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Scaling a Fast Growth, Venture-Funded Company: Rephael Sweary, Co-Founder and President of WalkMe (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Apr 24th 2017

WalkMe’s vision is to make software understand humans, rather than the other way around. Rephael discusses the growth story of a company that is driving significant innovation in mobile and web user engagement.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Rephael Sweary: I was born in Tel Aviv and grew up in Tel Aviv. I was an entrepreneur at a very early age. In elementary school, I started ringing people’s intercoms and asked them if they wanted me to wash their cars. Then I had a music business. This is how it all started. I think I was always an entrepreneur.

Sramana Mitra: What about education? What did you do for studies?

Rephael Sweary: I did my first degree in Economics and I have a Master’s in Business Administration. I think that education is very helpful for an entrepreneurial journey, but it’s like learning how to swim from a book. When I was studying, I already had my experience and I could relate my learning to the jobs that I did. It made it much more real. It’s not necessary that you start from school. I think you got to have both.

Sramana Mitra: Typically what we see is good entrepreneurs haven’t really gone to school necessarily for entrepreneurship. They’re gone to school to learn something, whether it’s engineering or computer science – something that is that core domain knowledge and then they become entrepreneurs using that domain knowledge.

Rephael Sweary: I was talking about the business degree. A business degree can help an entrepreneur, but I don’t think it’s a must.

Sramana Mitra: No, I don’t have a business degree. I’m a computer scientist. What year did you finish college and what was the next step?

Rephael Sweary: I finished college around 1995. I worked for a couple of years and moved to the States to get my Master’s. I got my Master’s from the University of Baltimore. Then I was back to entrepreneurship. In 2001, I co-founded a company called Jetro Platforms.

Sramana Mitra: What did that do?

Rephael Sweary: Jetro Platforms is still doing server-based computing. We sold it in 2007.

Sramana Mitra: Since this is an entrepreneur’s journey, I’d like to do a bit of the Jetro journey. How did you get it off the ground?

Rephael Sweary: It was a very different world than it is today. Internet was just starting to pick up as a business venue. Jetro was B2B, but the Internet was not a place where you sold products. We’d an established a network of channel partners that sold our product.

Sramana Mitra: How did the product get consumed? Were you selling through enterprises and building on top of the Jetro platform?

Rephael Sweary: There was a product by Microsoft called Terminal Server. I think it still exists. I don’t know the situation today. At that time, Terminal Server was lacking some key features for scaling. Those key features were related to load balancing and providing a seamless experience to the end user.

We took those two things that were missing from the Terminal Server and built an add-on product. We went on to the different dealerships and we said, “Here’s another add-on that you can sell on top of your environment.”

Sramana Mitra: Did you finance the company?

Rephael Sweary: We raised from private investors.

Sramana Mitra: Private individual investors?

Rephael Sweary: It’s a family office.

Sramana Mitra: From Israel?

Rephael Sweary: No, in the US. We raised it from the US.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Scaling a Fast Growth, Venture-Funded Company: Rephael Sweary, Co-Founder and President of WalkMe
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