In September GTEC Startup Academy began its fourth semester. Over the next four weeks we’ll be introducing you to the 2015 cohort of founders and their teams from across the world who have joined the program.
GTEC Startup Academy is GTEC’s early-stage acceleration program. In a 3-month, 2 day/week program involving 60+ of Berlin’s most experienced CEOs and investors as mentors, the GTEC Startup Academy helps to turn an idea into a startup or to bring entrepreneurial drive to early-stage enterprises.
If you are a founder with a remarkable technology-driven startup idea, apply for next year’s Startup Academy program or for the GTEC Lab (rolling application) – GTEC’s innovation hub connecting startups, industry, and academia.
For this week: meet Heili founder, Naor Weissmann from Tel Aviv.
The nuts and bolts
“Heili is a AI-based solution which outsources and optimises IT management across all aspects of business activity, freeing up businesses to concentrate on the stuff that really matters like great product and customer-service.”
“I’m a problem-solver by nature. Maybe it comes from my three years’ military service, constantly improvising with the bare essentials – so how do you make a telephone network with two sticks and a piece of string…? [laughs] Seriously though, I’ve been working in tech for more than 15 years, in Israel and all over the world, taking part in the rich media revolution, and integrating social media and the new generation of internet applications. So often and in many different organisations – as a founder and as an employee – I’ve been the go-to person for solving problems. You start to be able to spot the gaps, and have for how you might be able to fix them.
Before working on Heili, I set up a company which introduced ESET NOD32 in Israel – now it’s the one of the most widely used anti-virus software. How did that happen? I identified need for it, opened a business, found a product that could sustain the business and started selling it. It’s the same with Heili. From all I’ve done in tech, I can see that dealing with IT infrastructure distracts from most businesses main aims. Organisations want to produce something great, but have to invest time and energy in fixing the server. Solving IT problems actually should happen as automatically as possible because in most businesses the goal is not managing servers. By using AI to manage public and private cloud infrastructure, Heili changes that.”
What was the journey from early idea to actual business?
“I’ve been playing with the idea for a couple of years, whilst working on Forthscale, the cloud solutions company I founded in 2011, and only actively started pursuing Heili as a distinct project in November 2014. I got a team involved and presented it at the Collision in Las Vegas last May. That was great for feedback, but mostly we’ve been working on it in semi-stealth mode because we didn’t want to get too much exposure before we were ready. The most important thing in our business is reliability and we really wanted Heili to deliver what we were promising.
Now though we’ve got a first generation of the product and 10 customers already using it. That means from their experience we can constantly improve Heili and start rolling it out to other clients. It’s already clear that the benefits of using our approach are countless. We’re actually doing it: separating business operations from the provision of physical and virtual hardware. Instead of freemium, we’ve gone for a 14-day trial model and we’re working on partnering with vendors, such as IBM who have already agreed to include it in their software package.”
Why Berlin, why GTEC Startup Academy?
“We have a strong vision of where we want to go and we’re thinking long term; the need for reliability in the IT business means you have to. To achieve what we want to over the next five to ten years, Berlin has the most to offer for building Heili as an international business. That’s down to a combination of smart government-led moves and low costs. In Brelin immigration policy has been aligned with the new digital world making it easy to attract talent – the process in Canada and UK is much more complex – and bureaucratic procedures such as business creation and the movement and protection of capital are reliable and straightforward. Here, the price of operating are half of what they would be in London.
To get us started in Berlin GTEC presents the perfect partner. Across its network, GTEC has an incredible amount of knowledge on structuring a business, bringing a product to market, and attracting investment. And it serves as a great point of contact with the local startup scene.”
“Our first goal is getting more customers: the more customers we have, the better data we have to improve the product. Alongside that we’re working on a better enterprise solution for managing the private cloud, which has different requirements compared to the public cloud. Part of that is finding some enterprise betas who want to work with us. Funding is another focus. To date, we’ve self-funded but we’ve just started our first investment round. That would help us accelerate the development process and marketing.
And, we’d really like to give back. Partly by sharing the data we’ve gathered to help business improve their operations and partly by engaging with the Berlin startup community – with meetups and by creating a portal for the sorts of discoveries we’ll be making.”
Thanks Naor: we’re excited to see how Heili develops over the next three months.