Name: Itzhak Fisher

Success with Itzhak Fisher

Success with Itzhak Fisher


Buzzmetrics was sold to @Nielsen in 2007 for $124 million #Insights [Click to Tweet]

From 0 to 4,000 employees, @Itzhakfisher built his first #startup in the #US [Click to Tweet]

Since selling his shares in 2000, Itzhak Fisher became an angel investor, investing in over 100 companies #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Dave Carvajal: Very excited to speak with you this morning Itzhak, it’s great to have you, thanks for joining us.

Itzhak Fisher: Thank you for having me.

Dave Carvajal: Help us understand, what have been some of the noble accomplishments in your illustrious career? How have you helped move the needle? What are some of the ways you’ve created enormous enterprise value?

Itzhak Fisher: So, I came to the US in 1994 and I started my first startup, it was RSL Communications. I formed a partnership with Ronald Lauder. It was the good old telecom days where telecom was as hot as the internet now. And we started a company end of 94’ and in 97’ we took the company public on a billion-dollar valuation.

Itzhak Fisher: I started from being a one-man show, putting a business plan together, hiring my first employees into building it into a company that had 4,000 employees, in 22 markets around the world with over $1.2 billion dollar revenues and at one time even profitable and that was my first big play and I tell everybody that meets me today I actually had a unicorn. So, then we didn’t call it a Unicorn but that was my first achievement. While I was at RSL I did two deals that were notable.

Itzhak Fisher: One is I acquired a company called Deltathree for $10 million dollars which was a voiceover IP company. Early mover there were like two companies in the space, IDT & Deltathree. We took that company public also at $360 million-dollar evaluation all the way to a billion so I double Unicorn at that time. And another company we did in the telecom days, im talking much much earlier in my career we bought international directory assistant company in Germany.

Itzhak Fisher: We bought 25{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} stake for like $25 million-dollars, we sold it like 3 or 4 years later for $400 million dollars. Those are early investments that were highly profitable for me. In 2000 I sold all my shares and became an angel investor. So throughout my angel investing days I’ve invested in over 100 companies.

Itzhak Fisher: My lifetime IR is over 67{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4}. The most notable deal, not money wise, but the most notable deal that had the most effect on my career is a company called Buzz matrix. I invested in Buzz matrix when they didn’t have a product yet. I became one of the founders. The company became the leading company in social media analytics.

Itzhak Fisher: We sold the company for $124 million dollars to Nielsen in 2007 and as part of the sale I joined Nielsen 75{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of my time and I became one of the top 5 and I became, I learned a lot about data, analytics, media consumer which is the main areas that I am doing now,

Itzhak Fisher: I find those areas fascinating. And they give you insight about how to manage your business in a more effective way and be at the tip of innovation when it comes to different type of businesses.

Challenges with Itzhak Fisher

Challenges with Itzhak Fisher


Generational gap isn’t always the issue in the workplace, it’s the individual’s drive to succeed #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Always invest in areas you know about or it could “eat up” your investments #Insights [Click to Tweet]

“I don’t look at gender & I don’t look at age. I look at what someone brings to the table” [email protected] #Insights [Click to Tweet]

Dave Carvajal: Itzhak, wisdom often comes from some of the greatest failures. What have been some setbacks or some real opportunities you’ve had for learning and growth?

Itzhak Fisher: So, I tell everybody about my first failure. I went to school in the US and I came back to Israel after working in the US at mobile oil., IMB, and went to this start up doing databases and electronic mail and I was a little bit bored. And it’s very dangerous when you are bored. So I decided to make an investment.

Itzhak Fisher: So I invested in a horse ranch. I put 100,000 dollars, which then was a lot of money for me, into a horse ranch in Israel, looked at the business plan like you look at a business plan. We had the best-looking ranch in Israel, we had 12 horses. We did lessons on riding and different programs and on paper the business plan looked great. But I invested in an area I know nothing about. I found out that horses actually eat a lot and you have to buy a lot of food to feed those horses and there’s no bearing on the business plan, we didn’t have the right projection of what horses will eat.

