gun ho and getting this done. And here are the results like, look at the, look at how much we've improved with so little resources in just a year. And I think it becomes a, you know, I'm going to say something maybe, maybe not, uh, not good for the venture ears here, but in the day, you know, venture capital, there aren't a lot of ventures, you know, they're not trying to make, you know, Incredibly risky.


Yoav Oren: They want to be smart about their [00:38:00] investments. They have LPs. They need to go back and show how they're going to return the fund. And I understand that. So they're trying to predict the success of a company. I think that us as founders, if we're able to kind of Um, help take away the gray as much as possible.


Yoav Oren: Naturally, there's risk. This is a startup. That's part of the game, right? But if you're able to clearly show that there's a pathway and a plan and to couple that with the historical performance, um, I think that it's a very good thing to show and it helps kind of ease them in to making that round. Um, the last thing I just want to add, Vlad.


Yoav Oren: And is, is in the end of the day, I feel that people want to do business with people still. I know we've all seen the rise of AI, and of course, we're making good use of it as well. At the end of the day, people want to work with people that they enjoy to work with, that they trust, that they believe in, that they see that passion.


Yoav Oren: And I think that's kind of the, the, the [00:39:00] joker element. Yes, the metrics need to work. And yes, everything needs to be in place and the company, you know, you're investing in something. You want to see that it actually makes sense from an investment perspective. At the end of the day, if you want to, if you're going to be involved in this business in a way, you want to be able to look in the entrepreneur in the eye and say, I've got I like this guy or this girl and I trust them and I know that they're going to go to war for this and do whatever they can to be successful.


Yoav Oren: I think it's a really important element as well.


Vlad Cazacu: Absolutely, it's the relationship building that to some extent must in certain ways precede the traction and the factual thing, because there must be some trust established in the first place for that communication to even


Yoav Oren: exist in the first place.


Yoav Oren: That's why that first date is so important, right? That's where their first impression is. And they're either going to, it's, it's very, at the end of the day, it's black and white. If they like you and they trust you and believe in you. They're going to continue the conversation. If they don't like [00:40:00] you off the bat, then it doesn't matter how good the metrics are.


Yoav Oren: If there's a trust issue, if they don't enjoy, you know, speaking with you, they don't believe what you're saying. It's not going to work.


Vlad Cazacu: Absolutely. And now towards the end of the episode to jump in a series of quick rapid fire questions with shorter questions and shorter answers, but not necessarily just about the business. But the first one I will have to ask about the Zoog and fundraising in general, biggest mistake that you would never repeat again, fundraising.


Yoav Oren: Um, I'm trying to think about this. Biggest mistake.


Yoav Oren: I think stuff that I, I need to improve, um, as I do this, because as I said, as you said, like being a first time founder, and this is the hard thing you're learning as you, as you're running, right? You're running a sprint and, and as you're sprinting, you need to change course and you need to [00:41:00] learn, right? To see whether or not you're, you're running in the right direction.


Yoav Oren: I think that it's. Um, a lot of the times I've given too much leeway for investors, even giving them a too long a timeline or being ambiguous about what we're raising, right? Saying, Hey, we're also doing a safe, but we're also have, you know, this opportunity to do a price round. And I think that, um, we should not be apologetic.


Yoav Oren: We should be very, very firm about our ask and be confident about our ask and stick with it. And if it's not right, it's not right. Let it go. That's something that I have had a hard time struggling with. I just don't let go. Now sometimes that's worked. And I've brought investors to the table because they said, Oh my God, this guy's not going to leave us alone.


Yoav Oren: Like we better just, you know, let them shut up and an investor ready, but also like know when to part ways and know that sometimes, you know, you might meet them at a later stage of the company and that is fine.


Vlad Cazacu: Great [00:42:00] answer. Next one. One thing that people don't know about Yoav that they should know about you.


Yoav Oren: There's a lot of things they don't know. I don't know about should know that's completely different. Hmm. These are hard, Vlad. These are hard. Never said they were easy. I know, wow, you weren't kidding. Um, first of all, I am dyslexic. I have suffered from ADHD since a young, very young age, before everyone You know, developed ADHD somehow miraculously, but I was at school as I'm rid of them since I was, you know, six years old, uh, very engaged.


