By: Hillel Fuld
This post is approximately five years overdue, but enough people have asked me this question, I figured it is time to answer it. “Hillel, what do you actually do?!”
This video is the first explanation.
That gives you a high level explanation of what I do. I advise startups, I write for a lot of online publications/produce a daily tech vlog, I have my own startup, and I collaborate with brands such as Google, Oracle, and Huawei as an influencer.
I was recently given the opportunity to share my story in a commencement speech at Touro College. Here is that speech.
That gives a bit more background, but now I will try to drill down a little and explain what I actually do, on a daily basis.
The Early Days of Blogging
This all started a decade ago at my first job. I was hired by Comverse, which, at the time, was one of the largest tech companies in the country. I was a technical writer, ya know, the guy who writes the user guides and documents you get with your iPhone that absolutely no one reads? Yep, that was me. #GoodTimes
The truth is, those years working as a technical writer, boring as they were, taught me many valuable lessons about tech, about writing, and most importantly, about myself. I genuinely deeply loved technology, and this was well before it was cool to love tech. Today, “Geek” is the new “Cool”. Back then, “Geek” was just “Geek.”
Anyway, there I was, sitting at my desk, over a decade ago, thinking to myself “What am I doing writing these user guides? There has to be a better way to express my love of tech!” So I started writing. That is it. Every morning, a cup of coffee and an “Entry” into my “Tech diary.” No business model, no ads, no strategy, just me writing about something I loved, tech.
Fast forward a few months, and I start to get emails from entrepreneurs. “I read your article about trends in technology, would love to meet.” Ok, so I meet this entrepreneur, ask them to pitch me, and I quickly realize I can really help these guys. I then ask the entrepreneur who their competitors are and I get the answer “We have none”, nine out of ten times. Then I ask what the go-to-market strategy is aka “You have an amazing product, but how do you intend on getting it in the hands of real people?” More ridiculous answers. I helped.
No money, no strings attached, other than lunch, which generally involved a steak, but jokes aside, I tried to help entrepreneurs as much as I could. Then that entrepreneur would tell his friend how much I helped and they would reach out. Fast forward a few years and I am getting 400 emails a week saying “I am launching a product and I am told I need to meet you.” “Not sure who told you that, but happy to meet” is usually my response. I try to meet as many entrepreneurs as I can, but only those I feel I can really help.
This went on for years, all the while I am working as a technical writer to support my family. After that job, I transitioned into finance and worked in that for a few years. My job, the one that paid the bills, was irrelevant. I could have been cleaning toilets, the important part was what I was building on the side. I was following my passion, helping entrepreneurs, writing about tech, while ignoring the many smart people who told me to monetize what I was building. “Put ads on the blog.”, “Charge startups”, and “Take a finder’s fee when introducing startups to investors who end up writing a check.” Those were some of the tips I got from people throughout the years, all of which I ignored.
Over the past decade, I must have met several thousand startups all of whom came to me for some help with marketing. 98% of them never paid me a dime or compensated me in any way.
What Happened Next…
If you have made it this far, you must think I am somewhat delusional to have helped all those startups, and even brought them investments sometimes worth millions, without one dime coming my way. Well, you aren’t alone. Many people over the years thought I was nuts and the truth is, I wasn’t convinced that they were wrong. I did not know where this was going but I did know that taking 5% out of a startup’s pockets because I made an intro to an investor did not feel right to me.
Well, they were all wrong and I was onto something. All these years later, both the startup that I helped and the investor who wrote a check understood that I had no skin in the game and our relationship reflected that dynamic. They trusted me. They saw what I was able to deliver without asking for anything. Turns out, and this is something I preach often, that when you facilitate success for others, when you pave the road for others to go on their way to success, you go down that road as well.
Many of these companies grew. A lot. And they came back to me and said something along the lines of “We know you didn’t ask for it, but we also know what you did for us and we would love you to be part of our team. Join us as a passive advisor and take equity in the company or join us as an active advisor and take a monthly retainer.”
Today, I advise many companies officially, some more actively like prooV, Hometalk, and Intelligo, and some more passively like Flipboard, Fitness22, Book Like a Boss, and Strattic. The full list is on my site.
The investors I sent deals to over the years? They also grew to trust me and today, I am fortunate to call people like Marc Andreessen a friend. I have sent him endless deals over the years, interviewed him on VentureBeat (Well, actually, I interviewed him on Twitter but it was published on VentureBeat.), and have spoken to him hundreds of times about tech, books, Israel, and other things. So how did that happen? How did some random guy in Israel become friends with the man who invented the web browser? Simple. Tried to do good for him, tried to help, never monetized anything. Same goes for all the people on this list. These are the people I have interviewed.
Today, I would say, I wear four and a half hats. Hat number one? Startups. 95% of my time with startups today is not monetized in any way. 5% are companies I have helped that then offer me to work with them. If it is a company I love that I can help long term, aka, not as a consultant who comes in, manages some launch, then leaves, then I might join them. I am truly fortunate today to be working with some absolutely incredible companies, all of which I have worked with for years and intend on working with for many more years to come.
Hat number two is content. This whole story started from me writing that “Tech diary”, which today, we call a blog. I continue to produce content across this blog, and many other publications such as Inc, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, Business Insider, and many more. Additionally, a few years ago, it occurred to me that there is a serious lack of high quality video content about the people behind Israeli tech, so, along with Joseph, who edits the vlog, I started a daily vlog. You can watch that to see who I meet with, and who are the shakers in the Israeli tech scene.
Hat number 3? Brands. I work with Huawei as a “Key Opinion Leader”, with Google as a “Google Developer Expert”, with Oracle on their Startup Advisory Board, and many other brands, including B&H Photo who sponsors the vlog. Influencer, that is hat number 3.
Hat number 4: ZCast. Raz and I started ZCast to simplify the podcasting process. Early days, been a tough ride, we shall see.
Finally, hat number 4.5? Several, let’s call them “investment bodies”, have reached out and discussed possibly building a structure around what I have built. “You have the trust of entrepreneurs, the expertise of the market, and the access to the tech world. All you’re missing is capital, I have capital, let’s do this.”
It is a discussion I am having, to possibly add the financial element so when I see a startup I love, I do my thing and help them with social, content, PR, biz dev, and more, but instead of throwing away that deal flow, I would write a check myself. It is a half a hat, because for now, it is just an idea. We shall see.
One More Thing
As a result of everything mentioned above, I have built a sizeable audience that follows my work across various platforms. That audience is very engaged. Many years ago, people began to reach out and ask me to come speak about the Israeli tech phenomenon. As someone who sees startups in their very early days, many people are interested in the trends I am seeing. So I speak. A lot. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, San Fransisco, Toronto, Paris, Zurich. Those are some of the places in which I have spoken about Israeli tech, among many others.
I am most definitely interested in expanding this part of my career and have received incredible feedback from the talks I have done to date. More on my speaking gigs here.
Just to sum it all up, I am no huge success story quite yet, but I do wake up every morning feeling very grateful that I was able to take my greatest passion, tech, and turn it into a sustainable career. I have many things I want to accomplish, but the things I was able to do, the people I was able to meet (see below.), seemed 100% impossible a decade ago.
All I did was follow my passion and that is all I intend on doing. So far, it has served me well.
Did I answer your question? Hope so. You can read more and contact me on my site here: https://www.hillelfuld.com/