Interview with young entrepreneur Amit Avner
Amit: Hey Cristian! Thank you for having me. In shot: I’m Amit, 23 years old from Israel. I’m a professional software & web developer/consultant, via my consulting firm called bWitty, and currently I’m the Founder & CEO of Taykey, a stealth-mode startup in the field of semantic technologies.
Cristian: You started your company at the age of 14. What was about?
Amit: I’ve always been interested in software, and later web development. I really enjoy building things, and see them work. So early on, I started building pieces of software and websites that somehow with time became a search engine, called WittySearch.
WittySearch, which is now called bWitty, was started as a personal website and quickly became a meta-search engine that helped users get results from many search engines. You have to remember, it was the pre-Google domination era, and there were a lot of search engines, so WittySearch had a significant user’s community. Most of the company’s business was technology leasing and websites developments. Since I always wanted to improve my skills and I still enjoy creating new stuff for personal interest, I did it as a hobby, for fun – not as a business.
Cristian: In the meanwhile you are involved in 2 other projects, can you name them?
Amit: I always enjoy hearing about and participating in new ideas in ventures, I find it exciting. But, I know it’s important to stay focus in the things I do. So, Taykey, the startup company which was mentioned before is my primary work place. Like most startups we work crazy hours all week long.
But through bWitty, my freelance\consulting firm, I can work with other businesses and take an active part in more projects. I try to take as many projects as my schedule allows me, and for that I employ a small talented team of developers to give our cutomers a great and personal service to fulfill all their needs, we do a lot of websites and small software projects.
The last, but not least, is PakPaka, which is plainly a web-comics venture that I’m a part of with Gil Cohen, a talented artist and a good friend from school days.
Cristian: So do you consider yourself a serial entrepreneur?
Amit: Well, I can certainly hope so! I enjoy the process of taking an idea and see it turns into a real product that actual people use. It’s a great feeling to know that millions of people use your creation!
Cristian: How did you start your first company? Did your family support your ideas?
Amit: Naturally, my family supports everything I do. They were and are the first beta users of all my ideas! My entire family loves to hear my ideas, and review them – both at the concept stage and at the product stage.
My first company was an organic growing company from a personal website into a search engine that I developed. Since most business came from website and web tools development no staff was needed or any major expenses. One of the first website I created was for Adrienne Wilkinson, an actress from Xena: Warrior Princess – after that, it was much easier to get people look at my portfolio.
Cristian: What is most challenging when starting a company when you are so young?
Amit: Even, now that I’m 23. It’s sometimes hard for investors to take you seriously. But luckily since the days of Facebook & Google, people better appreciate the young entrepreneurs.
Cristian: Do you think that education/ school had something to do with your entrepreneurship experiences?
Amit: I can’t be really sure, in school I sought to study the stuff that I found interesting, and obviously it improved my skills and thought me a lot. But to be entrepreneur it is important just to try and have a hands-on experience, you can never be prepared for the roadblocks along entrepreneurs trying to clear them yourself.
Cristian: But how did you manage to talk with the customers? Did you have any problems being so young?
Amit: It’s the information age; sometime you don’t even meet the customers just talk with them on phone, e-mails & VoIP services.
Cristian: What about school? How did you manage to run a business, go to school and being a children?
Amit: School, and personal life were the most important for me all the time. I wasn’t that busy with ventures in school, it was a hobby. But instead of having a normal teenager’s job, I created websites. I managed to have normal personal life and enjoy the school experience. Some of my best friends are from school and I keep in touch with many of my school friends.
Cristian: A lot of young entrepreneurs start a business now in the crisis. Do you think young entrepreneurs have better chances to succeed now?
Amit: I think all entrepreneurs are the same. Maybe young ones are more durable for the crisis because they have more energy to start a new venture if this one fails. It is much easier to not worry about income if you are young rather then have to support a family.
Cristian: You are doing websites and software. Is this something any young entrepreneur could start?
Amit: I think it’s a good start point. I think it’s a great experience, you learn a lot, and you improve your skills a lot and learn how to interact with customers and real business.
Cristian: Could you name a few of your customers?
Amit: You are free to browse around bWitty’s customers on our website.
Cristian: What type of customers are you targeting?
Amit: It depends in the company. Taykey is more of a B2B business, while in bWitty I can help any type of customer.
Cristian: How do you deal with the competition?
Amit: As bWitty I have a lot of competition, but I usually get customers from other customer’s recommendations. As Taykey, sadly I can’t comment that yet.
Cristian: And how do you promote your company and services?
Amit: I try to give the best and personal service I can, and if you are good at what you do – word spreads around.
Cristian: Do you remember how you got the first customer?
Amit: Well, my mom & dad are the first ones as I tried to create solutions for their needs.
But I also remember the major customers that caused a change, like Adrienne.
Cristian: If you are a young entrepreneur, how do you “warrant” your services? How do you make customers trust you?
Amit: I have a company, and I have a contract to sign with them. After you have a few customers behind you, it’s easier to trust you.
Cristian: Most of the entrepreneurs are afraid of failing. How do young entrepreneurs deal with failure?
Amit: As I said before, I think it shouldn’t be scary. Tom Kraus once said: “There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them”. I think it’s true. It is much easier to fail at a young age when you have no commitments rather than risk it while you are older and have a family to support.
Cristian: Who is your role model?
Amit: That’s a tough question. I try to take the good stuff from many successful people. For instance I look at Bill Gates, who really changed the world. Or Shai Agassi who is an excellent entrepreneur that thinks of the common good a lot in his recent projects such as Better Place. Digg founder, Kevin Rose looks like the person who does a great job at having a business and still having fun, with ventures like Diggnation. There are so many people I try to learn from, the winning formula is to take the good things, and filter out the mistakes.
Cristian: What would be the best thing that could happen to you right now and could help your businesses?
Amit: Well, I do hope that the experiments we are doing in Taykey will succeed and we get some big customers to start making significant revenues.