Yoav Oren: I was diagnosed with ADHD, um, and it's been a struggle for me my entire life. And I've learned different ways to cope with it. The fact that I'm sitting right now for an hour is crazy for me. But I've learned how to do so and I don't think any of my investors know this about me. [00:43:00] Uh, but it's something that I've struggled with.


Yoav Oren: I started with in school. It was incredibly hard for me. Uh, you know, in, even at Columbia, I had a bunch of, I had to go to a psychologist to get Extra help, so I can get more time to focus on tests and get more time, more help, you know, beyond that. Um, and I think that, as I said, like, you know, it's important for me to be very, very frank with my co founder about this and a certain.


Yoav Oren: Aspects of my, my A DHD that continue to haunt me till today. Um, and I have not shared this with investors, I don't think to, at least with most of them. And it's probably, it's not that I think it's, it defines me, but I think that if they knew it, it would probably, like, it's not that they'd, they'd be like, oh, that.


Yoav Oren: Make sense in some way or another.


Vlad Cazacu: It's very interesting and not necessarily the first founder who was able to make or transform this actually into a [00:44:00] strength in their business, which is very fascinating to see. Thank you for sharing that. No, of course. Last but not least, one person that you've consistently looked up to over your career.


Yoav Oren: Um, so my first boss at Sama Lua was just phenomenal. We've been even today. He's actually the CEO of the global CEO of, uh, of a big, big company and I've looked out for him. He's been a mentor of mine for for many years since that time and always looked up to him. Uh, my career. I come to the advice half the time he's trying to recruit me, which is not fun. When we get that off the table, he gives me solid advice, uh, both, you know, on the emotional level of the entrepreneurial journey, but also, but also on the professional level, I can come to him pretty much everything.


Yoav Oren: And he's seen me and he's really, he really, you know, took me under his wing. Uh, Samuel Ervin taught me what the digital world actually means and what it [00:45:00] means to operate in the digital world and the terminology that no idea, I came from a completely different industry and he believed in me and he's like, I'm taking you, we're going to do great things together.


Yoav Oren: And he's been like that for, for a long time. And I deeply appreciate him. His name is Todd Jacobson, he's a phenomenal, really is. Fantastic.


Vlad Cazacu: I hope at one point we'll, we'll have him on the podcast. Oh,


Yoav Oren: you should. He's really great. And, uh, yeah, if I didn't mention talent tons, of course, the CEO of Perion which is a great company, very successful.


Vlad Cazacu: Awesome. And the question that we usually end the episodes with looking back at your life and career, who are you most grateful


Yoav Oren: for? Oh, so easy. Definitely my wife. My wife has been really, not only my rock, uh, is always giving me solid advice in any point of my career and in general and life but it's also like pushed me. And I think that's somewhat, that's something [00:46:00] that I deeply, deeply appreciate, not just supporting your decision, but actually being the wind in your back and believing in you, even when you have doubts. I think having that person in your life, uh, in my case, it's really, it's my wife.


Yoav Oren: It continues to push me. It's not just about, you know, do this. I believe in you, but you're doing this like right now you're leaving your job. You're going to study in the States. Like we were together for like eight months in Israel before I was accepted to Columbia and I was not sure I wanted to go. I was perfectly happening in Israel and she Said to me, you're going to go, you're going to go and this is going to be amazing and we're going to do long distance for a year, year and a half and we're going to be fine and I'm going to come and join you and it's going to be good and I was debating about China and she's like, you're going to China and, and, um, so she's been a great, uh, a great, uh, source of power for me.


Yoav Oren: throughout my journey. Unbelievable. What


Vlad Cazacu: a great answer you [00:47:00] have. Thank you so much. My gratitude goes to you for taking the time to share more about your story and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs and really taking the time to have this conversation during such a difficult time for you and your country, you have cannot properly express my gratitude to you for doing this and really much looking forward to another episode of the fundraising debrief where we can discuss your successes at seed or series a or even later.


Yoav Oren: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me, bud. Take care.


Vlad Cazacu: What a great conversation. If you enjoyed it, make sure to like and subscribe to our podcast and be on the lookout for a new episode in two weeks as we interview another amazing startup founder and debrief their successful fundraising story.


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