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.