Almost Everybody likes to talk about my job. When I was a software engineer in the communication sector, when I told people what I did they would just nodded politely. Nowadays, when I tell people I manage a startup in the fantasy football industry I know I am going to have a long conversation, filled with a lot of strong opinions. That sense of interest and intrigue lies in the center of everything we do with our Real Manager Game, everybody can manage their own club. Everyone can be their own coach and put their own football knowledge to the test.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ohad Crystal.
Ohad Crystal is a serial entrepreneur and an angel investor with over 20 years of industry experience. In early 2019, Ohad joined Funatix Club as an angel investor and international business development advisor. Few months later he was appointed CEO of the company.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am a combination of my two parents, my mother who is an artist and emotional, and my father who is the rational inventor. I was raised as both a computer geek and an artist. I was always the first in line for shows in school, and that passion became my profession before I started in the business world. It means a lot to me to be able to be able to merge the two as part of my work with Funatix.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My quote is always “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”, it’s from The Big Lebowski. I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life; when I started my career as a young entrepreneur and a CEO, to say that something is impossible or can only be done in a certain way, all that is is someone’s opinion and I think that’s what helps me and my team achieve the achievable, and that’s the essence of a startup. People always tell you what to do and what you can’t do, but we always try to do something that’s never been done before.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Analytical vs Emotional intelligence. Having a mix of analytical and emotional intelligence, which came from my upbringing, has helped me throughout my entire career. Being able to help people with both personal and technical problems has been a blessing and I use those skills every day.
- To be able to take in the whole picture and then dive into specifics. Being in such a senior position as CEO is very important because you can’t get into the nuts and bolts of every problem. You should be able to hover from above, and then when there are issues that need to be solved or opportunities that become available, you need to be able to focus on them and figure out a way to make everything work on a micro level.Like an eagle, you need to be able to fly overhead, dive in and help whenever needed and fly back out again.
- The ability to speak to a crowd. I was an actor, I spoke to large audiences and learned to connect to people through that very quickly. It’s an important skill for everyone. I first started learning it in school and have been practicing it ever since in theatres and boardrooms across the world.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I was always a technology orientated person with an affinity to arts. I was always playing guitar and singing and acting, then when I was 23 I took an acting class with my friend and the acting bug bit. Then I went for it. I was destined to go down the tech route with computers, then at 23 my life went a completely different direction. From the course, I went to drama school in Tel Aviv, I auditioned and I got into a theatre company. It was all going smoothly at the beginning, I had an agent and was doing plays and TV and movies. It was like a roller coaster, everything was going so quickly and then over time it became a routine. You audition, you rehearse, you get on a bus to the next show and the erosion, the daily life of an actor, was too much for me.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I got tired from the auditions and the constant need for approval from the audience. I just got tired of it all so I left the theatre and spent the first couple of months searching for things to do. My first son Jonathan was born then, and then living in Tel Aviv and needing to feed a family meant I needed to get a job. By then it was 1998, and the high-tech industry was starting to grow in Israel so I went for it. I got into the high-tech industry as a quality assurance guy, started at the bottom, because I didn’t go to school to study software development. The only reason I got that job was because I went to the company and told them I just wanted to start and they gave me a chance. It wasn’t easy, but over time I found myself spending more time writing code , teaching myself how to develop software and it all took off from there. Slowly I got more into the business development and front-facing aspects of the business, then I co-founded a start-up about 16 years ago.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
“The big push came when the manager of the theatre rang and offered me a role I didn’t want. I’d been offered the part before and turned it down because I didn’t like the character and the play so I wasn’t interested. By then I was getting the urge to move on, and the manager said that if I didn’t take this part I would have to leave. So I rejected the part and handed in my letter of resignation the next day. My friends told me I was crazy but I couldn’t do it.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
The most important skill for me is leadership skills. I’ve always been told that I have to be a leader. My teachers in school would always tell me I had leadership potential but I never used it. I wanted to be like everyone else. Then going through the army and everything else, I realised it’s easier and better for me to be in the driving seat and steering rather than following behind. I’m willing to take responsibility and willing to pay the price.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
We sold our start up in 2009. I was 40 years old and starting a new life chapter. I was independent and pitching my own projects, sometimes as an advisor, then as an investor. Some were successful, others not so much, like always. When I joined Funatix I was co-investing and it was another great project where I was an angel investor and an advisor. On the personal and friendship level it was great and also on a business level I saw a huge opportunity. The company is on it’s way to be a world
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?
