Founders Column — Shimon Elkabetz, Climacell
Every week we send the same list of questions to a different founder from companies of all sizes. Each week we get new answers, insights, perspectives, and tips on how we all can shine a bit brighter. This week we spoke to Shimon Elkabetz, CEO & Co-Founder, Climacell.
About the company: ClimaCell is an American weather technology company that repurposes wireless communication networks for advanced weather forecasting. Their HQ is in Boston, Massachusetts, with offices in Colorado, APAC, and Tel Aviv. They have 100 people globally. They have raised $110M from investors such as Pitango, Clearvision, Softbank and more.
1. What is a daily habit you love doing?
I love reading global news, usually through Twitter. I’m very focused on sport but I also enjoy reading about politics and economics, I love it. I care a lot about the countries I live in so I constantly keep myself posted.
This even helped me with COVID-19, as I saw it coming way ahead. When my parents came to visit back in January, I already gave them masks for their flight. It also helped us within the company. In February, Climacell already had a “COVID adjustment plan” up and running.
Some businesses really benefited from the outbreak, and some really suffered from it. We were somewhere in the middle. So back in February, we made a plan that included three scenarios. We quickly understood that we are now experiencing what we defined as the worst-case scenario, and made adjustments accordingly in our runway, verticals, business model and product. That helped us get back on track, and just last week we closed another round of funding.
The most important thing in these situations is to make the tough decisions first, and not wait with it. I was a deputy commander of a fighter jet in the IDF, so I learned how to plan accordingly to different scenarios and respond quickly.
2. What piece of advice would you give yourself when you started? What advice would you ignore?
A piece of advice I would give myself is hire for attitude, and not for skills. In the beginning, I used to focus too much on a person’s skills when hiring, but how people approach things can be so much more important.
Also, the advice I would ignore is rush to market. Sometimes if you don’t take your time to do things, there’s a price to it. For us, it was better off to wait another year or so before going to market — you have to first focus on creating a good product before you rush to build a sales team.
3. What piece of content (book/podcast/Ted Talk) is your favorite or has influenced your life?
Most entrepreneurs don’t realize that this is an actual profession. You’re embarking on a journey of seven to ten years on average. You can’t dive into something so serious without being a professional — so you need to read books, and a lot. That helped me a lot when I first started.
*Eran Ziman, CTO of monday.com recommended reading ‘The Hard Things About Hard Things’ as well. See his answers here.
4. What is the most valuable investment (time, money or energy etc.) that you’ve ever made?
Doing my Harvard MBA. Coming out of the military to the civilian world, coming from Israel to the US, understanding the culture… This experience really changed my mindset and also gave me the opportunity to meet great people, which I would never have met otherwise. It’s probably the best investment of time and money I have ever made, and not because of what I practically learned there.
5. Is there a quote, mantra or message you live your life by and that you resonate with? It can be someone else’s as well.
Putting things in perspective and understanding what matters in life is something I constantly try to remind myself of. Most of my military career I dealt with life and death situations. It really helped me gain perspective when I made the transition to business, because you understand that eventually it all comes down to making impact and money, and some things matter much more than that.
6. What helps you stay motivated on good and hard days?
Commitment to my employees. My number one goal is that everyone who is dedicated to ClimaCell sees their time here as a positive experience. So even if I’m having a bad day, my commitment to the employees and to the people who invested in the company is what keeps me moving forward.
7. What are you passionate about other than managing your own company?
I’m passionate about sports and soccer specifically (Go Maccabi Haifa!). I’m a huge soccer geek.
8. What have you recently thrown away or released from your life that made a positive impact and why?
Commuting to work. I didn’t really get to see my kids in the last four years, and now I get to work from home and spend time with them, and it’s amazing. Obviously I miss other parts, like seeing my team face to face on a daily basis and the camaraderie in the office, but I gain family time.
Shimon with his kids
9. Share a failure you have experienced and what you learned from it.
My first managerial experiences were unsuccessful because I wasn’t focused enough on what really matters. I wasn’t connected enough to the vision of the organization and didn’t communicate its messaging correctly.
I wasn’t doing a good enough job as a manager and as a leader, and today I understand that it was because I wasn’t passionate enough about what I was doing. In retrospect, I realized that to be successful as a leader you need to be connected to the company and passionate about its vision.
10. If you could have anyone in the world answer these questions who would it be and why?
Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. I love the guy, he is literally an idol of mine, but could never really tell if he’s just a great artist, or also an interesting character.