Hi Ohad, welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ohad: I am glad to be here, and thanks for inviting me. I’m Ohad Rosen from Israel, an entrepreneur mainly focused on Internet ventures, with wide experience in the field of online marketing. I’m the co-founder of CelebritiesFans and Jewishop, the Marketing Director of JerusalemOnline, and involved in some other ventures as well. I’m also a political activist and serves on the board of directors of the Kiryat Ono College of Photography.
You started your first business at 20?
Ohad: That’s right. My longtime friend and confidant Yuval Weinbaum and I launched CelebritiesFans back in 2004, which is one of the biggest online databases for celebrity addresses and information. It was my first business venture, while Yuval was in the internet industry for some time then, so it was indeed a very exciting and special experience for me at such an early age.
How would you describe yourself? A young entrepreneur? Serial Entrepreneur?
Ohad: I wouldn’t say I’m a serial entrepreneur, and I’m also not that young compared to other online entrepreneurs. I would say I’m a passionate entrepreneur who enjoys all aspects of it: building, developing, biz-dev, marketing, etc. Entrepreneurship is a breath-taking process, full of surprises and challenges, and that’s what makes it so exciting, in my point of view.
My recent interviews with young entrepreneurs made me realize that young entrepreneurs have better chances to succeed and overcome the crisis. So how does the crisis affects young entrepreneurs?
Ohad: That’s a very good question. I think that everyone is affected by the crisis, yet I believe that young entrepreneurs indeed have better chances to survive and overcome it. Young people tend to be more creative, more flexible in their methodology, and can cope and adjust to difficult times such as the current crisis.
What’s the main idea behind jewishop.com?
Ohad: Jewishop, another joint project of Yuval and myself, was founded in 2007 in order to assist the Israeli Judaica and Dead Sea Cosmetics Industries. We offered a wide range of Judaica and Dead Sea products for people all around the world, exposing them to the best products and goods that Israel manufactures and exports in those two specific fields.
I know you are one of the founders, so how do you come up with the idea?
Ohad: Well, it was a funny story. I was touring the old city of Jerusalem when I noticed a group of tourists crowding around a local peddler. I got closer and saw that they were amazed by the beautiful Judaica items he sold. I thought immediately that we should open an online Judaica store to expose those products to people all around the world, not only to tourists that accidentally bump into this specific peddler in Jerusalem.
One of the latest ventures you’re involved in is http://www.jerusalemonline.com. What is it about?
Ohad: JerusalemOnline is a venture established back in 2005 by two amazing guys – Itai Green and Doron Landau, which I joined in March 2008 as the Marketing Director. They had a vision of bridging the information gap in the international media regarding the Middle East and broadcast video news from Israel that are accurate and unbiased. Nowadays, JerusalemOnline is one of the biggest Israeli-based news portals, providing daily video news, commentary, and other video articles about Israel and the Middle East in English for free.
How do you compete with bigger portals?
Ohad: It’s all a matter of the content. We work with Channel 2 news, which is the biggest news source in Israel, so we can provide our audience with the most up-to-date, in-depth news items. Also, we allow other webmasters and bloggers to embed our video news on their websites. Another thing is that we broadcast our news not only on the internet but also on all “El-Al” airplanes.
So what’s the biggest challenge when running such a site?
Ohad: Running a news site is a very difficult thing to do, as you cannot rest for a minute. Things happen all the time, 24/7, and you have to provide your viewers with the most up-to-date information and analysis. JerusalemOnline is online for almost 4 years now as a well-known Israeli news source with great ratings (over 120,000 viewers a day in our daily video news edition), so we have a good reputation to keep.
I’ve seen on your linked profile that you have followed the Tel Aviv University. Most students feel that school is useless, so I have to ask what the impact of going to a University is?
Ohad: That is indeed one of the most interesting questions, whether an entrepreneur needs a formal education. I think that the answer is yes. University gives you many tools that assist you in today’s business world. For example, studying law helps you understand contracts and terms accurately; studying economics helps you understand the current crisis and to forecast how long it will take, and so on.
How is the professor that you remember most for influencing your life?
Ohad: I wouldn’t mention a single professor. In Hebrew, there’s a saying, “MiKol Melamday Hiskalti,” which means that I take something from every teacher of mine. That’s true; you can learn or take something from each person you know and especially from your teachers and professors.
Your first entrepreneurship experience is related to a celebrity site. What’s the business model behind such a site?
Ohad: Yes, my first entrepreneurship experience was CelebritiesFans, which started as a database of Celebrity Addresses and, along the time, became one of the leading celebrity databases on the Internet. We offer celebrity addresses, biographies, pictures, related links, related products, etc. The business model is based on advertisements and affiliate programs and has proved itself as successful so far.
What about your parents? How did they influence your entrepreneurship path?
Ohad: My parents naturally support my ventures and trying to assist me as much as they can. I wouldn’t say they pushed me to this path but rather allowed me to pick my own way in life.
You seem to be quite focused on online projects. What opportunities are still available online nowadays?
Ohad: That’s a very good question. I honestly think that there’s still a lot of room for online entrepreneurship, and I’m not speaking only about technological breakthroughs. Even “old-fashioned” websites based on good content with a business model based on advertisements, can highly succeed. Not to mention the new opportunities that opened with the rise of the web 2.0.
What would be your single most important advice you would give a young entrepreneur willing to start an online business?
Ohad: The well-known poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in one of his poems “act – act in the living present!” and that’s the single most important advice I can give. Don’t be afraid to try, even if you fail. The biggest advantage of online entrepreneurship is that it doesn’t require a fortune to start with, so it perfectly fits young entrepreneurs.
How does the future look like for you? What’s next?
Ohad: Only time will tell. I was elected to the city council of my hometown, Kiryat Ono, and my term will start in 2010. I would love to continue in both paths – the entrepreneurial and the political. In the near future, I plan to continue in JerusalemOnline, CelebritiesFans, and Jewishop, and to get into a new exciting internet venture in Montenegro, which is still in stealth mode.