My father definitely. He’s a 92 year old guy, a very cool guy. He loves football. I remember watching a match with my father when I was five years old, putting my head on his chest. It is my most vivid memory of my father. He always says, be practical, don’t pay attention to unimportant things. It is true on a personal level, on a relationship level and is true for my job. Being a manager in a startup is like being a prioritisation machine. It is easy to say but hard to do. You are making tens of decisions every day. What really helps you is the ability to take the essence out of a big thing. Find what is important and pay attention to that. What you don’t care about doesn’t exist. That’s the best advice I can ever give. It will give an ability to move forward much faster.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
COVID-19 is the most interesting story really. Leagues across the world stopped immediately. We thought our game would be dead if not almost dead as It is based on real life activity, Ibut to our surprise 60–65% kept on playing during Covid. There was less action but they were still coming back into the game, looking for something to do. That enables us to create engagement features. We needed to give them something to do. That was the most important lesson and it greatly improved the overall product and features.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Everyone has such moments, I simply go to sleep. Turn off the phone. Close the blinds. I don’t reject down moments, I embrace it, as of recently. Take a break, take care of yourself. I can sleep at noon for an hour and it clears my head. In a calmer way. Don’t fight it.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I have my life partner, the woman I love who I consult with, I have my friends, my kids. I ask for their input, their advice. To be frank and honest, however,I decide alone though. As a CEO there is a certain loneliness because you need to decide. But I encourage others to offer advice to me too.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I like leaving my comfort zone. It means there is a challenge and it is interesting. For me I am not in my comfort zone but I always look for the next challenge. We decided to tackle the biggest leagues even when we were very small and we got them, that wasn’t our comfort zone but we did it and it worked. I would say that the story for that is go ahead and be prepared. I encourage my employees to challenge themselves.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Even if it’s harder — always choose the KING’s road. Funatix runs an official fantasy football game. We use only official assets and data and comply with all the various privacy laws across our regions. To get an official license from a league takes a long time and a lot of effort, and that is why a lot of people in this industry are often violating some kind of data laws. Things are going to have to change, and they already are. Any organizations breaking privacy laws will be closed within two year years — digital assets can be stamped digitally, powerful law enforcement tools are being developed every day, and measures such as this will make those pirate companies extinct. Only the official, licensed products will survive. Once you are licensed, it’s going to prove difficult for any competitor to get in your way..
- Each League has its own “language” and preferences. We work as an official partner with several leagues, including leagues in the Balkans, East Europe, West Europe and Latin America( and soon South East Asia too). Leagues are strongly opinionated and have to conform with various regulations or restrictions.In order to get a league on board you should be able to propose a flexible working relationship. Since Real Manager platform hosts so many official leagues, we still want to ensure that the experience for each fan is seamless, and that they will feel at home with their league. We have learned that our product needs to be very customizable. Today we can fully localize a league with all the important elements in just a few days.
- A great investor partner is the most important thing. SIBF VC — our leading Seed investor — is a great partner. They supported us during the tough times and in good times as well. They are always believing in us, giving us good advice, and when there is criticism it’s done in a friendly and practical manner. Their contribution to the success of the company is priceless.
- Almost Everybody likes to talk about my job. When I was a software engineer in the communication sector, when I told people what I did they would just nodded politely. Nowadays, when I tell people I manage a startup in the fantasy football industry I know I am going to have a long conversation, filled with a lot of strong opinions. That sense of interest and intrigue lies in the center of everything we do with our Real Manager Game, everybody can manage their own club. Everyone can be their own coach and put their own football knowledge to the test.
- Beer Sheba is damn hot in the summer. Our Co-Founders and our whole R&D department work in the Beer Sheba, a desert land which is the capital of the southern region of Israel.. There is a very creative Hi-Tech scene there and some of the best startups in Israel were born there. Funatix management, meanwhile, works in Tel Aviv, and I visit the R&D department once a week. When we visit there in the high summer it can reach over 40 degrees celsius, and that is very, very hot..
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?
Definitely teaching people how to become parents.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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 if we tag them. 🙂
Oren Klaff. A great author of several books. He really understood the essence of being a good sales person. He is a great guy and a world class expert.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!