Yaron Shapira, co-founder and CEO at 8fig, is an entrepreneur at heart. He has founded multiple successfully acquired startups, turning his interests and passions into profitable business ideas that fill consumer needs.
Through his extensive work with payment systems, content creation, and the supply chain, Yaron noticed that small eCommerce businesses were struggling to grow without the expertise provided by a CFO. He recognized the need for an AI CFO that would give eCommerce sellers the serious financial tools they required to take their businesses to the next level, providing both the funding they needed to grow and the means to properly manage it. This led him to co-found 8fig in 2020, with the goal of democratizing ecommerce and providing small eCommerce businesses with the resources they need to grow.
Today 8fig is an all-in-one eCommerce operating system that provides online sellers with the tools and support they need to focus on growing their businesses. Since small eCommerce businesses lack an executive team, they often struggle to make decisions related to cash flow and planning, decisions that would normally be handled by an experienced CFO, CMO, and COO. 8fig gives them an AI CXO as an answer to this need, allowing them to make better financial decisions for growth. 8fig also offers sellers cash flow-friendly, flexible funding plans designed to continuously infuse their businesses with the working capital they need to reach their full potential.
Where did the idea for 8fig come from?
I started off my career building products on various engineering teams. I was part of the founding team at a company called Check, where we did bill payments through a mobile app. This was in the early days of the iPhone – we were around the 500th application on the iStore. This was very early on, when making mobile payments was like science fiction.
When Check was acquired by Intuit, I went on to found a travel content publisher, which later evolved into a travel ecommerce brand with content at its core. I then co-founded a company called Qlarium with the same partners with whom I would later start 8fig. At Qlarium, we underwrote supply chain risks. We worked on this for a few years and acquired a lot of knowledge and experience surrounding supply chains, which is very unique for engineers. Most people aren’t particularly familiar with supply chains, especially not engineers.
Our background in payment systems, content creation, and supply chains enabled us to truly understand the number one problem for ecommerce sellers, who are almost completely dependent on their supply chains. We saw that their main problem was their ability to grow. Their ability to grow is mainly focused on the fact that they are very small and lean businesses. Many are run by a solopreneur, or by just two or three people. While this is good for keeping costs down, these businesses lack the expertise brought by an executive team. Without a CFO, COO, or CMO, for example, they struggle to manage cash flow, business operations, and marketing decisions, which prevents them from becoming 8-figure sellers. They often have trouble making the right decisions and plans for their growth. And, they have a shortage of working capital.
So we created 8fig, which is exactly the solution. Our aim was, and continues to be, to democratize ecommerce by giving these small businesses the tools they need to succeed so that eCommerce will continue to be led by solo entrepreneurs and small businesses. In regular commerce, in brick-and-mortar stores, we saw big brands completely take over. You can no longer find small independent stores in commercial malls and prime city locations. We don’t want this to happen with eCommerce. 8fig was created with this goal in mind, to help these businesses make the right executive decisions based on the vast amount of data that we collected. We essentially provide them with a virtual CXO (i.e. CFO, CMO & COO) to manage their cash flow and help them make better decisions, in addition to offering a flexible financing solution to remedy their lack of working capital. Combined with our experience in content creation to help them drive consumers to their websites, and our background in payments, we had just what was needed to create 8fig.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually start my mornings reading, whether it’s news sites or social networks – a lot of sources that are not necessarily directly related to our industry. This helps widen my horizons a little bit further from my daily challenges. Usually in the morning I have dozens of emails, Slack messages, WhatsApps, and calls with my daily issues. But starting the day with something else helps me think a bit more broadly and import ideas from other industries.
How do you bring ideas to life?
In the previous question, we discussed how I bring in new ideas from different sources. After that, the work is to try to imagine how a similar idea can be implemented in our industry. It’s not always easy, it’s not always exactly the same, but it gives you the inspiration. Then you can take the inspiration and use your imagination to try to come up with something new.
