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Ohad Tzur, MBA ’12

Ohad Tzur, MBA ’12 joins Christopher Reichert, MOT ’04, to talk about his startup Kahoona, which is dedicated to helping individuals and companies traverse the disruptive online changes for online privacy and data mining. 
 
Ohad talks about growing up in Israel, the transformational experiences of serving in the Israeli Defense Force, working at Google, and learning to manage and embrace the sometimes-overwhelming opportunities at MIT Sloan, in particular Action Learning. He closes with some great tips for prospective students on the power of the community of your classmates, and how to prioritize your experience while at MIT Sloan. 
 
Ohad can be reached on LinkedIn  and welcomes talking with alumni, prospective students, and anyone interested in online privacy and the new economic models being created that will reshape the internet as we know it. 

Sloanies Talking with Sloanies is a conversational podcast with alumni and faculty about the MIT Sloan experience and how it influences what they're doing today. Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google, and Spotify

Christopher Reichert: Welcome to Sloanies Talking with Sloanies, a candid conversation with alumni and faculty about the MIT Sloan experience and how it influences what they're doing today. So what does it mean to be a Sloanie? Over the course of this podcast, you'll hear from guests who are making a difference in their community, including our own very important one here at MIT Sloan.  I’m your host, Christopher Reichert. 

My guest today is Ohad Tzur, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Revenue Officer at Kahoona. Welcome, Ohad! 

Ohad Tzur: Thank you so much for having me here, Chris. 

Christopher Reichert: Great to have you. So before we start, let me give some background on you to our audience. Ohad has 15 years of online media and SaaS experience in both large corporations and startup environments. He's a 2012 MIT Sloan graduate and a military veteran I assume in the Israeli Defense Force. Am I right about that? 

Ohad Tzur: That's correct, in IDF. 

Christopher Reichert: After MIT, Ohad joined Google's channel partnership organization as a manager and left as the global head. He then joined Google's AI partner Ezoic as a VP of business organization and lead the machine learning startup to a successful $33 Million Series A round, which is great. Congratulations.  

Ohad Tzur: Thank you.  

Christopher Reichert: That journey led him to co-found Kahoona with a mission to bridge the gap between user privacy and audience data. So that's a bit of a background. Where should we begin? I mean, did I miss anything in your background? 

Ohad Tzur: No, no. That's a fantastic sort of journey throughout my career. You know, I was really born as a teenager into the nineties, that first generation that was using the internet in Israel, getting excited about the dial ups of those years, if you remember playing very basic online games with friends and getting excited every time you could chat with someone who's not in the same room. You know how amazing that was. 

Christopher Reichert: I do remember the awful modem squeal and the satisfaction when your modem actually connected. 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah. That was incredible back in the day, and, you know, one thing that really, I, I took from that time, I was always fascinated by the potential. We're talking very early days, this is even pre-Google and you know, what's the potential of connecting with people in other places of the globe where today it seems obvious with one ping, but really, I was kind of born into that, and I think that kind of drove a lot of my interest into digital media and the advancements of how technologies can impact business, especially in the digital world. 

Christopher Reichert: If I could pick a theme in your career, I would say sales stands out, in particular digital sales, so and I suspect that from your perch within Google and then Ezoic, you probably had some insight into the threat and opportunity of the changing privacy environment. So, tell us about that journey and how you traversed to arrive here at co-founding Kahoona. 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, for sure. So, you know let me take you through a journey that maybe started I'd say maybe 8 or 10 years ago where, you're right, I was always the side of partnerships in sales in tech organizations. As I was working with various types of partners and clients of Google, I noticed this conversation that started around privacy. If you recall somewhere around 2012, I believe it was the right to be forgotten, that started in Europe and basically allowed users to choose to opt out of storing data, and you've kind of see this progress, you know, at my time at Ezoic, I've dealt with quite a few publishers who were struggling to understand GDPR regulations, and then of course came CCPA in California, and, you know, that was the beginning of what we look at as a paradigm shift. 

