Advice from Israeli entrepreneur behind Waze at the United Israel Appeal AGM

November 16, 2016 by Sophie Deutsch
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As one of Israel’s most prolific business innovators, Uri Levine is in a privileged position to shed light on the highs and lows of starting a successful business venture.

Uri Levine

Uri Levine    Photo: Giselle Haber

On average, the serial entrepreneur aims to begin 2-3 start-ups per year. One of his most successful ventures is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, Waze.

The Israeli innovator turned his passionate dislike of traffic jams and time wastage into a profitable dream. “Entrepreneurship nearly always starts with a very, very strong emotion,” contends Uri.

Uri’s ingenious idea allows drivers to share real-time traffic and road information, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute. In 2009, the Waze app was launched in Israel, and by 2010 was available globally. Only a few years later, Google acquired Waze for over $1 billion. It is now an international enterprise with 300 million users around the globe.

Despite the success of Waze, starting a company certainly comes with its fair share of hurdles. Uri’s successes and challenges have provided him with insights about entrepreneurship and disruption within a constantly changing marketplace.

Joshua Biggs, Uri Levine and Jeff Zulman   OhotoL Giselle Haber

Joshua Biggs, Uri Levine and Jeff Zulman Photo: Giselle Haber

At the NSW UIA AGM at Sydney’s Central Synagogue 200 guests Uri encouraged entrepreneurs to embrace the possibility of failing: “Keep trying until you make your idea work”. Reiterating the famous words of American inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison, Uri stated: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. A failed first attempt provides an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow from one’s mistakes. In the world of start-ups, a second time entrepreneur is five times more likely to be successful in their business than a first time entrepreneur. This five-fold increase holds true regardless of how the businessperson performed the first time.

Uri also urged business innovators to aim for good enough, not perfection. “If [your app] is good enough and free, you are going to win the market. If you go for perfection, it will take too long and someone else will do it and capture the market.”

Tough decisions also need to be made quickly. Uri recalled speaking with second-time entrepreneurs about the failure of their first business. All of the entrepreneurs interviewed said that they knew within the first month that something in their first start-up was not working effectively. The problem, Uri argues, was that the CEO did not make the hard decisions. “If you are not solving the problem at the beginning, they will become unsolvable”, leading to the ultimate failure of the start-up.

In addition to Waze, Uri’s other start-ups include Moovit, an app for public transportation, and Roomer, a platform that allows customers to sell unused hotel reservations. And with more ideas and dreams for start-up businesses in the pipeline, the Israeli innovator has no intention of stopping here: “People don’t stop dreaming when they become old. They become old when they stop dreaming. So never stop dreaming”.

There were co changes in the UIA NSW executive.

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