Look for ways to learn from difficult experiences. When you face a challenge in your career or personal life, instead of shutting down or becoming defensive, look at the situation as a positive experience that will help you learn and grow.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chen Amit, the co-founder, and CEO at Tipalti.
Chen Amit is a veteran tech executive, repeat entrepreneur, and the co-founder and CEO at Tipalti, the global payables automation platform provider. Prior to Tipalti, Chen was CEO of Atrica, a Carrier Ethernet company that Nokia-Siemens acquired. Before Atrica, Chen was co-founder and CEO of Verix, a provider of business intelligence software. At ECI Telecom, Chen founded its ADSL business unit and led it from inception to $100 million in annual sales. He earned a BSc from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology and an MBA from INSEAD.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Iwas born in Israel, where I started out as a young engineer. I received a B.Sc. in Computers Engineering from the Technion and an MBA from INSEAD. My first full-time job was as a Software Engineer at ECI Telecom.
When I started out, I loved being a product manager and a software developer. I would likely go back to being either.
When I started Tipalti, that was part of the premise. I was actually being the developer and product manager (and support, finance, dishwasher and everything else…) and working this way for the first couple of years before I figured out that this initiative is really company-worthy, and I should hire more people.
At the end of Tipalti’s first year when we started to have some traction, I wanted to keep growing — and there’s a limit to growth in Israel, so I wanted to test the market in the U.S. This was a trial and error process — we went slowly and didn’t rush into it.
When we expanded to the United States, Tipalti was still just a one-person company. Our first hire in the U.S. was a salesperson. Hiring was a challenge — who would want to work for an underfunded, one-year-old company out of Israel? But I found someone who I could trust and knew could run the business well with me, who was smart and capable. We continued to build the company from there.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Tipalti is the only payables automation solution to streamline all phases of the global accounts payable workflow in one holistic cloud platform, making it painless for finance departments to manage their entire AP and supplier payments operation. Hundreds of leading companies like Amazon Twitch, Twitter, and GoDaddy use Tipalti to eliminate up to 80% of their supplier payments workload and accelerate financial close cycles by 25%. This helps them scale their businesses efficiently for global growth while strengthening financial and tax compliance controls.
Tipalti’s mission is to liberate finance teams by automating supplier payment operations so they can focus on making a strategic impact and scale their business rather than the minutiae of accounts payables. Tipalti is unique in its ability to streamline the complete end-to-end payables process automation, doing it through real technology, not outsourced labor. Tipalti’s cross-border payments, multi-entity, and multi-currency management capabilities remove many of the operational challenges related to business growth opportunities.
The stories I feel most strongly about are those where our impact was transformational. For most companies we will be very impactful — for instance, when Klaris IP took over photo contributor licensing for National Geographic, the company used our help to reduce freelance photographer payment cycles by 86%. Klaris IP also reduced operational costs by 30%.
For some of our customers, the benefits go even further. Whether it’s a company going public and learning too late that it is at risk of violating anti-money laundering rules, or a firm struggling with tax compliance rules, we’re here to help. We were even an enabler for fast-growth enterprises like Amazon Twitch and ClassPass, where the sheer pace of growth for one and the international growth for the other was incredibly demanding.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Hands down that person would be Oren Zeev, my co-founder. Oren is the person who introduced me to the problem domain Tipalti is solving.
I had no familiarity with payments, or accounts payable, prior to meeting Oren (nor did he), and there’s no way I would have identified this problem myself. He introduced me to a founder of one of his portfolio companies, who had a significant pain point. That’s how Tipalti was started.
He was also pivotal in helping us find our first customers. The first few, especially for a financial technology company, are so hard to win. Oren helped us garner the credibility we needed to demonstrate our capability, which in turn highlighted the true value of Tipalti.
He then was able to open doors for us at a very large bank — doors that would have otherwise remained closed to an underfunded, one-person company from Israel.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience to me is the ability to maintain faith in what you do, in your direction, journey and core values, despite setbacks that may cause others to question you.
I believe that resilient people have strong values, a strong belief system, and backbone. They rely more on that inner compass and less on confirmation from the outside.
External inputs are important and allow you to test the accuracy of your inner compass. But in the end, you have to be willing to go against the opinions of colleagues, customers, and partners if your inner compass tells you to do so. It’s risky, but that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about. If your inner compass simply tells you to follow the advice of others, even if you disagree, it will be much more difficult to lead your business to victory. Especially if it’s a one-man experiment going up against startups with hundreds of employees and millions of dollars in funding.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Elon Musk. Both Tesla and SpaceX were on the verge of going under throughout their early years, particularly during the 2008 financial crisis. Musk poured all of his personal money into both companies to save them — and it worked. He had so many reasons to give up and enjoy his riches, but his belief in the value and need for these companies drove him to continue that uphill battle. Now SpaceX is launching (and landing!) rockets, and Tesla is building multiple vehicles, including trucks and SUVs.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Early in my career, I was a young product manager. Our CTO was a great leader, won national prizes and was very influential. He had some significant criticism about a product I was working on, but he wasn’t the only one. Deutsche Telekom, the largest telco in Europe and our prospective client, had strong criticism about it as well.
My problem was that my analysis showed that the way I was designing the product was the correct way, and I just could not agree with their criticism.
The CTO was smart enough to let me continue with my conviction. The customer agreed to include us in the RFP, although he objected to the design.
In the end, we ended up winning a $100 million contract (that later turned into a multi-billion-dollar contract) exclusively due to the new product approach we had.
It was a career-defining moment, teaching me to be very analytical. I learned to follow my gut and understand that innovation will cause friction, and that it is possible — even necessary — to be attentive but critical.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Look for ways to learn from difficult experiences. When you face a challenge in your career or personal life, instead of shutting down or becoming defensive, look at the situation as a positive experience that will help you learn and grow.
- Practice gratitude. Remember that even if your current situation seems tough, there are people in the world who are far worse off than you. Feel grateful that you have what you do, and use your advantages in life to help yourself and others.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks. Sure, you might fail — but you’ll also have the opportunity to create something new. Getting used to taking risks will also get you used to failure, so that you’re no longer afraid of it.
- Build your support network. Find coworkers, friends and family members who will give you guidance during difficult situations, and will celebrate your success. This support network is also invaluable when you need feedback on your ideas as you’re working through them.
- Prioritize your health. Getting enough sleep and exercise, and generally making your health a priority, will make you both physically and mentally resilient.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe that the gaps in our society, both in-country and globally, are unacceptable. What’s even worse is that these gaps continue to expand.
It’s a form of “practical discrimination.” It’s not formalized. No one explicitly tries to discriminate against people in lower socioeconomic status. But in practice, we are not allowing these people to ever catch up. When my kids go to school, they get help, private tutors, and I try to build confidence in them and a sense of can-do.
We need to provide so much more to kids in lower socioeconomic status and bridge any gap that can be created by parents of kids in higher socioeconomic statuses. If we don’t, we perpetuate and expand this gap in society.
Education goes beyond basic studies. We need to instill self-confidence and a sense of can-be and can-do in children who come from underprivileged families.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I know it’s borderline corny, but it’s Elon Musk. He must be thinking differently and operating on a different operating system, if you will, than the rest of us. There are no limits or boundaries to how big he thinks. His initiatives are all world-changing.
The other is Bill Gates. Another tremendous entrepreneur who now uses his extraordinary mind and riches to solve some of our world’s greatest problems.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Twitter @chenamit1. And you can follow Tipalti @tipalti.
Also, you can follow Tipalti’s LinkedIn page here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tipalti/.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!