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Building a Fat Startup: From Israel to Silicon Valley, Qwilt CEO Alon Maor’s Journey (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Sep 27th 2013

Sramana: You were starting your company in Israel and you talked to Silicon Valley VCs. What requirements did they put on you?

Alon Maor: They did not put any location requirements on us. We had the philosophy that if you want to build a global company, then you can have a top-level engineering and product team in Israel, but the corporate team should be in the US. You need to have business development, marketing and sales in the US.

For the first 12 months we ran out of Israel. We are one of the few companies in Israel that achieved Series A investment from two Silicon Valley VC firms without having an Israeli VC firm represented. Part of that was that we connected to angels. Our chairman is a serial entrepreneur who has done 8 startups.

Sramana: Talk to me a bit more about the advisory group that came together to bridge you into the VC round.

Alon Maor: The core of that group was the core group that invested in P-Cube as well. They saw that the DNA in Qwilt was the same as the DNA in P-Cube. Some people say that, to a certain extent, that P-Cube is similar to PayPal in the Bay Area. There are a lot of ventures that are coming out of P-Cube.

Sramana: From that point on what was the timeline?

Alon Maor: We did the bridge loan in May of 2010. We did Series A in October of 2010.

Sramana: After your Series A did it take 20 months to build the product?

Alon Maor: From Series A until we shipped the general availability product it took 20 months.

Sramana: What were the milestones that the VCs imposed on you?

Alon Maor: They did not impose anything on us, in my view. I am lucky to have a board that is advising me, consulting with me, and sharing tons of experience from dozens of startups. I am running the company and have my vision, but I consult with my board members all of the time. I have six board members who are incredibly experienced and they are a part of the team. They have one decision to make which is if I continue on to the next board meeting or not.

Sramana: What milestones did you put on yourself that you shared with your board members that kept you calibrated to your goals? From Series A to shipping of the product was 20 months. How was that milestone scoped in your head?

Alon Maor: The product is only one dimension that we are managing during that timeframe. There is market development work that is working in parallel. We did customer discover and customer interviews and convinced customers to join our beta programs long before we had a product. We said that we had a product working for video analytics from day one because that was able to show value before we could deliver video caching.

We had salespeople on the team at the three month point after Series A financing doing customer discovery. We were chasing 100 customers by the time we had a product, 15 of whom were willing to deploy the product the moment it was ready to ship. Market development was a far more complex task to do because we did not have an established product and we were not an established company.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Building a Fat Startup: From Israel to Silicon Valley, Qwilt CEO Alon Maor's Journey
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