Itzhak Fisher: Then I found out that in the stores, wherever the horses are you actually have to change the store every two days. Which store is expensive in Israel. So, I lost all my money in like less than a year. And then on whenever I looked at an investment I tell myself in my head, “You only invest in things that you understand. And don’t let it be the horse and the ranch investment you had done”. So that was my lesson in making investments in areas you know nothing about expecting it to work out.

Dave Carvajal: What do you think are some of the challenges of having such a diverse work force today? Right, we’re dealing with people who are the millennials, gen-x, gen-y, and we also have people who are significantly older and have more wisdom but what do you think are some of the challenges in having such a diverse work force today?

Itzhak Fisher: When I was at Neilson I think I was the only guy that had the 4 day req report and 3 of them were women. I don’t look at gender and I don’t look at age I look at what somebody brings to the table and I find that the older people are, in some cases, the more drive they have to succeed and the more experience they bring to the table.

Itzhak Fisher: So, I take every case, case by case basically. I value people based on their experience, drive & stamina. Stamina is also very important, sometimes you have a very young guy who is very tired and sometimes you have an old guy who is very fresh and excited about the new challenge that comes his way. That’s one of the other things that I think are very important.

Learnings 2 with Itzhak Fisher

Learnings 2 with Itzhak Fisher


Dave Carvajal: What motivates you? What has been your driving force? Your noble cause?

Itzhak Fisher: Well, first of all, you have to remember where my wife and I came from. So, my wife and I are 2nd generation Holocaust survivors. My wife’s parents had it much worse than my parents, they were survivors of death camps, Auschwitz. My parents are survivors of the war; my father in Hungary, my mother in Lithuania. From both sides, what they went through their lives is just unbearable and unbelievable.

Itzhak Fisher: For them the most important thing was kids to succeed and live good life and continue the tradition of what their families had. We both lost most of our families on both sides so we didn’t have a lot of relatives to begin with.

Itzhak Fisher: So, for me my kids and the next generation, showing that our family survived in spite of everything they went through is something that is very very important and this is something that is very very important to me and hopefully my kids will continue with that tradition, give it to their kids and so on. That is the first thing that comes to mind about next generation and things that are important to me.

Dave Carvajal: What motivates you? What drives you? What are the things in your life that really are your driving force, your noble cause maybe your noble purpose?

Itzhak Fisher: So, education is very important to me and helping kids get their first jobs. So, for a kid that just graduates from college I feel it’s impossible for them to get a job. Unless you are the top 10{f7a32599756963b989bde631f1a44401cc789db6f847c3735c9e8f651be632a4} of a top school you get a job immediately, if you are not, and most kids are not, it’s very very hard for kids to get a job.

Itzhak Fisher: My wife is making fun of me right and left, but I have helped a lot of kids getting their first job. I will never forget the guy that helped me get my first job. Back of my mind that is something that is important. I also pay for some kids for their educations which is you know, people who can’t afford it. Why not? It is a very important cause. I am also friends with the heads of the Ariel University in Israel, in the US. It is a University that sits before what they call occupied territories.

Itzhak Fisher: But it has 15,000 students, 1500 Palestinians. I believe that you have to do your own efforts for co-existence in Israel and this school is a good example for that and we raised over 15 million dollars for them for this year which is up from 300,000 3 years ago so there is a lot of things I do that are not business related but for me they are very very important.

Leadership with Itzhak Fisher

Leadership with Itzhak Fisher


Dave Carvajal: On leadership, what do you value as the most important qualities of leadership and what do you look for in executive hires or in making venture capital investment decisions with portfolio companies?

Itzhak Fisher: So, for me, first of all working with people, when I hire people I like to surround myself with people who are much smarter than me. I don’t like mediocre management teams where the CEO is the smartest guy in the room and people follow the CEO.

Itzhak Fisher: I like to have multiple opinions in one room where the CFO is the best and knows financial, and the CTO knows better than anyone else what he needs to know to develop the systems the company needs to have. So, surrounding yourself with smart people is number 1 for me.

