Dany Fishel – Co-Founder and CEO of Rounds

Focus on your users and what they can gain from the product rather than what you think they want. Understanding what your users really want and moving quickly to develop the product further based off of it is key to growing a business.

Dany Fishel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Rounds. A vanguard in internet business development and online marketing, Fishel previously co-founded the strategic web consulting practice KwaKwa, and successfully managed projects for innovative startups in Israel’s Startup Nation. He also managed both contextual and behavioral advertising for 888 Holdings Public Limited Company, one of the world’s most popular online gaming entertainment companies, and was responsible for generating millions of dollars of yearly revenue. His expertise includes developing new revenue models, forging strategic partnerships and media landscape thought-leadership. In 2012, Dany was selected alongside co-founder Ilan Leibovich in the prestigious “40 under 40” awards. Fishel has been a member of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute’s New Media Advisory Board since 2011. He is also a decorated army sergeant, having commanded an elite paratroopers’ unit in the Israel Defense Forces from 1998-2001. Fishel received a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. He lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and three sons.

Where did the idea for Rounds come from?

When we started the company, the original concept was a speed dating site – we called ourselves 6rounds. We believed that anyone who went to a speed-dating event knew how awkward and uncomfortable the whole thing was – our idea was to provide activities and games as an icebreaker for would-be couples, so that even if there was no romantic chemistry during the first few minutes of interaction they would at least have something to do together. During the development process, we realized our vision and concept of hanging out around shared activities could be attractive to users outside the speed-dating community. We then moved away from dating and into an area where we could provide a fun real-time communication experience for everyone. When we launched Rounds, it was a place to connect friends in a true-to-life fun interactive experience.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wouldn’t say there’s such a thing as a typical day. My day generally has a variety of meetings and tasks from interviewing potential hires (which is always a priority at Rounds), management meetings, maintaining relationships with investors and more. Although my days are varied, there is one constant that really helps ensure the rest of the day falls into place – our daily stand up management meeting. We go over all the priorities for the day and any issues that needs to be addressed which helps us set up the day right and ensure we’re on track. This also prioritizes the day for the team and allows me to deal with everything that helps the rest of the team maximize their work.

The way I make my day productive is by ensuring I keep my meetings as short and as efficient as possible. I tend to answer the vast majority of emails in the early morning or late at night to ensure that during the day, my team and daily duties have my full attention. I am fortunate to have a strong co-founder and an amazing management team that I can trust which adds a lot to my productivity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

There are two very important things in making ideas come to life, the first is figuring out the quickest route to success; it’s important that we’ve defined the right success metrics to really validate our decisions. The second is about having a strong team to execute those ideas. It’s vital to have a team that is in line with the plan of action and has the skills to carry it out. At Rounds we have a very strong management team. Every person plays a key role in executing the ideas we envision and conveying it to the necessary people to make it happen.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Connecting people. The whole evolution that we’ve witnessed especially in the last few years of communication is exciting. There is a shift in asynchronous and synchronous interactions and finding a better way to connect people means a lot – it is the most magical and interesting part of our Rounds journey.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Scheduling time in my calendar for tasks that need priority and also time to myself to reasses my day and take care of the things that need attention.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

As an entrepreneur, keeping the product slim and staying focused is key but it is sometimes very hard to do. Starting small with a more focused concept and execution would be something I would do differently.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I’m always waist deep in the hiring process. As an entrepreneur, it is best to be involved in the hiring process as this can really make or break a company. Our hiring process is built in a way that at least six people meet candidates, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes. Making sure there’s a good cultural and professional fit is crucial. You can have the best technically fitting candidate, but if he doesn’t fit in with the company culture, or his potential teammates, it can be fatal. Once you’ve found the right person, make sure you initiate them into the company in the right way. Give them and the rest of the team an easy transition, and put procedures in place in order to streamline the adaptation time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Focus on your users and what they can gain from the product rather than what you think they want. Understanding what your users really want and moving quickly to develop the product further based off of it is key to growing a business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

As an entrepreneur, you have to make tough decisions all the time. You have to be decisive and agile while recognizing the right time to change strategy, cut products that aren’t working and shift gears. For us, we didn’t identify the need to transition early enough to mobile. Although this is a vital step, the more important part we were able to do in a timely manner was identifying our competitive advantage and understand where we could bring an added value to our users. When we realized this we quickly switched 100% of the company to this goal and overcame it by understanding where the technology was going and planning a fast MVP. Although we made the decision a bit late in the game, we were able to catch up and even be first to market and ahead of the trend because the DNA of the company and its culture is about executing quickly. My advice for entrepreneurs is to not only be able to identify a change that needs to be made, but be able to assess your competitive advantage in order to adapt to change quickly.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Professionally – We recently sent all our team members on a team building exercise called the “Escape room” (where you need to find a way to get out of the room in less than an hour using clues). It was a great bonding experience splitting the team into mixed groups of four (different departments in the company) and helped the team members learn a lot about each other’s capabilities and strengths – it was really a lot of fun.

Personally – The best $100 I spent was taking my wife to a quiet dinner. As a father of three, a husband, a co-founder, and a CEO, it’s easy to feel like life is pulling you in 100 different directions. Finding a balance in life is such a delicate matter and you need to make sure that the important things in life will get your devotion. Those are usually the moments in life that give you the right perspective and the energies to continue to grow. So something simple such as taking my wife out to a quiet dinner for just the two of us was definitely the best $100 I’ve spent lately.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I have a Mac and am a huge fan of Alfred. For communication in the company we use Hipchat and for task management we use JIRA. These are great tools that help us stay on top of everything that goes on and really ensures that our communication and priorities are organized.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox is an oldy but a goody. It takes the theory of constraints and gives great advice on operations management, bottlenecks and ways to put these tips into practice in real life. I think this book is great for any aspiring entrepreneur and is full of pointers that will steer them in the right direction when starting their businesses.