Sales are about cultural fit — in other words, if you want to penetrate the U.S. you need good U.S.-based salespeople. If you want to penetrate the UK, you need talented UK-based salespeople. There is a significant element of culture involved in selling enterprise software. That applies to the region, as well to the business environment. If it’s an enterprise, get someone with an enterprise mentality.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Drai.
David is the CEO and Co-Founder of Anodot, where he is committed to helping data-driven companies illuminate business blind spots with AI analytics. He previously was CTO at Gett, an app-based transportation service used in hundreds of cities worldwide. Prior to Gett, he co-founded Cotendo, a content delivery network and site acceleration services provider that was acquired by Akamai Technologies, where he also served as CTO. He graduated from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, with a BSc in computer science.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve liked computers, technology, and engineering since I was nine years old. I’ve always had an affinity for electronics and would tinker with things. My mother would joke that I could take a TV and turn it into a dishwasher. At one point, I built a transmitter that would allow me to broadcast my voice over a nearby radio. I knew from the beginning — I was a half nerd.
Aside from technology, I’m also really into sports, especially tennis and soccer and used to play in a semi-professional soccer league. Since launching this startup, I have been rather busy, and now spend whatever free time I have with my children and on learning to play the saxophone.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Early on, when I was the Chief Architect at CommTouch, we had a product that offered web-based email, like Gmail. The company was planning this huge costume party for its 500 employees. Everyone was getting ready to go, my wife and my friend’s wife were wearing their costumes and heading out the door to meet us.
Suddenly, there was downtime and users couldn’t access our email service. We were in charge of all the backend and had to fix it. So we told our wives, “Give us an hour and then we’ll go.” Then another hour passed. And another. Until it was clear we couldn’t make the party. Hours turned into days. We worked two days around the clock until service was restored.
This is a story about what’s needed to make it in this industry. It’s about dedication.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
We’re seeing a huge shift to data-driven businesses. But who’s monitoring all that data? Especially when there’s millions, even billions, of events streaming in daily. Traditional monitoring tools won’t scale.
We started back in 2014, before AI and machine learning became a buzzword. We saw a need to analyze big data in a smarter way. At that time, no one was taking that challenge seriously. I’m now happy to see that more and more companies are trying to build their own anomaly detection technologies. But all of them came later. We are the first company that took machine learning, from A to Z, into the analytics space.
Think of an eCommerce today. They need to track the revenue of tens of thousands of products in all the countries that you’re selling to — it’s impossible to track all of that visually. This is where Anodot comes in. We learn the behavior of revenue data for any country, for any product, for any device — and we do it in real time.
How do you think this might change the world?
Our technology is already making a significant impact on the analytics space.
Companies now, and in the future, will need new ways to monitor their business KPIs, especially as they become large-scale, high-volume and data-driven. A solution that monitors every metric automatically and in real time. With algorithms that understand each metric’s seasonality and builds a baseline that adapts to its patterns. That correlates any anomalous behavior to related factors across the business, for faster root cause analysis. This is the future of analytics.
By autonomously monitoring business KPIs, Anodot is helping improve service quality for hundreds of online businesses, eCommerce companies and Telcos. Our machine learning allows users to monitor their entire business, without the dashboards, reliably and at scale. That capability was pure science fiction before we came along.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Anodot empowers the way that people are looking at their business data. It doesn’t have a malicious quality and it’s not going to take people’s jobs. It’s a human-in-the-loop technology, with machine learning in the back-end.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
I saw the need while at my previous startup, Contendo, and also while working as CTO at Gett. This pain existed at other companies too, I’d hear it from my friends at Outbrain, and Playtika, and Wix, and so on. We all felt blind to incidents happening in their business metrics. We were collecting so much data and were struggling to track it visually, with dashboards — it just didn’t scale.
The tipping point happened at Gett. We had a case where the number of new subscribers dropped significantly. Apparently, it was an issue with a telco provider that didn’t send out an SMS code with confirmation code for new users. It took us more than a week to identify that. When I was looking back over our dashboards, I found the right dashboard that showed the drop, but by that point, it was too late. We lost a decent amount of money. While I was looking at the graph, I asked myself if there was a way to automatically find that drop, without me having to look for it. I understood the answer required a sophisticated solution that would understand seasonality in data and all the trends. So I was looking for someone more knowledgeable in those areas.
That’s when I reached out to Ira (Anodot’s Chief Data Scientist and Co-Founder) on LinkedIn. I invited him to discuss an idea I had over dinner. He was well-regarded as an expert in this field. The rest is history.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
We need good marketing to promote our story to more companies, more CTOs, CDOs, CIOs. This is a challenge to educating the market. We’re hoping that with persistence, and time, that more people will understand that they need this solution and that when they do, they know to come to find us.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We have implemented some creative tactical ideas in our marketing. We gamified the idea of anomaly detection — taking a complicated story around data scientists and machine learning and lighten the message — with “Find the anomaly” challenges at events.
We also publish a monthly Glitch List, which reports the business world’s biggest outages and bugs happening around the world. I think this is quite unique to collect and expose them; It brings awareness to just how widespread the issues in business monitoring and anomaly detection actually are.
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 about that?
First and foremost, I would like to thank my wife — her support has been and continues to be invaluable to me. I would also like to thank my co-founders, Ira Cohen (Anodot Chief Data Scientist) and Shay Lang (Anodot VP R&D), and the rest of the Anodot team.
Also not trivial to our success are our customers. There are several I’d like to mention who have evangelized us in the market: King, Wix, Payoneer, and OpenX. All of them are a testimonial that Anodot works.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my investors, especially those who are providing the strategic advice that has helped our company grow: Tal Barnoach of Disruptive LLC — our first investor, Eden Shochat of Aleph and Benno Jering of Redline. They have been instrumental to our success.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I mentor students who are developing their own startups at the College of Management in Herzliya. My wife and I also actively support local women’s shelters.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
This is what I wish someone had told me before I started as a CEO:
1. You need to be 100 percent sure that you have a product-market fit before putting a huge amount of money into your marketing.
2. Get a very good UX designer from the minute you start product development.
3. Adopt continuous delivery and deployment in your R&D way before you even think it’s needed.
4. Use a robust CRM from day one.
5. Sales are about cultural fit — in other words, if you want to penetrate the U.S. you need good U.S.-based salespeople. If you want to penetrate the UK, you need talented UK-based salespeople. There is a significant element of culture involved in selling enterprise software. That applies to the region, as well to the business environment. If it’s an enterprise, get someone with an enterprise mentality.
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 would like to start a movement that would remove any kind of religion from politics.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Follow the “Why worry?” flow chart in your life. In startups, many things will happen — some good, some not so good — and when it’s not good, I often find myself using this flow chart and putting things into perspective.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Honestly, I’m not completely sure that investors realize how dramatically the analytics space is shifting. Companies are moving every single day to cloud storage and big data, but then find their legacy tools are unable to scale. Many of them, too many in fact, are developing in-house business monitoring and anomaly detection solutions that end up costing far too much in resources.
Anodot fills the gap that exists between companies and their big data with machine learning. With accurate, real-time insights, we help today’s data-driven companies understand everything that’s happening in their business. No more missed incidents, no more lost revenue. As we say to our customers: we have your back, so you’re free to grow your business.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us.