In my personal life, the structure is very much the same. I do the same things every morning. I start my day, I pray first because I’m an Orthodox Jew, I study for 30 – 40 minutes, I have coffee, I drive to the office. I come back in the evening, watch one episode on TV and go to sleep. My personal life is quite the same every day, with no changes.
In my professional life, it’s a little bit more exciting. It starts with reading news, reading new releases from other companies in various industries. I try to get inspired by what they are doing and I imagine how it can be done in our case.
In terms of moving from ideas to actions, I usually go to my partners, to our managers, our employees, and talk with them about the new inspiration that came up. Usually through these discussions, just by talking about it, we start to see how we can test it out. Maybe it’s by calling a client and asking what they think, maybe it’s by adding a very small feature to the application to see the reaction. Usually just by talking about it with people, the way to do it becomes clear. There’s no one way to take an idea to implementation – it’s about talking it through along the way.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Something that I’m very excited about is a trend that’s come about in the last decade, but has become more and more of a big trend in the last few years: self entrepreneurs. These are people who are able to form a business, make their own professional decisions, and make their own living by themselves.
We saw this early on with Uber drivers, then later in companies like Fiverr and Upwork. Today we see it in ecommerce, where the market enables them to find their own way in business and in life. They create their own destiny based on what they care about most and where their passions lie. I think this enables them to be the most successful that they can be, because they are not doing what others are telling them to do – they’re doing what their passion is telling them to do. So I think it’s great for them, individually.
In a broader view, I think it’s also great for the community. If more people are doing what they are passionate about, they’re probably going to do better, and eventually, as consumers, we’re going to get better products and better services. So I think that for us as a community it’s going to be very good, and for them it’s bettering their lives. I’m super excited about that.
Ecommerce sellers, generally speaking, are companies of two or three people, not much more. They usually start out in their garage, after work hours and on weekends. They start to sell products, let’s say on Amazon, Shopify, or Walmart, that they are passionate about. If they like camping, they will usually sell products that are camping related, because they are experts in that domain, and they know what a good camping product is. People who like yoga will create great yoga equipment because they know exactly what people who practice yoga want and need. So eventually, you have self entrepreneurs, or teams of two or three people, doing what they are passionate about, and I think that is a beautiful thing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My hobbies are watching sports and studying. I study every day, and I watch sports two or three times per week.
By studying, you learn new things all the time. You discover big ideas from big people who came before you, who are often very wise, so you enrich yourself.
Sports gives you something else. It gives you a glimpse at excellence. Professional athletes are people who are really focused on what they are doing, who give everything they have. In professional sports, the top performers in their domain are people who dedicated their lives to be successful at something, and they have special skills to be able to be the best at what they are doing. These are very unique people, and watching their achievements, like scoring at the last minute, is witnessing a huge accomplishment. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a very big achievement. I really respect them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to listen to my elders. It might not be very popular advice. Elders do not know everything that we experience in our lives, because our lives are different from their lives. We are living in a different era, with different communication, different challenges. But if you think about it from a higher level, the world didn’t really change in the last few thousand years. People are the same people, cultures are the same cultures, society is exactly the same society. Our elders have experienced this, and they know this, and they understand people. So listening to your elders is probably going to help you a lot. They know much more than you can imagine.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A lot of businesses are all about looking at aggregated data, looking into BI (business intelligence), slice and dice, and analysis, but I think that if you really want to get to understand your clients, you need to go over them one by one. Now of course, if you have thousands, dozens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of clients, you cannot go through them one by one. You are probably going to work with BI, which is valuable, so you should do that.
But throughout my career, on top of looking at the BI, I always looked at random clients one by one. I would look into the database to see a single client and learn what exactly that client did. Then I did it for another one, and for another one, and another one. Five clients, 10 clients, 20 clients, 25 clients. At some point, you get the idea. You kind of understand what is going on. It’s not scientific and it’s not the big numbers that you find in the BI, but you get insight that you can’t get from BI.
