Avigail Levine is the Marketing & Community Manager at Aleph VC. Aleph was founded in 2013 and quickly became one of the most well-known 2.0 VCs in the Israeli tech scene. Why 2.0? Because Aleph is all about community and networks. They organize many events for the startup community and from time to time initiate activities like the investor spreadsheet that help entrepreneurs navigate in this world.
I wanted to hear from Avigail how Aleph is growing its community and any tips and tools she recommends for startups on a budget.
Building a community and helping entrepreneurs was our #1 goal
I found the VC world very interesting and when Aleph launched, I joined as an executive assistant to Eden Shochat, the founding partner. My role also included initiating and organizing events for the community, handling the social channels and the newsletter. Since I am a networker from birth I gradually found myself doing the marketing and community activity full time and really enjoyed it..
Main part of my job is facilitating the creation of a community of entrepreneurs that help and support each other. Our goal from the start was not just to look for startups to invest in but also find the ways we can add value to the wider entrepreneur community. We invest in the community because we believe a successful startup ecosystem is good for everyone. We do it through the Aleph.bet (the Aleph growth university) workshops and the Karma app (a Q&A platform for entrepreneurs where they could get advice from other entrepreneurs). What is special about the Israeli ecosystem is that people go out of their way to help others and share their knowledge and experience. I see it on our workshops in which we bring in experienced founders or executives to share their experience with young entrepreneurs or through the engagement on the Karma app. From my experience, most people in this field are collaborative by nature and if you reach out to them, they would be happy to help.
Aleph’s marketing challenges are different than those of a startup. We don’t need to reach millions of users. Our “customers” are mainly the Israeli founders and we always try be up to date with the most recent technology developments and stay engaged with the community.
I learned quickly and kept on building
I did not start as a traditional marketer. I was a lawyer and then quickly realized it was not for me. One month after I joined the fund, I was requested to organize the first Israeli conference about Bitcoin for early-stage investors and government officials. The purpose was to increase awareness to this topic and build an ecosystem for bitcoin and blockchain companies in Israel. At the time, I had no idea what bitcoin is, nor did I know early stage investors or government officials who might be interested in the topic. I cold called a ton of people, built an interesting agenda and pushed the event through all the channels I had at the time.
The event turned out to be a great success, people were very interested and learned a lot. The outcome from this event was exactly what we've hoped for - the government started showing interest in the field, and it triggered an open public discussion about bitcoin and Israel’s involvement in this industry. The purpose of the event was to encourage discussion around bitcoin and see if Israel can be a key player in this growing field. A year after the event, we ended up investing in our first bitcoin company, Colu.
Providing Real Value is Key
It is hard for me to give marketing tips to startups, as I never worked in one. I can only share the approach I take in my work.
Michael Eisenberg, the second founding partner of Aleph likes to say “Different is better than better”. In order to stand out above the noise you have to be different. Don't try to be better than other startups, try to find your unique angle .
Like people, every startup has its own uniqueness and something special about it and it should bring out its difference. We try to do it at Aleph all the time, and look for opportunities to do something cool and different, from geek movie nights to the Karmathon, a hackathon we held for the karma community.
Also, be genuine and real. Don't just pretend, provide real value. People notice when you are not real and just try to sell. If you provide real value with your product or service, you won’t have to chase your customers, they will come looking for you.
My third and last tip for might seem obvious but is often missed - get to know your clients. Know the people you are selling your product or providing services to. I constantly try to understand what the Israeli entrepreneurs are looking for or challenged with. There is no value in me organizing a workshop on topics I am interested in, I have to find the topics that are most interesting to my audience.
What I read:
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz. His story from an entrepreneur to one of the leading venture capitalists in the world.
- eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work - Randall E. Stross. A book for people who want to learn about the VC world.
- Venture Deals - Brad Feld - a must-read for entrepreneurs that are looking to raise capital, explains how investments in startups are done.
- First Round Review newsletter – Insights and tips from the Valley, very down to earth and useful.
Tools I use for marketing:
- Facebook Live - Since we have so many events, we started using Facebook Live, so people could take part at the event even if they couldn’t attend. The engagement with this tool is very high.
- MixMax - Email-marketing tool that helps me snooze emails, send reminder, email merge to make a batch more personal
- EmailHunter - Finding emails of reporters and other people that have emails that are tough to track down.
- ReachOut - Tool for contacting reporters about certain topics.
Here's a video from Aleph's aleph.bet growth workshops - Jonathan Caras, COO of Glide, live video messaging platform, on addressing user needs by understanding them: