Benny Schneider and Rami Tamir are among the most prolific and successful Israeli entrepreneurs of recent decades. The pair have signed three exits together, the most recent of which sold the Rabelo cloud company to Oracle for $ 450 million in 2016. And if that wasn’t enough, Schneider has been involved separately in another trio of exits over the years.
Despite great past successes, Schneider and Tamir are now in the midst of a new entrepreneurial adventure. Salto, a company founded by two entrepreneurs with Gil Hopper, former vice president of development at Ravello, is officially out of stealth mode today (Tuesday). Salto was established in early 2019 and has since raised $ 27 million in lime and A. rounds. The founders invested the lime with their money and Round A was led by the funds Bessemer, Lightspeed and Salesforce Ventures, the investment arm of Salesforce.
What makes entrepreneurs who have already recorded repeated successes get back on the entrepreneurial wheel once again?
“I don’t think I ever got off that wheel. It’s a wheel that if you get off it, then it’s hard to go back and the fear is that you will not come back,” Schneider admits in a zoom conversation with Globes. “Besides there are still interesting issues, there are cool people like Gil Hopper, who worked with us and is now a co-founder, and the young guys come up with great ideas. It keeps me young.”
Do you enjoy the process of setting up a start-up?
Schneider: “It sure is fun when you succeed, but along the way there are ups and downs. Even if the road itself is not completely fun, when you look back, it’s fun and there is always a sense of the joy of creation. We also truly believe the problems we solve are relevant and even more “Relevance soon. It’s like in the case of Ravello, where we already foresaw the trend of moving to the cloud in 2010, something that today seems already trivial.”
“The cloud is like a black hole”
Unlike serial entrepreneurs who over the years maintain the same specialization as Avigdor Wilenz for example in the world of chips, Schneider and Tamir’s careers have been spread across several professional worlds. Their first company to reach the exit, Pentcom, which was sold to Cisco in 2000 for $ 118 million, was engaged in improving data transfer over fiber optics. In 2008, the two sold Qumran, which developed virtualization technology, to Red Hat for $ 107 million. Ravello, which was sold to Oracle as mentioned, developed technology that helped organizations switch to cloud use.
The natural move for the developers was probably to continue in the hot field of the cloud, but precisely in this world, according to Schneider, lies a great risk that stems from the power of its big players such as Amazon and Microsoft. “The cloud is to me like a black hole,” Schneider explains. “You have to move close enough to it to stay relevant, but not get too close so as not to be crushed by cloud service providers, because there is always the threat that they will expand the product and fight in front of you. There are Israeli companies that have competed with these giants successfully. “What we want to do, we have chosen to move away to less dangerous and still technically and commercially interesting areas.”
The field that the current startup Salto has fled to is managing the settings (configurations) of business platforms. Organizations use a growing number of platforms, such as customer relationship management systems, automated marketing systems and financial management, in each of which fields, processes, screens and logics can be defined according to the company’s business needs. Salto’s technology helps organizations manage the set of settings across all their platforms just as they manage versions of software for example in the development stages. Salto’s product exports these configuration settings from all of the company’s business platforms, displays and documents them in a structured way to users and then allows them to send their changes to all enterprise systems horizontally.
Salto currently employs 30 people, most of them in Israel, with Tamir serving as CEO, Schneider as chairman and Hoffman as vice president of research and development. The company expects to at least double its workforce quota in the next 12 months.
According to Hopper, Salto’s current solution is trying to revolutionize what has happened in the world of information systems (IT) in recent decades.
“10-15 years ago IT work was done manually and then the DevOps revolution took place and technologies for managing the infrastructure in organizations entered. We identify similar challenges in the field of business application settings. There is work here that is done manually on these systems, without technology and methodology. Goddess. It’s a situation that can not last. “
What is the damage done to organizations?
“The damage is in several aspects. One is the ability of organizations to make changes at a pace that is fast enough for the business. Because the complexity of the settings (configuration) is huge, it causes organizations that want to change quickly, to make mistakes that lead to quality problems and bugs in these systems. To business when finally a CEO looks at a dashboard and sees incorrect data. When an organization wants to change elements in the donation or business model, and needs to change several systems in a coordinated manner, that is also something that is difficult for it to do. “
Salto has already launched an open source platform platform in May and is now launching a paid version of SaaS (software as a service). “We think there is something fundamental in our technology that defines a de facto standard when it comes to the ability to represent configuration, and in order for the standard to be accepted, it needs to be open and adopted by the community,” Hoffman explains. “Our Saas, the commercial service, makes it possible to make the product accessible to people with less technical ability, who are focused on the more business-oriented sides.”
“Can’t understand big companies”
Following the acquisition of Ravello by Oracle, Schneider, Tamir and Hopper also joined the American giant. The three of them left during 2018 and the following year Oracle announced that it was closing its Ravello product. As part of an extensive cut in Oracle, dozens of former startups were also fired. To this day Schneider and Hopper have not officially addressed the same closure and even now, as they discuss it, it seems that the issue is still charged with them.
“First of all, there are very complex processes here and circumstances that are constantly changing in the acquiring company and also in the market,” Hoffman says. “I can say it’s something I personally was not happy about. I think there was a great group of people and good technology there. I also have appreciation and respect for Oracle and in the end what happened happened.”
“I can’t understand the considerations of big companies and certainly can’t explain those considerations,” Schneider says. “You see that suddenly Oracle wants to buy the Tiktok app, which is something that is probably even less in its focus than technology like Ravello. On the other hand, it’s a super successful company that has been around for more than 40 years, so I’m big to understand.”
Ravello’s sad ending may have an impact on the future plans of Salto’s founders. Schneider and Tamir have graciously bought themselves the name of experts for quick exits and the current lineup of investors in Salto is already hinting at a possible buyer for the company – the developer of the Salesforce customer relationship management system. However, Schneider declares that this time his intentions are different.
“The market we operate in is resource-rich. A lot of money goes into this field and the problems in it are real. So I come here and say there is a real opportunity here to build a large company that will last independently over time. From my early years I would like that to happen with Salto.”
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