…as an entrepreneur you are always selling…

David Fogel, originally from Israel, is currently Head of Acceleration and Deputy Director at Wayra in the United Kingdom. Wayra UK is Telefónica Open Future’s start-up accelerator that nurtures and catalyses the growth of the UK’s most promising entrepreneurial potential. Having already invested in over 400 start-ups, Wayra is one of the biggest technology accelerators in the world.

Q. How did you get involved with Wayra?

A. I’ve been working with start-ups, accelerators and VCs for about 5 years before coming to work for Wayra. I first heard of Wayra when I lived in Spain from the man who was running Wayra in Spain at the time. What appealed to me was the dedication of the top C-level management to embedding disruption and innovation within the corporate. When I heard the position was open in the UK, I applied and decided to move from Germany to work for Wayra in London.

 Q. What do you find most rewarding in your job?

A. The most rewarding part for me is working with founders and helping them shape their products into successful businesses; it is hard work to build a product people want to use, and I am glad I can participate in the journey, whilst working with amazing and innovative people.

 Q. What do you look for in terms of what seems most promising in start-ups?

A. At Wayra we look for amazing teams with the right skillset to execute a great idea in a global market (rather similar to other investors I would say). It is very difficult to identify all the right factors that contribute to a start-up’s success. We are, however, trying to identify a team that can adapt to the feedback it receives from the market and build a product that people want to use because it solves a key problem they have, or answers an urgent need.

Q. I see you like to “get stuff done” – has this always been part of your psyche? Or did you acquire your work ethic over time?

A. I would say as a concept it was always part of me, but during the different stages in my career, I improved how to be effective and focus on achieving goals and getting things done. The way one gets things done is different based on your position within the company, the industry and even the culture/ country you work in.

Q. I noticed that you have an MBA from IE Business School, Madrid 2010—2011. Why did you decide to go to Spain for this?

A. My career goal was to move into investments and work with start-ups and the programme at IE focused on entrepreneurship. In addition, I managed to secure a position within the accelerator programme of the school. Both of those things helped me develop my career to the stage it is currently at.

Q. How, if at all, has your time in the Navy influenced your work ethic and discipline?

A. My time in the navy had a very profound impact on the way I work, from the goal-oriented mindset to the way I manage teams and interact with colleagues. In the navy the resources were limited yet the performance expectations were set very high – you therefore needed to adapt and think outside of the box, find creative solutions and convince other individuals to support you in order to achieve set goals. These were lessons that supported my entire career in the civil life, and I implemented them in various positions I held.

Q. I see you started out in marketing roles – how important are marketing skills when it comes to business? Is a solid grounding in sales and marketing an important place to start for most entrepreneurs?

A. My belief is the sales and marketing skills (which leads to more sales if done correctly) are some of the most valuable assets entrepreneurs can have, because as an entrepreneur you are always selling. I know some will consider this as too strong a statement; however, in my experience that is because people hold the misconception that a person who is selling is dishonest. As a founder you are selling a vision to your employees, selling an execution story to your investors and, most importantly, selling a product to your customers. The purpose of a start-up is to become a revenue generating (hopefully global) business – sales is the main pillar for this.