Shlomi Gian, Israeli-born CEO of CybeReady, says the trouble can all start with one bad email.
“I can write an email that will pretend to be someone you know, and you trust it,” says Gian. “Maybe it’ll say, ‘Picture from last night’s party,’ or a note from your head of HR, and then you click on the link.”
From there, he says, things can go from bad to worse.
His Los Gatos-based startup, launched with a fellow former employee of Israel’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, develops security trainings to help companies avoid all-too-common internet and email scams.
While the partners are confident in their product, a major challenge has been breaking into the crowded American market. Enter Homrun, a Tel Aviv-based company that recognizes the importance of the business adage “It’s who you know.”
Since 2015, Homrun has helped Israeli startups in North America connect with local Jewish business influencers who want to support Israel.
With Homrun’s help, Gian says, CybeReady has already scored important meetings with potential clients.
Homrun, which has offices on the East Coast, in Canada and other locations, recently entered the West Coast market by opening a branch in Silicon Valley. It is led by Ilana Golan, CEO of the venture capital firm Golan Ventures. She is also a general partner of Homrun and is building a team of Jewish “members” committed to helping Israeli businesses get connected with the right people.
It’s not just about helping random companies, it’s really about helping bring more money into the State of Israel.
“It ties us to a bigger role — it’s not just about helping random companies, it’s really about helping bring more money into the State of Israel,” said Golan, a Haifa native who was the first woman to become an F-16 flight instructor in the Israel Air Force.
The Bay Area presents a unique challenge for Israeli businesses trying to make their way to the top. In Silicon Valley, a world capital for startups and home to thousands of Israelis and more than 100 Israeli startups, it is harder to stand out.
Golan is confident that word of mouth will bring in Bay Area business leaders who can open doors for Israeli startups. Or, as Homrun founder Daniel Gradus puts it, people who will “support Israel with their phonebook, not their checkbook.”
Homrun teams set up meetings and perform like a VC firm, vetting the startups and developing strategies, providing “end-to-end support.” Members receive a percentage of each client’s profits.
By applying high-tech solutions to low-tech industries, Homrun has helped Israeli startups in fields as diverse as hotel Wi-Fi, plastic pipe fittings, pet collars, food technology, surveillance security, water purification and pesticide technology, among many others.
“Most innovation is actually not in the core of Silicon Valley,” said Golan. “Most of the innovation that is happening today is in industries that haven’t been disrupted yet — in retail, real estate, manufacturing, food — and that’s where it becomes really, really interesting.”
Gradus, a native of Azor, Israel, founded Homrun (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Hebrew pronunciation of “home run”) after seeing for himself how difficult it was to succeed without the proper connections. He owned a water and fire damage restoration company and had a hard time attracting clients or capital in New York. When two friends tapped into their social and professional networks to get Gradus the top-tier clients he’d been seeking, he said, his business grew from $450,000 in revenue to $9.5 million.
That experience convinced Gradus of the power of tapping into well-connected Jewish networks of people who are eager to boost Israeli businesses.
“Suddenly all the people I wanted to meet two years ago, I’m mingling with them at the Jewish Federation,” said Gradus. “I discovered the power of the Jewish community, because I suddenly went to the right place.”