Harel Tayeb of Kryon: “Sometimes CEOs need to be bold”

Sometimes CEOs need to be bold. You definitely don’t need to be bold all the time — just when it counts. When I joined Kryon, the company was in a difficult situation and had not raised money effectively. Instead of trying to raise a small amount of money as suggested, I decided to go bigger. I knew […]

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Sometimes CEOs need to be bold. You definitely don’t need to be bold all the time — just when it counts. When I joined Kryon, the company was in a difficult situation and had not raised money effectively. Instead of trying to raise a small amount of money as suggested, I decided to go bigger. I knew what it would take to build the company, and I succeeded. The money helped us grow quickly, acquire new customers, and build our industry-first Process Discovery solution.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Harel Tayeb.

Harel Tayeb is a serial entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in the technology ecosystem. As the chief executive officer of Kryon, a leader in enterprise automation, Tayeb oversees the company’s aggressive growth strategy while building a world-class team of innovative problem solvers. Prior to joining Kryon, Tayeb was an investor and advisor at a venture capital firm and held leadership roles at several technology companies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

After studying computer science and serving in the Israeli Air Force and other special units during my service, I wanted an opportunity to reach a market without moving slowly. That led me into technology. My first company was Gteko, which was acquired by Microsoft several years after I joined. Then, I established a start-up in the collectibles area. I was also an advisor to several other companies, including Conduit, where they convinced me to bring in my team and establish a business unit called Conduit Mobile (Como), a mobile app development platform. When I left Como after four years, it was one of the largest app-makers in the world, with more than 4,500 new apps created on the platform every day.

After joining the antivirus company, AVG Israel, as their CEO, I worked to unify the company after two successful acquisitions. We had ownership of the mobile and search activities for AVG, and we acquired another Israeli startup; and then Avast acquired the company for 1.3 billion dollars.

It was around that time, I came to understand that my passion was solving challenges, execution, and leading. So, I joined Kryon as CEO three years ago. Kryon was always very strong in technology innovation, with five patents in the fields of computer vision and AI, but lacked a clear go-to-market strategy and business development vision. We’ve come a long way since then. Today, we have 10 offices worldwide and customers across many verticals, from healthcare, to banking — working with leaders like HSBC, TCF Bank — to insurance companies like AIG and Allianz. We’re also increasingly working with telecoms leaders like Verizon, AT&T, and Deutsche Telekom. We’re bringing real business impacts to a wide range of customers.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a game-changer for the enterprise market. RPA enables organizations to deploy virtual workers that can execute any logical actions that have been a drag on human productivity. With software, virtual machines in the cloud can act like humans. Bots, powered by AI, can assist human workers by taking on the processes that are prone to error or require repetitive steps.

The global pandemic is forcing the entire enterprise market to move five steps ahead in a short time, including transforming organizations to strategically include robotics and automation as part of their virtual work environment. There’s been a huge, collective leap from where we were, even a few months ago.

It’s crucial for businesses to survive our current climate. When we’re clear of the pandemic, it will be time for businesses to scale up. RPA will have a crucial role in that. More companies will turn to RPA to meet radically shifting market demands and offer new user experiences.

With RPA, tasks are happening in seconds or minutes instead of weeks, and complex processes that used to be done by many employees are now done by robots, or virtual workers. RPA is disrupting and leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technological shift that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to each other.

Kryon is disrupting the RPA market. It doesn’t make sense that companies are expected to invest three times the amount on the RPA service cost versus the RPA licenses, e.g. 100,000 dollars in RPA software, only to turn around and spend another 300,000 dollars on hiring a consultant to identify and implement where the automation should be. Our team sought to “automate the automation.” So, we figured out how to automate process discovery. Our technology maps an organization’s processes, identifies the stumbling blocks, and helps to reduce the total cost of ownership of RPA software by up to 80%. We were the first RPA vendor to bring a solution like this to the market. We set the standard. There was a lot of skepticism when we launched Process Discovery. Many people thought it would never work because it’s too complicated from a technology perspective. The moment that our solution worked globally, the entire market rushed to emulate it. Some competitors acquired companies in an attempt to quickly develop similar tools. Others attempted to create a similar product in-house.

The next disruption we’re bringing to our industry is Full Cycle Automation-as-a-Service, a cloud-based automation platform that will identify processes for automation, map it out, and then automate. We are also removing the barrier of scale, which has been pervasive in RPA. We are the only company in the market that can automate an entire organization and can scale organizations from 10–50 bots to 50,000 bots in production almost instantly. We’re also the only RPA provider who can offer real-time Process Discovery — essentially, identifying processes that are well-suited for automation within minutes.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made many mistakes throughout my career, and I’ve learned a lot making them. Two years ago, Kryon first launched Process Discovery at a huge event in New York. It was an amazing, successful event, but looking back on it, the product wasn’t ready. It was good, but not perfect. We were excited that we had solved a very urgent problem. But while everything might work perfectly in the lab, real-world deployment in banks, insurance companies, and hospitality organizations can be different. We were too enthusiastic at best, a bit too arrogant at worst. Two years later, we learned so much from the product experience in the market, so now we have the only product in the market with field-proven results and we already know what the next challenges are for the future based on this experience. This taught me that R&D labs are good, but nothing can replace real experience in the field and how important it is to listen and work closely with your partners and customers.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

There are two types of mentors. There are the usual mentors: the people that you admire or believe can help you with specific situations. Then, there are those people who became mentors, simply through association and observation — like several CEOs I worked alongside throughout my career. When I face a challenge, I usually think back to one of the CEOs from my past. How would he or she approach this situation?