Christopher Reichert: Yeah, I mean, I guess the change has been signaled for a while between apple's IDFA change, the identify for advertisers and then Google's pledge to remove third party cookies from Chrome starting in 2022, so it's got to be in place pretty much by now, and I guess McKinsey also reported that 80% of many publishers ad revenue is third party cookie dependent, but at the same time, getting rid of third party cookies doesn't necessarily increase privacy as many have reported. So there's this push and pull as to what is the right answer. So is that something that Kahoona is trying to address? 

Ohad Tzur: Correct. Correct. And just before I kind of touch on these points at the time, and, and we can talk a little bit about kind of what drove me to decide on the entrepreneurial journey. I was introduced to my two co-founders, Gal Rapoport and Alon Ashkenasi, two graduates of the Technion in Israel who have very technical backgrounds in machine learning and AI. And they had brought in an interesting technology with the sense of trying to solve for the privacy sort of opportunities that were created with technology, basically saying, how can we build and bring new technologies and unique approaches to help mitigate this gap that we talked about earlier on? 

So, what happens is, here's sort of the following notion that we have on this. The striving towards privacy makes a lot of sense and to be honest, is a valuable initiative started by the regulatory sort of arms and then continues by following of the big tech. 

However, it, there, there's two sides of this. On one hand, how do we protect users from not having sort of a wild west, as we call it, of data existing online and on the other side, how do we help businesses thrive because they need that data for personalization and for targeting purposes, and honestly, just to survive? All the solutions that we've sort of looked in in the market are, are solving maybe a portion of that problem. We haven't found a path that is fully sort of neutral and is really help both sides thrive and create a much more healthier and sustainable digital ecosystem. That's where we believe Kahoona came in. I mean that stat of saying 80% of digital ad revenue touches third party cookies is an extraordinary figure, and to be honest, if you, if you actually add in the other aspects of how revenue is generated, you'll see that the impact is even higher.  

You remove the third-party cookies and you basically remain with a void of targeting is not anymore targeting and personalization is not going be personal, and it's very interesting on the personalization front, we're noticing this new trend in discussion called the privacy personalization paradox.  

What is that?  

Well, users from surveys are saying, we want personalized experience. We actually, we sort of resent and we want to move away from brands who give us sort of false information or false products and services that are not relevant to us. On the other hand, we don't want to share information because we don't know what that information will be used for, so that, that's basically that the personalization privacy paradox of, how do we create a better ecosystem to just enable that trust? I think it all goes back to trust on both sides communicating better together and understanding each other to create that environment. 

Christopher Reichert: Well, there has certainly been a lot of blow back on the invasion of privacy online.  On the one hand, we want relevant search results, and a responsive online experience, but on the other hand it feels, for want of a better word, creepy. Just before this interview, I took the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Panopticlick test and I’m 99% identifiable despite my best efforts at some sort of privacy. So, I’m not sure what people are expected to do without great onerous lifts. 

Ohad Tzur: Exactly. And, and you know, I think you, you touched upon maybe some of the key themes here that personally identifiable information is topic number one, but I think more than that is the fact that you are not feeling in control. And perhaps we're all as users not in control of what's being done with this data.  

And why is that? Because, let's be honest, none of us go and read the entirety of a T&C all the way to the dot to understand what is done with our data. In fact, if you issued a report for credit score to purchase a home in the U.S., then your data is probably sold elsewhere, because that's part of the business model for some of the companies around there, right? And so, I think what we are sort of envisioning as a vision to this future is what if technology can help us generate the right amount of information and profiling that the businesses can use without putting the user in a difficult space of, well, we need to identify you and we also need to sort of follow you and, and reach out to you. And that's what we've built at Kahoona. Really, in short, it's an interoperable platform. 

Christopher Reichert: I have this visual in my head of when you throw a pebble into the water, the ripples go out and eventually dissipate and mingle with others, and so you make your presence known, and you make your request, but it eventually dissipates and disappears in some sort of half-life of two hours, two days, whatever it might be. 

Ohad Tzur: That's correct. Right. And that's why I think this may be became the topic of for, in order to personalize your experience, it doesn't mean that you have to share your entire identity. And I think that where the borders were unclear for businesses on what they can ask for, the answer of just, let's get all the information doesn't fit in this case, and I don't think is aligned with the future of where we're heading to.  

I think what we do need to have is what is the specific information in this context of what you're searching that can help you make your experience better, again, without putting you at risk? And what, what is what I mean when I say risk? Well, the reality is once your information is tracked and stored, you don't know again, where the future of matching and where that would be. 

So if someone has your email, there's another sort of API somewhere that has an additional information about your browsing history, and once there's a leak there that could be sort of jeopardize you if there's medical records or, or other information that you don't necessarily want to share. And so I, I think a much better future for us would be that situation of, can businesses generate much more scalable amount of data and information and profiles and users without that personally identifiable portion of that information? And to us, that's basically a bridge between what users would want and how they would protect their privacy, and of course, how businesses would thrive.  

Because for us, that's important as well. We're not here just to promote privacy. In fact, we are promoting a concept called digital responsibility, which means it's not just users coming to regulators and saying we need change. It's actually businesses stepping forward and saying, this is how we want to act on behalf of our users. When we build products, when we build services, we want to take into consideration what we need to be as responsible towards these users, and we're seeing the examples you gave before on kind of Apple moving towards that direction, and Google announcing the deprecation of the third-party cookie is into that direction. Now the question is like, what other solutions and, and how would businesses leverage other solutions in this context? 

Christopher Reichert: Well, I think many top companies are taking it seriously in the absence of the best solution. Right now there is a lot of marketing efforts to point the finger elsewhere. 

Ohad Tzur: These organizations, let's just be honest, all of them are eventually they have their own interests and are working towards, you know, their duties towards shareholders and towards their growth and profit over time. So, so they, this is not just sort of saving the industry, it's actually paving the road for them to thrive and, Apple is positioned well on that, given that they control the platform itself, right? The operating system, the mobile phone. Google, the browser may be in the context of search, but we don't believe that it's just the big tech that would be leading this. If anything, I think this opportunity and the change that is happening on privacy gives more power back to the many, to the publishers, to the e-commerce sites to say, Look, users come to our sites. So this data, this what's called first party data, it's owned by us can be leveraged by us using solutions and still help protect that those users today, they don't have control on that data because third party cookies exist, right? That's kind of how we, we see the vision and the path of how Kahoona can help businesses thrive in the future. 

Christopher Reichert: So, to expand on that. It sounds like Kahoona is positioning itself as a neutral arbiter, so to speak, of information that's parsed out to other sites that are generating their own first party cookies to enhance the experience at their end.  

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, mostly, right, right. It's, it's a platform to really help businesses generate first party data. Now, just by definition when we say generate first party data, that data it cannot be shared elsewhere. Think about this as the internet would be siloed islands where each island is its domain, and the data you generate on that island stays within that island in context, and that's where it could be used. And the thing that basically businesses appreciate about that is that it's really helping protect their conversations and engagement with their users. and it's, again, it's not related to one of the, of the big tech companies, which gives a little bit more of that proliferation and opportunities for businesses to use a different solution. 

Christopher Reichert: So, at Sloan we often hear the express, BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I must say, Kahoona sounds like a BHAG to me! 

Ohad Tzur: It's absolutely that, you know, as a small startup kind of really from, from nothing, from an idea and a slide to become a company that actually has a chance to have that impact and move the needle on…You know, I, I see this, this is not just moving the needle on small things and specific sort of issues with cookies, this is actually sort of creating the infrastructure for the next version of the internet I don't know if we can call it, is Web 4.0 or, or the next variation of how internet will be seen. We believe that we have a shot list in impacting or paving some path is for other players to, to come and impact that road, and it is a big and hairy goal for us to solve. 

Christopher Reichert: Well, either way, it sounds disruptive, both from an economic model for for companies on how they've been harvesting data and, and raising revenue for themselves, and how they use that data to how we as users interact and set our expectations for both ease of use and privacy at the same time. 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, that's, that's kind of where we're heading now. Here's what's really interesting, going to maybe some of my personal story. When I graduated from Sloan, one of the key questions from some of my peers and colleagues and friends in classes, is this the right time for you to start a company? And my answer was absolutely no. I was very aware that I didn't believe that I have enough of that experience, maybe not even the confidence to do it. But as you go through your career journey, this happened about 10 years later, I felt that I had sort of the round find the right foundation to have an impact as a founder, to raise money, to help set the right notion of execution in a company. Also, the right financial stability, which is important to discuss as well, and so in 2021 when I partnered with Gal and Alon I traveled to Israel. This happened last summer. We started to work together, and really a few weeks later on, we had a term sheet and really started to build Kahoona. 

Christopher Reichert: Did your Sloan education help you sort of unpack that model and balance the financial, personal, emotional, strategic elements before launching? 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, I think it was, you know, it was the great foundation for that. Specifically, a few things that I really, I think took a lot from Sloan is the action learning. I came to Sloan to gain more experience and exposure and really insights into sort of big world problems, big companies, you know, global problems that occur, and the Action Learning approach. For those who don't know, Action Learning is a program or maybe an umbrella of programs, that are pushing students not only to talk about the theories and solving cases in class, that's beneficial, but really taking much more of a hands-on approach, working with companies on real problems that they're trying to do.  

I have to say, maybe I this is where I went all in on Action Learning. I think I've done three or four Action Learning courses, and then actually hosted a few of the Action Learning courses as a manager in my, in my companies both at Google and Ezoic, and soon at Kahoona as well, by the way. I learned a lot and took a lot from these cases because it really taught me.  

And then the second thing is really more expertise. For example, entrepreneurial finance gives you the first tools that you need into what is a term sheet, how do you work with investors, how do you design cap tables properly? So there is a lot of experience that I've gained from those courses, but I wouldn't replace sort of the actual sort of work experience after Sloan, which I needed at the time in order to gain that confidence and get to that place where I felt this is the right time for me to found a company. And of course, you know, choosing the right partners is very, very important and honing in on a very important problem, a critical problem was maybe the drivers for the success of Kahoona thus far. 

Christopher Reichert: So, tell us about your Israeli Defense Force, IDF, experience. For those who aren’t familiar, I guess we could call it an obligatory two-year public service period for young Israelis. 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, it's even more, it's three years, or if you choose to be an officer, like a commander, it's four years. I usually joke around when I meet investors that in my previous professional life, I got paid, not much, to jump off of airplanes, and that they all kind of like pretty shocked on that.  

Look, in a very young age, we're, you know, obligated and we're contributing to the defense of, of Israel, right? Being in our geopolitical situation, we just need everyone there to contribute. And I really think it's part of what builds you as a character and also that love to Israel.  

So I was selected to be a paratrooper. The definition of that, it's actually battalion that is called 101, and it's part of what we call elite infantry teams that would do reconnaissance and, and defend Israel's borders on wherever we should be there. 

Look, there, there's a lot of the character and leadership traits that I've developed through that time, whether it's the how to motivate a team, whether it's the mission orientation, detail orientation, and really sort of planning and execution. I think a lot of me was built during that period. And it also kind of reflected and impacted the way that I managed teams in my career. Obviously, different context of military, much less commanding and much more motivating and coaching. But a lot of sort of my personal traits were built back then. 

Christopher Reichert: So, after high school you go into the Israeli Defense Force, which is both very controlling and forming, but also has a lot of uncertainty and responsibility. And then you go to Google after Sloan, which also, from my understanding, has a high degree of ambiguity. Tell us about both of those experiences and how that shaped you.  

Ohad Tzur: There's a book called Is-Resilience, which is basically talking about resilience and, and what that mean in the Israeli context. And I think that's maybe one of the things that investors like in Israeli founders is their tenaciousness if you want, or just the ability to thrive in, in difficult situations or under a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty. 

Google was a fantastic experience for me and really laid the foundation of my experience later on with, with partnerships and sales. And especially I think, you know, the connection that would make between these two is a lot of these strategy frameworks that I've learned at Sloan and insights came into fruition or into the execution on the Google front of thinking, not just on okay, a simple Excel with numbers, but really the strategy of how it's impacting players in the market.  

One thing I, I can tell you at Google, at every level of role that you're doing, you're thinking about scale. If you're part of a program, it has impact on sometimes beyond just the monetary value of billions of dollars. It impacts, you know, hundreds or a hundred of thousands of customers and potentially sort of billions of users and you really have to take that in consideration on decision making that that occur sort of when you talk about your strategies with different leaderships and teams.  

But really I think, you know, Google taught me a lot about management styles and the focus on sort of growing employees in the company that really wants you to thrive there for the long term and look at your, instead of looking at as a day-to-day job, looking at as like, this is a place where I want to develop and grow. And they do honestly allow for those opportunities. They used to be, I think they changed a little bit, they used to be called the 20% project where they would allow engineers to kind of work on, on their own project as part of the company, but really they offer a platform of different, whether it's courses or just the ability to take some time to do, like think about this as a mini-internship where you're off to another office to work on a project for them, then you return to your team. 

There's just a lot of different ways for you to continue and grow, and even sort of the internal mobility of you know, one day you're interested in some project, but after a few years, I think you kind of got it. And then you want to move over to something new. Google really allows that and fortunately enough, they have the resources to really build careers and career journeys. They call this sort of the “from a ladder to a jungle gym” right? So that's kind of the jungle gym at Google where you can just move around to things that are interesting for you. 

Christopher Reichert: That's a great image. So if I have my dates right, you started Kahoona towards the end of the pandemic. What was the motivation to make the leap? 

Ohad Tzur: Just when the pandemic was opening. In fact, that was, I think one of the drivers is I felt, look, there's opportunities. I'm seeing businesses open and there's this change for a lot of innovation. Is this the right time? And I was looking at a few ideas and a few partners that to work with. And really the introduction to Gal and Alon sort of made a lot of sense for me. One, because of my background at Sloan and at Google and in the industry and what I could have brought to the table. And just this combination of, you know, great Israeli technology that could be brought to the U.S. and to global markets, and to you as well, to solve a critical problem. And you know, we were just in the right time of fundraising as well, and managed to close our $4.5 million seed round earlier in 2020. 

Christopher Reichert: That's great. That gives you a bit of a runway. So how do you first approach this challenge, this problem and who are your first customers? 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, so, you know, this is very, very interesting, when you kind of think about an idea, and maybe this is some of the tips that I'd love to share with kind of new founders and entrepreneurs, deep diving into a problem is, is one area that I would invest quite a lot of time on. And, and to be very kind of honest and frank, I've worked on a few ideas in the past where this maybe was the fact of why it didn't sort of turn into a company and why it didn't sort of proceed with it is because when I looked into the problem, it was either unclear or what's called a “nice to have problem.” Meaning if we had a solution, it would be nice. I'm not sure we're going to pay for it, not critical for me.  

When we really honed in and looked on the problem of privacy, we understood that there's a big opportunity here because this change of the absence of data that would exist because of the deprecation of the third-party cookie, sort of Apple coming in and, you know Apple Safari and Firefox even today don't have those third-party cookies. 

We understood that there's quite a lot of information that is missing for the businesses to thrive. Can we actually contribute to the privacy notion and trend and help businesses solve this problem from their standpoint? And really what kind of kicked us off is Gal and Alon, my founders in Israel, you know, we don't really look at when startups kind of come to come to life in Israel. We don't look at Israel as really necessarily a market, but it's a great sort of launchpad to test out business models, to really revamp your product, to understand what the business models and what kind of the dynamics would be, what integrations are needed. That's a fantastic place to do it. And so fairly early on, we had managed to do a close down of partnership with IDX who is the big consortium of publishers in Israel, and then with one of the top CPG brands, I won't mention in them today. But the pilot that we're currently doing with them is expected to be launched soon, really, to validate our models in our need and there is a lot of excitement. And honestly, when we talk with different partners in the U.S. as well, and we have a lot of supporters that are joining us, it's because we're solving a problem that matters to them, and they understand why the future really would depend on solutions such as Kahoona. 

Christopher Reichert: Interesting. So you mentioned Action Learning as something you've taken from Sloan and kind of incorporated into your, your work practices. Are there any other classes or professors that you think back on or reflect on that you carry with you? 

Ohad Tzur: Yes, absolutely. So really under Action Learning, I'd say this is maybe known to be the flagship course at Sloan, but G-Lab, which is what's called Global Lab, is a course that you are paired or teamed up with a few of your colleagues, and you're sent somewhere in the world to solve a problem for a company. And it was exciting for us. The four of us were sent to Argentina to work with a small startup, was trying to access the U.S. and the, the idea of our project was we're the strategy consultants to help with that go-to market approach, and that is a fantastic learning. I mean, beyond the you know, the extra fun that you get by traveling to a different country with your colleagues, it's really, you know, working on a critical problem for a company, and, and you have that responsibility. I'm not here just to have fun, and this is not just a learning experience from side, I actually can help them achieve their goal. So that was one.  

And then the other course that used to be called Market Lab, the new form of that is EM Lab. that was a course that we were paired with companies to solve problems. This is mostly in the U.S. so this is not sort of in other countries. But what I liked about that is, again, understanding how to work with a team on a strategy issue on, you know, a limited time, you have to come with a recommendation and you want to have that as an impactful, what's really important, kind of what I cherished from Market Lab and EM Lab, I thought that the interaction between the Sloan students and the company was so important that I went on to host this while I was actually at Google. 

Luckily, we managed to submit a project on time, and there was a lot of interest in working with us on the Google front. And when I was at Ezoic, Google's partners in the AI space, we've done the same thing. I'm happy that I get to sort of collaborate on more opportunities with the Sloan teams. And, you know, even with Kahoona, you know, me being a Sloan graduate and one of the founders, I'd love to see more of the, interact more of the Sloan community and see more Sloanies involved in such startups. 

Christopher Reichert: Well, I know you’ve expressed an interest in Sloan graduates or prospective student reaching are you to you so we’ll make sure your details are in the notes. But, what about a do-over a class you missed or wish you had wish you had taken? 

Ohad Tzur: You know what? Funnily enough, I was not in the mind of what's called finance. People said oh, man, it's rigorous, it's going to be interesting, it's going to be exciting, and at the time, I was really heavily focused on a lot of entrepreneurship related classes as well as marketing. I decided to skip that one, and thinking about this back, I think, I missed some skills that could be could be relevant. So, I know despite the fact that it was lots of work, I remember my friends sitting very late nights on some of the exercises. I would definitely take that. 

Christopher Reichert: So, here we are. A decade out of Sloan, and by many measures you could be viewed as a successful person, at Google, Ezoic, and now your funded startup. But, I’m curious, what is your definition of success? 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, you know, that's a really great question. And I'm part of the guild that would tell you that success is a very personal definition. I would never sort of impose my journey and say, “This is successful” for someone else who's doing something else. I think it really correlates and relates eventually to your happiness and your fulfillment. What is it that you or someone or a graduate student wants to really do with their career? Is becoming a founder, your definition of success? To me, I have my definition, which I'll share in a second, but it's really important to kind of maybe define your own personal route and journey to success. By the way, being a founder is great for a lot of a variety of reasons, but for those who don't know, we all see sort of the glamor LinkedIn and all the success. 

This is a very hard course. It's dealing with ambiguity and problems day in, day out. At least in the first few years, there's limited success that you can sort of point to and celebrate until you actually become big and, and make it big time. 

Look, to me success would really becoming sort of having my own freedom and autonomy. And if you ask me, you know, what's your perception on kind of wealth and becoming wealthy? It's not the materialistic aspect as much as is create your own autonomy and freedom and flexibility to control your destiny and do what you really love. And you know, at times, I have a lovely family, my wife, Adee, and Uve and Tom, my children, I love to spend as much as time as I can with them. So having that opportunity to, you know, be more involved, engaged, makes me happy. And so, I define that as success, and of course, I want to have my sort of entire future really with that autonomy and flexibility to make decisions. 

Christopher Reichert: And as you were looking at graduate school, or business school, how did you decide to attend Sloan? 

Ohad Tzur: Oh my God, that's a great question. You know, I came to AdMIT weekend and I got this feeling of scrappiness of this is very innovative. People are not necessarily in suits, they're not being very formal. They're trying to be a little bit more sort of down to earth. And for me, that, that meant a lot. That's kind of my type in a way. I really wanted to have a school that is known to have a global brand and can really touch different sort of countries. And I knew about the impact that MIT Sloan had. I was in touch with some of the clubs that Sloan had globally, as well as in Israel, and I was convinced that it's probably one of my top decisions. So, I was extremely proud and excited when I got the offer from Sloan. 

Christopher Reichert: That's great. So, we’ve talked about success, but I'm curious about how you handle setbacks and how you’ve reacted to them, whether it was at Google or your startup or elsewhere in life. How did you pause, reflect, and recover? 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah, that's a great question. Look, I actually think that you learn much more from your, you called it nicely “setbacks”. You can say failures. It's okay as well, right? I think that most of my growth in my career happened because of failures. And look, we can always point out in any external factor, but what I've learned is there's a lot of things you can't control, but what is it that you could have done better in a situation? And not in everything is in your sort of responsibility, but in a lot of cases, that's actually where you grow.  

So, I'll just, you know, give you some examples. I learned about a concept called situational leadership. Situational leadership basically means as a manager, when you have a team, to me, for example, Google was a great environment there, you have different types of people on the team in different levels, right? 

There's a saying, say, “Hey, meet them where they are”, which is, you know, you can't apply your leadership style to your team as me and the team. It's how you applied it to Jen and James and Michael individually, separately. And you really have to put a lot of effort on to think intentionally, how do you manage them and what types of, of managing do they need? For example, maybe Jen is, you know really on top of her game, she's progressing very nicely and she actually needs more autonomy. So there's only need for a check-in, but really give more room and give more responsibilities for Jen to grow. But Mike needs more support and assistance in helping. And there's more check-ins and maybe a little bit more, I wouldn't call it micromanaging, but more of that sort of structure that is needed to do so. 

I didn't, what I just discussed sounds very good, but I didn't have it initially. And I had my sort of failures as a manager of how to manage employees in a much better way for them to succeed or for them to find the role that was much better for them, and I learned this over time.  

I'd say that another sort of takeaway to answer your question is really about feedback and reflection, which I think people not sure if they do enough. I mean, feedback is always difficult to hear, but if you have the trusted people around you that could give that feedback, this is one thing that is basically giving you awareness on potentially areas that you're blind to. We all have these areas, by the way.  

I've decided to partner up with a founder coach. Her name is Ilana Golan, and she's kind of known in the Bay Area. And I particularly wanted to work with her because I'm known to be opinionated, and I really made decision my career alone. And if I can reflect on those decisions, some were great and excellent in helping me, and some were extremely poor.  Who can help when you have sort of mind of, I don't know if I'm in the right path? You have that coach that you trust that can give you some feedback and their perspective.  

And then reflection, it's, you know, everyone should block some time just maybe an hour a week to really think, just think, not do any work, but think about what do I think about this week? How am I thinking about my goals and prioritization? Am I in the right sort of path? Maybe what questions do I have to myself about this week? And that's almost like a process that you can help develop yourself as you move forward and really reflect on things that you could have done better.  

Just have that humility to understand, we're just all human beings. LinkedIn really doesn't reflect what happens. Like, it's mostly successes there, but we all have our successes and life failures, right? I don't know anyone who doesn't have and honestly, I wouldn't think it's authentic if you tell me that there are no failures. And so that's an opportunity just to kind of between reflection and asking for feedback is where you can do better. 

Christopher Reichert: Those are great tips. Well, what about advice for prospective students who are considering Sloan or business school in general? 

Ohad Tzur: Yeah! I had a fantastic sort of experience at Sloan. I have a few points here and I'll kind of summarize them. So about MIT specifically, one thing that took me some time to realize is the matter of prioritization. Sloan and MIT as a community offers you way beyond anything you can intercept… way beyond what you can digest. And the reason is, it's because it's a really interesting aspect, right?  

