I have always found myself as an organizational leader more than anything else: I’m pretty mediocre at engineering (although a computer science grad), I’m an OK marketer, a shitty salesperson, and a decent product guy. The one thing I am actually good at is taking organizations, building them and making them great at whatever they do. It’s the hiring, the processes (hate that word, but can’t avoid those), the focus and most importantly, the culture within the organization: driving for business impact and thriving for excellence while nurturing personal growth for other leaders in the org.
In the past several years, while both my co-founder Hilik and I were still leading technology and business organizations, we noticed a change. The pace in which organizations needed to operate and to respond to changes and opportunities was growing. Fast. “Moving from waterfall to agile” was once a term exclusive to software engineering organizations, but has since become a part of every function, including Marketing, Sales, CS, IT, HR and Legal.
Move fast or die.
Marc Andreessen was indeed right in “Software is eating the world” when he said every company is becoming a software company, hence, every part of the business needs to behave like a software company.
Most organizations were not really designed to move fast. They are constrained by static team structures, hiring policies, compliance regulations and in recent years, an ever-increasing talent gap with fierce competition for skilled professionals, or at least those actually willing to consider working for you.
It’s usually not a budget constraint preventing organizations from gaining flexibility as most organizations trying to hire are underutilizing their budgets. It’s the mindset.
Teams on the ground usually know exactly what needs to get done and who they need for it.
If those leaders and their teams were indeed empowered to think, behave and operate as business leaders, they could become resourceful enough to solve bottlenecks and constraints faster and at a much higher ROI.
Over the past several years, I had two meaningful experiences turning to freelancers and “gigsters” as a resource to move the business forward: one in leading engineering and product teams and another around marketing. Both have proven out to be utterly effective and at a much faster pace from decision to execution. As someone growing as a leader while building teams under them, watching the people I lead thrive on a daily basis and measuring my own success in retention rates, I was fascinated by this new opportunity to leverage an on-demand skilled by building an extended workforce. So I started digging deeper.
I was amazed by the scale of the phenomenon: tens of millions of highly skilled individuals around the world (US, Europe and even more in Asia) are choosing freelancing as their way of life and it seems like this isn’t going to slow down but rather accelerate in coming years. (See report by techrepublic). In fact, according to the bureau of labor statistics, by 2030 60% of the workforce in the US is expected to be freelancing in some capacity.
But, if there are so many highly skilled freelancers out there, why aren’t companies in need of talent turning to them?
The answer I came to was twofold:
- The existing online talent marketplaces don’t fit corporates and their processes. Although great at fulfilling this need, they are built as a consumer or SMB website for demand and supply. Companies small & medium and, especially, large enterprises have different processes and constraints, such as structural, legal and financial requirements, which aren’t met by these websites.
- For companies to leverage this almost unlimited quality and flexible talent pool, the process needs to be decentralized & democratized, so everyone in the organization can access these resources on an ongoing basis to quickly respond to an opportunity and not as a one-off event.
So following one of my many coffee dates with Boaz Chalamish, whom I consider both a mentor and an honorary founder at Stoke, Boaz pointed out the existing gaps in corporates, which we have all experienced, I decided to embark on this journey, to build a management platform for companies to hire and manage their growing number of on-demand talent.
Consider this as the “Talent Cloud”.
Hilik was an obvious co-founder for me. We knew each other well after having bootstrapped a company together in the past and he is probably the brightest tech mind with profound leadership and business skills anyone can find. We also share a similar set of values, although opposite sides debating politics.
I just needed to get him out of Microsoft .
So it was over hummus in July 18’ that Hilik and I understood we were going for it. It took a few more months for as we interviewed close to a hundred CEOs, CFOs, hiring managers and HR teams to make sure we understood their needs crystal clear, but in January 19’ we got to work.
TLV Partners joined us as leading investors in February, after a pretty quick decision on both sides. I was introduced to TLVP co-founder Eitan Bek by my very good friend Assaf Wand. It was a natural match — Eitan and we connected immediately as we both shared the same passion to build a new business category with an understanding we were off to a long journey to shape the future of work, together.
Somewhere along the process, we chose the name Stoke — a great contribution by a great product and marketing mind whom I am glad to have as a good friend and now investor and advisor, Bogomil Balakansky.
Stoking a flame means loading fuel, resulting in increased heat and energy output which is exactly what we are building for companies so that they will be able to stoke their own organizations with talent, skills, and knowledge, increasing business output.
So, here we go, off to create a new business category and shape organizational DNA.
I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m definitely Stoked.