I remember one CEO who deftly handled two competing partners, managing through a potential disaster that could have caused the company to plummet to zero revenue. He stuck to his vision and didn’t change his plans, even though the market reaction was catastrophic for him. He continued on his course and won in the end. It was a powerful lesson on how to stay true to your beliefs.

I remember that often, now that I am a CEO. It’s important to lead with integrity, have strong belief in what you’re doing, and know exactly what you need to achieve. When situations change or you’re facing pressures, it can be tempting to change course.

I know I’m not the smartest person in my office. I have much better sales and marketing people, better technology developers, and more savvy financial staff. I tend to hire very talented people that bring extra value that I cannot. They help identify and complement my weaknesses. I learn a lot from them, and they help me become a better person.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Being disruptive is important when something is broken. Uber came into the market and upended the taxi industry. They allowed people to do something they couldn’t do before. It was a positive disruption because it changed the market.

But there are many cases where being disruptive just to be disruptive doesn’t make sense. It can harm a company. There’s a mentality within technology that “good enough” is not good. You need to be perfect. That’s the right approach when you’re building an autopilot system or an airplane. But in many cases, being good enough is good, especially when you can get into the market and learn in the field. You can react with changes that help you reshape your product and take it a new level. There is no perfect world or perfect solution — there are evolving solutions that need to create meaningful impact on your customers.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Your integrity is everything. When you believe in something, even if the deck is stacked against you, you need to stay the course. If you’re honest with yourself and have integrity, you’ll be successful. When I was at AVG, we acquired an Israeli startup but there were internal and external challenges. During a corporate acquisition, many smart people with good intentions may try to influence you and push you in different directions; it can be confusing. I was the executive sponsor of this acquisition, and because I kept my integrity, along with my colleagues, the acquisition brought extremely positive results. It helped bring a new, more innovative culture. We became a stronger company. I was also able to provide customers with a better product and more value across the entire organization. And, for me, it was a personal win. The outcome proved it was the right decision.

Sometimes CEOs need to be bold. You definitely don’t need to be bold all the time — just when it counts. When I joined Kryon, the company was in a difficult situation and had not raised money effectively. Instead of trying to raise a small amount of money as suggested, I decided to go bigger. I knew what it would take to build the company, and I succeeded. The money helped us grow quickly, acquire new customers, and build our industry-first Process Discovery solution.

Hire slow, fire fast. Any company is all about its people. The people who you add to your culture must believe in the shared vision of the company, and in your capability to lead them through the challenges and the successes. Once, I hired a senior-level manager who was talented, but I had to let him go. It was the right thing to do, as this person was behaving in a way that was outside of our corporate culture. The culture of a company is critically important. Wait, and find the right person. You can make a mistake, but recognize it. Fire fast because you can’t get someone to change their character or their core values.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Gathering leads is simple. You can spend money on marketing through any channel and bring many leads. But gaining the right, qualified leads is an ongoing challenge that we face almost every day. There are two angles to our strategy. First, we identify the specific persona that we want to reach. Then, we demonstrate the need. We know that CIOs and CTOs are smart and understand their challenges. Sometimes we just need to give voice to what they already know.

A financial institution, for example, must act quickly to support thousands of customers seeking to delay mortgages and react to other urgent, pandemic-related challenges. We need to offer a solution specific to this challenge. We need to convince them that RPA is the right solution that we can execute quickly and cost-effectively.

The second strategy is measurement. Any aspect of this journey must be measured and evaluated over time because circumstances change. Steps that worked in the past might need to be changed due to shifts in the economy, within the organization, or within technology. Anything which is not measured is not managed.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

In the RPA market, we’re never done. It’s like climbing a mountain. The moment that you get to the top, you see another peak to reach. Automation is only one piece within organizational transformation. The next disruption will be orchestrating humans and robotic applications, working together in the same environment. Then, it’s all about scaling.

At our Automation Olympics event on September 8, we announced a real-time solution to manage human applications and robotics. That’s the next disruption for the enterprise market and the way to manage costs and bring other benefits to an organization.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?

I have about a 30-minute drive to the office every day. I only listen to Pivot, a podcast by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. The segment is amazing, and I love them both. Sometimes, I sit in the parking lot and wait for the podcast to finish. They’re funny and they have integrity. I admire that ability to be authentic and say whatever is on your mind, confess your mistakes, and candidly share your thoughts. Scott Galloway has a completely different mindset than many other leaders on the tech scene. Listening to it impacts my whole day because I go into the office in a different mindset. I’m aligned with anything that’s happening in marketing and in the economy, generally. I’m like a boxer preparing for a fight, preparing to play a role.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There’s a line from The Matrix: “Everything has a cause and an effect.” I think that’s very true. There are always many ways to react to a given situation. And any option that you take, there is a cause and effect for that action. It’s so simple but so universally true.

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’ll come back to the idea of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I believe that tech leaders have a responsibility to develop technology solutions that positively impact the entire population. There are two sides of this responsibility: the technology/innovation side, and its impact on people and the economy. It mirrors the cause-and-effect idea we just talked about. I see responsibility when Kryon implements RPA at a company. The impact might eventually lead to lost positions. We help mitigate impacts like these by encouraging customers to develop a long-term strategy to educate employees to become RPA bot developers or empower them with other new skills. Employees trained to do more meaningful and creative tasks will be more valuable. That is why we founded Kryon Academy, where we are training the next generation of citizen RPA developers.

My pitch to organizations is, don’t purchase RPA just for its amazing cost reduction and higher revenue. It’s so much more than that. Bring your people into the future of work with you. Companies will be on their way to organizational transformation. They can create active participants, humans will control what the bots do and how to make them more efficient. Collectively, we can use RPA to create better work environments and provide long-term solutions that benefit everyone. I think this shift in perspective must happen.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hareltayeb/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hareltayeb

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