For whatever reason – divine gift, the pressures of persecution, genetics – many Jews have a knack for thinking outside the box. It perhaps should come as no surprise, then, that Israel enjoys a reputation as the world’s “startup nation,” with many Israeli entrepreneurs working in an area outside Tel Aviv dubbed “Silicon Wadi.”
But nothing compares to the real thing. For Israeli entrepreneurs seeking larger markets and investment capital funding, California’s Silicon Valley remains the ideal place to strike “digital gold.” The Jewish Press recently spoke to one Israeli entrepreneur who moved to the Valley together with his wife and two children: Daniel Shaked, CEO of ClipCall.
The Jewish Press: How would you describe your company to someone who knows nothing about it?
Shaked: ClipCall is a fully digitalized marketplace to help homeowners find and hire the right service professionals for a home-related project.
According to your website, the ClipCall app allows a homeowner with a leak in his ceiling, for example, to upload a video of the leak so that others can see it and bid for the job. What happens then?
Those who are interested respond instantly and start communicating with the customer through our app. When ready, they send a quote, which can be booked by the customer. We bill the customer at that point but only release the money to the service professional after he gets a thumbs-up from the customer, approving that all is fine. Everything is done within the app. It’s all recorded in a very structured way so there are no disputes.
Approximately $350 billion are exchanged between homeowners and service professionals every year in the United States. The homecare market in the U.S. is huge. But it’s all offline. Nothing is managed digitally. We monitor the entire transaction and are able to profile vendors. What’s their response time? What’s their booking rate? Are they ever late for meetings? Are there any no-shows?
Our vision is really to change the way – the broken way – that people are dealing with plumbers and movers and all these other guys, which today is so full of hassle for everyone involved.
How many service professionals are currently registered in ClipCall’s system?
We have over 1,500 businesses in the four areas we operate in today: New York, New Jersey, L.A., and the San Francisco Bay Area. When I say “business,” though, that might include a local moving company with 15 employees.
Suppose a homeowner’s dishwasher broke and he needed someone to fix it. How long after he described his problem and posted a video would he get a response? And how many people would respond to his video?
Around 77 percent of postings are responded to within the first two hours. And almost all of them are responded to after another few hours. On average, you get quotes from two or three vendors, but a customer can control that and get many more if that’s what he feels he needs.
Is ClipCall the first company of its kind?
At this point we are the only company that manages and controls the entire process end to end. And this is just the first stage of our company. We have a huge vision for the second stage. Since we aggregate a lot of data and are able to profile people, analyze projects, and get a good understanding of repeat usage patterns, the next stage is offering people a “homecare service” contract. It will be like a hotel room where if you have a problem, you call the front desk, and that’s it. You won’t need to go online anymore to find quotes and discuss projects with people you don’t trust.
Did you move from Israel to Silicon Valley for the express purpose of founding ClipCall?
Yes, because this is where big visions and big companies can be built. There is a lot of knowledge and talent around here, and the investor ecosystem here can support huge visions.
ClipCall actually started in an acceleration program in Palo Alto called UpWest Labs. It’s an awesome program run by three Israelis that focuses on helping Israeli entrepreneurs who want to found big companies in the United States. They incubate your company for a few months and get you people from Facebook, Google, and other places who take a look at what you do and give you feedback. They also give you a chance to meet potential investors.
Are Israelis a big presence in Silicon Valley?
There are around 100,000 Israelis here. We call it the second Israel. There are chummus shops and falafel shops – you feel very much at home. It’s like a huge kibbutz. And it’s also a very supportive community. People really help each other with connections and knowledge. And when a new family comes from Israel, there’s an entire structure of volunteers to help them settle and get around.
Look, Silicon Valley is the “Hollywood of tech,” and the high-tech scene in Israel is very strong. I think it’s the number-one startup country per capita in the world. But Silicon Valley is where 90 percent of investments are done and where all the huge established players and companies are. It’s also where the biggest market in the world is. So it really makes sense to get over here if your dream is to build a huge multi-national company.
Is the large Israeli presence in Silicon Valley very noticeable to others?
Silicon Valley is full of nationalities. Just in the middle school where my daughter studies there are 60 different nationalities. So it’s a very multinational setting. Israelis are a big presence here, but definitely not the biggest. The Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani communities – which have great developers and great talent – are by far bigger and more noticeable.
Some have observed that Israelis draw closer to Judaism, ironically, when they leave Israel and suddenly find themselves in a foreign culture. Do you find that to be true?
Yes, since you are far away, you suddenly feel the need to, for example, do Seder Pesach the right way with friends. That’s a correct observation. And there’s a lot of activity around Judaism happening here – in the JCC, in Beit Chabad, and elsewhere. But I must tell you that there are people who leave Israel and try to be more American than Americans. I don’t know many people like that, but there are some. So it really depends on the person.
Personally, I was born in Russia and immigrated to Israel when I was eight years old. I served in the Israeli army for around 25 years. I was a battalion commander, and being there for so long I saw how important your roots are in shaping who you are and how you see the world.