Ori Hofnung, CEO of GiantLeap: “You Need a Free Mind”

by Jerome Knyszewski
0 comment
Ori Hofnung GiantLeap

Founder and CEO of GiantLeap Ori Hofnung has started a company that assists parents in making “evidence-based decisions about their children’s development.” The platform is also operating in partnership with the Texas Medical Center.

At GiantLeap, Ori Hofnung “enables parents to evaluate their children’s brain (problem-solving, attention), language, motor, and social development from home depending on external support.” By using the app, parents can track their child’s mental and intellectual development without needing to ask other people.

Ori Hofnung and GiantLeap offers a platform that’s able to “translate cognitive science into intuitive language and are used to build a personalized map of the child’s strengths and difficulties coupled with actionable strategies from world-renowned care providers and education experts following each child’s evaluation results.”

Before GiantLeap, Ori Hofnung has built a professional career “between the United States, Brazil, and Israel.” Throughout his career, he has “held several executive positions in digital media ventures.” He has worked on games and entertainment.

Also before GiantLeap, Ori Hofnung has worked as the director of Global Client Relations at Tomodo, and general manager of Playbuzz Latin America. At Playbuzz, he was responsible for “establishing Playbuzz’s Latin American subsidiary from scratch and taking it from zero revenue to profitability after the first year.”

Check out more interviews with tech visionaries here.

Today we are serving tens of thousands of parents in over 40 countries, though the vast majority of our audience is in the US. Ori Hofnung, GiantLeap

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Ori Hofnung: Upon finishing my degrees in business and law, I started to carve out my niche in the Israeli tech industry. Using my fluency in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Hebrew, I became the go-to salesperson for companies wishing to expand to Latin-American markets. After accepting a high paying job, relocating to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and living there for over two years, I started wondering if I could do something more meaningful with my life. I was also feeling constrained by the necessity to be at a specific place, at a specific time, doing a specific thing..

I convinced two of my childhood friends that it was a good idea to start a risky business together, and off we went. I was the first to quit my day job, and after two months, I encountered my first setback when both of my friends told me they could not quit their day jobs and commit 100% to the venture. For three days, I was completely devastated: how could it be that I was able to convince a law firm and an accounting firm to work with us for a deferred payment until we raise money, but I can’t convince two of my childhood friends to join?

I had to throw a hail mary and convince another childhood friend that I hadn’t spoken with for years. After several attempts, he finally agreed and became my co-founder, which in hindsight was a blessing, as Nadav proved to be a fantastic entrepreneur and business partner.

Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Ori Hofnung: The idea came from a bad experience I had as a child. In my early school years, although I excelled in sports, memory games, and craftsmanship, I couldn’t read until the age of 12, and my parents — overwhelmed by the literature and the inscrutable world of child development — were helpless. Having gone through this experience, I told myself that I would like to solve this problem for other parents and children one day. I understood that the world of child development is a maze full of dense psychological jargon, decades of neuroscience and behavioral studies, and countless schools of thought. Hence, there needed to be a tool that would put the science of child development at every parent’s disposal to help them make evidence-based decisions regarding their child’s development.

After several days of deliberation, we asked ourselves: what if we’ve been doing the exact opposite?

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Ori Hofnung: When my co-founder Nadav and I decided to start this business together, I was far too optimistic about fundraising for this business. I thought that thanks to my experience running a subsidiary for a big tech company in Brazil, and Nadav’s computer science degree from one of Israel’s top universities, investors would ply us with cash.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. Investors couldn’t understand how two people without a scientific or educational background could create a digital learning disabilities screening tool for parents. After more than 100 investor meetings, we were at 0 conversions.

We got our first break when we were selected by the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute; we then pitched more investors and raised $75K, which at the time appeared like a lot of money.

The second biggest challenge came when we landed in Houston, Texas. We started selling our prototype to care providers such as neuropsychologists and general pediatricians and found that our assumptions about the market were incorrect, which meant that more than 50% of the code we developed was useless and needed to be thrown away. This was so heartbreaking that we considered throwing in the towel and giving what was left of the investments back to the investors..

After several days of deliberation, we asked ourselves: what if we’ve been doing the exact opposite? What if we pivot from an early screening tool for learning disabilities to a remote evaluation tool for early signs of giftedness? We knew the science we gathered from the medical center and our scientific advisory board could back us up, but the question was, would parents want this?

We advertised on Facebook that we are developing a platform for early detection of signs of giftedness at the Medical Center Innovation Institute, and parents started to come — which proved to us that there was at least some interest in what we were developing.

The test at the medical center revealed many flaws in the product and the product experience. This put us in a catch-22 with our investors: to sell the product, we had to fix it, but in order to fix it, we had to raise more money. We succeeded in raising another 60K and hired additional employees. In February 2020, we realized that we are running on fumes and had very few months of runway left. We applied to three accelerator programs; two of them declined, and the third wrote us a check, which saved the company.

Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Ori Hofnung: Our resilience had led us to successfully raise funds from “GoAhead Ventures,” a silicon valley-based venture capital firm. Today we are serving tens of thousands of parents in over 40 countries, though the vast majority of our audience is in the US.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Ori Hofnung: When we first started the company, everyone told me that I should file a patent on my idea; but I couldn’t afford it. To make it sound impressive, I mentioned that our technology is patent pending in every piece of promotional material. During one of the investor meetings, this line caught the investor’s attention and he started grilling me about it. After several minutes he realized that the only thing “pending” was our decision on whether or not we even have something worth filling for. My key takeaway here are first, when you are just starting focus first on building a great product and worry about patents later on. Second, be very careful with fluff you put on your slide and don’t have a good explanation to back it up.

We at GiantLeap could have saved a lot of money and effort had we known the importance of this advice early on. Ori Hofnung

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Ori Hofnung:

1) You can test almost all of your customer hypothesis with a well-designed landing page and sophisticated targeting on social media via deep engagement indicators. We at GiantLeap could have saved a lot of money and effort had we known the importance of this advice early on.

2) How valuable it is to learn the skill of being a great user interviewer and understanding that facts about the user’s life are gold and opinions are usually worthless. In the past, I used to confuse people’s politeness with progress, and user interviewing from pitching. I used to think that if a user responded yes to a question like would you ever use this product then that means we are making progress.

3) Understanding that my primary responsibilities are generating revenue and talking to users, all the rest are other people’s priorities or tasks of lower importance. Before getting to this realization, I used to get distracted by anything that was competing for my attention, which harmed my productivity.

4) The fact you can dramatically reduce your workload and stress by using automation tools like MixMax, Calendly, Docusign, Intercom, and hiring a virtual assistant. Before using these tools, I used to write every email and put endless reminders for follow-ups and tasks, which made me feel burned-out.

5) The understanding that just because you’re doing a lot doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot done. A busy calendar and a busy mind will destroy your ability to do great things. You need free time and a free mind to reach breakthroughs.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Ori Hofnung: You can follow me and GiantLeap on:

LinkedIn

Facebook = Or Hofnung

Twitter = Ori Hofnung

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

 

 

Related Posts

Leave a Comment