Between student events and club events and different industry events and company that presented in different courses, I found myself drowning. That's the word after two months in Sloan, I was about to sort of collapse. And the reason is because I was trying to take everything I was interested in, it could be sports analytics and strategy and consulting and tech, and in different aspects of everything, and basically every company that came to campus, and I understood, that's not sustainable.  

So prioritization is something that you learn to do at Sloan, and you will have to learn this throughout your career as well. Have a strategy, where are you aiming, where do you want to go, what types of companies would you want to invest in? What type of expertise do you want to build? And what type of knowledge do you want to build? Because that's also going to be important if you're recruiting to companies.  

When I made those decisions fairly early on, I decided that I'm not going to go the finance route, but I definitely want to go in tech. I became much more knowledgeable and involved with MIT's Tech Club. And it was, honestly, I think this was one of the experiences that helped my recruiting to Google.   

I think the other thing is that clarity on the path. I wrote in my application to Sloan that I will be at Google, which I found was hilarious, that I wrote, that's sort of my dream. And I got to that. And, and what's interesting is if you, if you ask Ohad who just entered Sloan, tell me about your sort of yourself and your career. I don't have much to say. I have great military experience, and I only have two years of experience in a startup, however, that startup dealt with online media and advertising, and so when Google came on campus, it was not very difficult for me to show my skills and my interest in what they're doing. 

Number two, it's the network.  

Someone made this analogy, which I think is, or just this example, which I thought was very interesting. Some students come to Sloan and they're super excited about a professor. Oh my God, I get to sit in class with Professor X. Here's the thing. You'll meet that professor potentially for a month or a quarter or a semester, and maybe you'll keep in touch, but maybe not. What about those people around you in class? That network goes for you for the next 20 to 50 to, you know, how many years you want it to go with you, and that is such a valuable network.  

I don't know, or you know, I probably invested a lot of networking, but I think I would invest much more on getting to know my classmates. Everyone is so rich in terms of experiences and knowledge that it, it truly does make sense to build those relationships and see where you can help them and, and how they can help you. 

And you never know, you know, you connect with a classmate. I, we just had our 10-year reunion a few months ago, I took the chance to actually reach out to people on Zoom and connect with people that I haven't chatted with for a very long while, and how do you know, you know, all of a sudden there's opportunities on the table. They heard about Kahoona, some that want to get involved, Some of them are looking for opportunities, and I really suggest and give the tip to invest in your network.  

And then finally, it's just, look, MIT has lots of resources. You just have to be very proactive. Don't wait for things to come to you. If you are proactive, you will get anything you want from MIT, from mentors, to advisors, to funds, to recruiting opportunities, to meeting professors, and again, I think people build a whole career just on getting to interact with that great community of MIT. And so really, those are the key tips that I want to give to coming students. 

Christopher Reichert: Those are great tips, so prioritize, the network, the community, and … 

Ohad Tzur: Just being proactive. Just don't wait for things to come to you, just initiate conversations. By the way, if you're intending to be a founder in the future, I think that's one of the things that makes the difference. It's not sitting in your desk and waiting for things to happen. It's reaching out to anyone, you know, it's going to meet people. It's being very engaged in the industry, you know, connecting with alumni podcasts and talking with anyone you can in order to bring yourself out there. So, you know, being proactive is just a, a concept that you want to adopt in your career anyway. 

Christopher Reichert: Excellent. So, I want to thank my guest today, Ohad Tzur, Class of 2012, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Revenue Officer at Kohoona. So that's K-A-H-O-O-N-A.IO, Thank you joining us on this episode of Sony Sloanies Talking with Sloanies. 

Ohad Tzur: Thank you so much, Christopher, for hosting me. 

Christopher Reichert:  Sloanies Talking with Sloanies is produced by the Office of External relations at MIT Sloan School of Management. You can subscribe to this podcast by visiting our website, mitsloan.mit.edu/alumni, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Support for this podcast comes in part from the Sloan Annual Fund, which provides essential flexible funding to ensure that our community can pursue excellence. Make your gift today by visiting giving.mit.edu/sloan.  

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