You are actually able to see what they are struggling with, what exact question was challenging for them. Where did they move their marks? Where did it take them a little bit more time? What did they try to type in? I think these questions are sometimes missing in the BI. With the big numbers you just ignore these details. For example, perhaps there was a question that a client struggled with but eventually succeeded. In the BI, you will say ok, there is no problem, they succeeded in answering this question or this step in the funnel. But if you look into the clients, you will actually see that yes, they got over it, but it was challenging. So you start to understand your clients a little bit better.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I mostly talk with my wife. My wife is not from my industry, she’s coming from a completely different discipline. That means that she does not exactly understand everything about what I’m saying, because she’s not from our domain. There are two great benefits in that.
The first is that I must explain things very simply without going into the details, because she’s from a different industry and doesn’t understand everything. That helps me to set my focus in a very simple and structured way.
The other benefit is the input that I get back. She’ll usually highlight things that I, or my partners, will ignore, because we’re so deep in the work that we don’t always see what she sees. It won’t always be correct, but if I try to explain things super simply and she just gives me her feedback, it helps in a lot of cases.
It’s something different that is very hard to find in your day-to-day life in the office. Everyone in the office is in the same industry, and everyone understands the same things. So if your spouse, by chance, is from a different industry, and if your relationship with your spouse is good, then they might be able to help you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
It’s the combination of imagining really big and executing really small. You start with a really big idea – we’re going to build X and Y, and we’re going to offer clients all of Z. It’s a huge idea that will take two years to build. This is good, it’s what you’re supposed to do. You need to invent the next thing that you’re going to do in the next two years. On the other hand, you need to be able to take this big idea and test it out on a really small scale first. I don’t like building huge things, because it might take you two or three quarters to build and it’s not necessarily going to be successful, it’s just something that you imagine might be good. So combining a really big idea with a really small execution is a great strategy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Selecting the wrong partner. It happened to me in the past in my career. This is something that is very hard to overcome, and it was my biggest challenge. Everything else can be changed – you can change the idea, you can change what you do, you can change the business model, you can change clients. You cannot change your partner.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Here’s an idea for something that I’m not going to build but it’s something that I would use: a solution to commuting to sporting events.
Commuting to sporting events is a challenge. Sometimes you have better public transportation, sometimes it doesn’t work so well. You may need to commute to public transportation as well. There’s also lots of traffic.
Since these events are so popular, there are tons of people commuting, and it’s very likely that someone is coming from near you. Being able to commute better to these events is a big thing, at least for me. I would use it. And there’s a big event at least twice every week, so there’s plenty of demand.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Dinner last week with my wife.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I like Google Data Studio. I think it’s an amazing tool. In minutes, you are able to create your data dashboard, connect it to your database, and it makes it extremely easy to present things. It’s not the loveliest, it’s not the nicest, but it’s easy, quick, accessible from everywhere, and very easy to distribute. I like it a lot.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There are many, almost every autobiography by a leader, it can be any leader from any country. I like biographies and autobiographies. I find them very inspiring. If I had to name a specific book though, I’d say Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras. It’s actually a very old book, but I think it’s very unique. Each chapter tells the stories of two different, successful companies and analyzes one aspect of the company. It compares how the companies implemented a process differently, and shows how implementing one way is better than the other way. Both companies are successful and profitable but one is built to last, and one is built for the short-term.
What is your favorite quote?
“Keep calm and carry on.” I think the English people are a great nation – I like their history and traditions, and I respect them a lot. During World War II, they suffered a great deal, and as a community, they started to use this phrase, which also describes their character. It’s something I think everyone can learn from. They struggled a lot during the war, but as a society, they kept calm and carried on. If you’re in a struggle, it can be a good reminder. Keep calm, and continue to do what you’re doing. Do not give up and eventually you will triumph simply because you aren’t giving up.
- Embrace the company of others: the value is immense.
- Be open to new ideas, and look in new directions for inspiration.
- Take a step back and look at the bigger picture: those extra minutes could save, or make, you millions.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.