Itzhak Fisher: Number 2 for me is surround yourself with people who are strong and voice their opinions. I’ve now worked for corporate America a couple times in my life and I’ve ran into many situations where the CEO tells “I think like that” and everyone says “agreed” and then he says “I’ve changed my mind” and everybody agrees the change of mind of the CEO.

Itzhak Fisher: I like to have people who are smart, honest, not afraid to voice their opinions. There is chemistry between the people who work well together, they integrate as a team and are dedicated in their drive to succeed. So, those are the qualities that are important to me.

Dave Carvajal: When you think about technology, today and in the future, what are you most excited about?

Itzhak Fisher: So, I’m personally invested today 35 companies. I am managing a fund that focuses on the latest stage that has 8 investments. I find on the latest stage I mainly focus on data, big data, analytics, consumer media. And I am very excited to see new technologies that are game changers.

Itzhak Fisher: So, if you look at the company we invested by the name of Bringg. Bringg uberizes the world and they did a pilot with Coca-Cola in Vietnam and if you own a kiosk and you sell Coca-Cola cans and ran out of inventory you can go on your phone or your computer and see all the Coca-Cola vans that are delivering cans in your area that have excess capacity and you click on the truck and see how the truck is coming to you and we increased sales with this technology for Coca-Cola significantly in Vietnam.

Itzhak Fisher: I am excited about taking a company that started with Uber and cars and putting in different areas in order to help companies increase their sales. So that is number 1, on my personal investing I swear to myself that I won’t invest anymore but every time I find someone that I like so I’ll give you the latest. So, I do mentorship and am involved in a few universities.

Itzhak Fisher: There’s a school of innovation actually at Tufts and I met one of the graduates who is actually an old graduate who is 35 years old, he has a master’s in engineering, and he developed a box that you can build into a big box and if you are a bakery, at the end of the day there are a lot of shelves of breads and cakes, what do you do today?

Itzhak Fisher: You give it to charity or your throw it out and he developed this box that if you put your baked good into this box, they remain fresh for seven days. So, I am actually doing a pilot, we are going to build a big one and give it to a bakery for like 3 months to test. Here is an investment that I would never, I would call it the horse investment, I would never do it in other days, but it isn’t a big investment and this could be a game changer, it could be big so I’m doing that.

Learnings 1 with Itzhak Fisher

Learnings 1 with Itzhak Fisher


Dave Carvajal: Itzhak what role has mentorship played in your life? Who have been some of the mentors for you?

Itzhak Fisher: So, I was lucky to work with people who had influenced my life in many many ways. For example, when I moved back to Israel in 1994 and I was fairly young, I called a guy that had just came from the UN back to Israel. He started his own political campaign to become a member of parliament. And he scheduled a meeting, and we finished the meeting and he says to me, “You’re going to be my treasurer.”

Itzhak Fisher: So, I was lucky enough to become the treasurer of Benjamin Netanyahu. Working with Benjamin Netanyahu for around 7 or 8 years taught me a lot how to read people. One of the qualities people tell me that I have is it doesn’t matter who I sit across the table with, I sit at eye level.

Itzhak Fisher: Being young and meeting a lot of very important people in my life and meeting them eye level and having eye level conversation, influenced me in a business world. I am who I am, and I meet people and have eye level discussions. It’s one of those things that work for you very very well in certain business situations.

Itzhak Fisher: So, Benjamin Netanyahu had a good influence on me in that part of my life. Recently when I joined Nielsen I started working with Dave Calhoun who was one of the top people at GE, joined Nielsen as a CEO. I never had worked in a corporate environment. He was very very smart in keeping me engaged in the jobs I was doing at Nielsen.

Itzhak Fisher: He actually is the guy that was at my last job at Neilsen was head of M&A and business development. I found out I am really good at it, so I did not know that I am as good as I was.

Itzhak Fisher: Working with someone I used to say to him on many occasions, he likes to give his executives a lot of rope in order to work and make decisions and freedom to make whatever decisions yet in hope you won’t hang yourself on the rope but use the rope smartly. Working in a large corporate environment was the freedom I had to operate and thrive to do a very good job and I thank him for that.