By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
It has been quite an interesting last few weeks/months. If you are reading this, I guess you are somewhat familiar with my work and what I do with Israeli startups on a daily basis. If not, this sums it up pretty well. Because of the type of work that I do, when I announced a while back that I am leaving Inneractive, there were a few interesting offers. Again, not because I am a rockstar, just because I make a hell of a lotta noise and let’s be honest, that’s a big part of what startups and tech companies in general, need.
Well, one of the companies I have been working with over the past year as a “Strategic Advisor” is Zula. (Download Zula on iOS here or Android here.) You might have heard of it after we won the Audience Choice Award at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco. If not, you may remember when the company secured what I like to call a validation round of financing from the mother of productivity, Microsoft.
Anyway, Zula is an interesting company for a whole list of reasons and I will be joining the company starting yesterday as Chief Marketing Officer. Why? Why Zula? Good question, I thought you’d never ask.
You may recall a few months back, I wrote a post about the one question entrepreneurs should ask themselves when launching a startup. No? Doesn’t ring a bell? Come on, I thought we agreed that you are reading my writing. Here you go.
Well, that post actually played a big part in my decision process. You see, the one question I think every startup needs to consider before investing time and money is “What’s your home run?” Is it the team, the investors, the vision, something else? If all you have are a few doubles and triples, it may be a good idea to go back to the drawing board.
Now back to Zula. What is Zula? Here, watch this:
Get it? You see, teams, no matter what type, whether a startup, a design firm, a little league team, or whatever, still communicate like it’s 1995. Think about it. Email threads in which emails get lost, conference calling systems with dial numbers (you know what I’m talking about), file sharing systems, cloud storage, polling systems, and the list goes on and on. How is it that there is not one platform to include all of those and more that also takes into account where most of us are actually communicating today; the mobile phone? Enter Zula.
Zula, a mobile app for iOS, Android, and other platforms coming soon (including the Web) that enables teams of all sizes to communicate like its 2014 with all the tools the team needs including group messaging, one on one messaging, polling the team, event creation/calendar integration, one tap conference calling with no need for a phone number, and a whole lot more.
So, there, that is the vision and yes, it is not a home run, it is a grand slam, in my humble opinion. Are there competitors? Absolutely. If there weren’t, we would be worried. Are there many players focused on our specific model of streamlining the actual communication in order to increase productivity? Nope. Many of our competitors are task-oriented, web-based, or plain old messaging apps. There are some direct competitors, but again, when those pop up, we celebrate them and decide to up our game and execute better.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “There are a lot of great new apps out there, why Zula?” Well, the answer is simple. Not only is the vision for the company so big, it has the potential to change everything, but Zula, as a company, has the power to actually make that vision a reality. “The power”? Yes, the founders, who you may have heard of, have done this before. Ever hear of VoIP? You know, the technology behind things like Skype, Viber, and hundreds of other apps? Well, two of the pioneers of that world are behind Zula.
Jeff Pulver founded Vonage. He is also a visionary and a super inspiring dude, on a personal level. Jeff the investor, was one of the first backers of companies like Twitter, so again, the guy gets it.
Jacob Ner-David, the CEO is the guy behind Delta Three, another VoIP pioneer that eventually went public. Jacob also invested in some interesting ventures over the years. As for the rest of the team, they make slightly less noise than Jeff and Jacob but each and every one of the members is a pretty big rockstar. You can read about them here.
So product vision? Check. Team? Check. But the home runs with Zula keep on coming…
The investors behind Zula, as mentioned, include Microsoft Ventures, who you might have heard of from other productivity and communication products such as Office, Skype, Yammer, and well, Windows. That is quite a nice stamp of approval.
Kima Ventures, the most active angel investor in the world sees a lot of startups and from my personal acquaintance, I can tell you, has very strict guidelines when investing, one of which is traction. Kima invested in Zula early on again, because of the team and the vision.
Other investors who I personally hold in the highest regard include Gigi Levi, one of Israel’s top super angels and last but not least, Ourcrowd. Ourcrowd, led by the great Jon Medved, is the leading crowdfunding platform for investors today and has done some incredible work since its launch.
So yea, investors? Check!
Ok, so that is why I chose Zula but what now? Do I stop my work with other startups? What about the few startups I helped on a more official basis? So here is what is going to happen with me. Full time CMO at Zula, but Jacob, who as I mentioned above gets how this marketing thing works, understands that it is in no one’s best interest for me to sit at a desk and write copy all day is encouraging me to continue to do what I do best.
So as CMO of Zula, I will be continuing to meet startups often. I will be offering guidance and try to help in any way I can and as for the few companies I have taken a more official role in, that won’t stop either. I am working full-time at Zula and continuing to help a few companies including Umoove, Inneractive, Curiyo, and Brow.si in an advisory/consultant role. I will be writing a post at a later time on each of these companies and why I am working with them specifically, but suffice to say, each one of them is a home run in and of itself.
How will I do all this? It’s all about priorities and sleep is low on the list. The truth is, am I nervous? Absolutely. Do I know that this setup is going to be sustainable? Absolutely not, but the one thing I keep telling myself when in doubt is a sentence I heard a while back in the name of Neale Donald Walsch: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
At Zula, I will be working closely on the product, something I have never done in an official capacity but if you follow me online, you must know that when it comes to products, I have quite a strong opinion. I will also be managing someone who will run the social channels including the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and more.
I will try my best to be 100% data driven, which again, if you follow me online, know is way beyond my comfort zone. In other words, me and numbers have a complicated relationship. I will be working with UX people, growth hackers, and I will be trying to onboard teams to use Zula as well, another area that is new to me. In other words, my comfort zone is something I can no longer even see.
Scary? Yes. Challenging and exciting? Absolutely.
What can you do to help? Well, anything. Have advice? You know where to find me. Want to try Zula and provide feedback? Can I kiss your feet? Have a business connection you can intro me to? I love you. You are an investor or know one that is interesting in helping me execute this vision? Well, yea, let’s talk!
So that is all, enough writing for now, time to get to work. Wish me luck!