Maor Perlov is a Business Information Specialist at Start-Up Nation Central, and it’s his job to map and analyze Israeli startups and help them gain visibility through Start-Up Nation Finder. Finder is a business engagement platform created by Start-Up Nation Central, and it generates growth opportunities for Israeli tech innovation by providing exposure to investors, multinational corporations, accelerators, hubs, and other entities looking to solve global business and societal challenges.
We sat down with Maor for an interview about information, innovation, and more.
Finder: What’s your background? How did you get interested in information research, and what makes you passionate about it?
Maor: I realized in a conversation with my friend the other day that I actually joined the internet before Mark Zuckerberg did – so we were actually online before the internet was a ‘thing’ – and then later we used the first-ever browser, Netscape, and we found data. I was always near databases and search engines and indexes, and even before that, there were encyclopedias and maps and dictionaries, and anything that had an index in it. It was always my passion – I don’t have a special reason for it, but it’s always been like that.
Finder: What was your first experience with the internet like? What first websites did you use, and what did you do?
Maor: Basically, back then the internet was an extension of encyclopedias and just a database of knowledge about random things mostly. It was a way for me to dive in and dig deep into something that I was interested in to begin with, like history or geography – but I never foresaw that it was going to become what it is today. I remember using the first search function (before Google even existed), which was a very primitive search engine. You had to figure out how to do a proper search in order to come up with interesting results.
Finder: How did your interest grow from there to your current profession?
Maor: My first bachelor’s degree was in business administration and political science, and during my studies, I was exposed to all the different academic databases – basically this ocean of data that exists – and realized that a lot of people aren’t aware of it or don’t know how to use it. What I started learning about then is what we now call Web Intelligence or WebInt, and it has many different applications; academia is only one application, and of course, there are applications in the business world.
“You need to know where to go to find the information you’re looking for; it’s a whole strategy that you need to devise in order to get the best results.”
People still say to this day that Google is the answer for everything when it really just skims the surface. Search engines only index something like one-tenth of all the web pages that exist on the internet. It’s not enough to just type into a search engine because things can get blocked – you need to know where to go to find the information you’re looking for. The very act of knowing where to go gives you an advantage, and it also sharpens your expertise, so it’s really a whole strategy that you need to devise in order to get the best results. I can assure you that for almost any question that you have, a search engine will give you about 10% of what you could know if you just spent more time and did more comprehensive research.
Finder: How did you enter the world of startups and Israeli innovation?
Maor: I was always interested in innovation in technology. When I was researching different digital solutions for people saving up for pensions for my Masters thesis,, I discovered a lot of Israeli solutions to this specific challenge, and then found some in the world of insurance – so it made me relize that Israeli innovation is not just about cybersecurity. There are solutions in all different sectors. I actually used Finder during my research because I was searching for this specific company. So I just started to become more aware of what’s really going on here because, truthfully, with all I knew about the world of innovation, I was still living in the past of the “dot-com” era; I didn’t understand the vastness and the richness of Israeli innovation, and the fact that solutions provided by Israeli companies encompass all walks of life.
Finder: How did this realization bring you to become a Business Information Specialist at Start-Up Nation Central?
Maor: Once I became aware of this field called Competitive Intelligence, once I learned about it, I thought: “Okay, this actually combines all of my interests and all of my strengths – so this is my destiny. This is the journey I need to take.”
Finder: So, what is a Business Information Specialist? What exactly do you do?
Maor: We are the engine behind Finder. One aspect of our job is to onboard new entities and startups to Finder’s platform and to constantly monitor the ecosystem. So talking to startups and onboarding them is one aspect of our job, and you learn a lot about the ecosystem and solution technologies – but there’s also the behind-the-scenes aspect which is tied directly to web intelligence and open-source intelligence. What this means is that every data point is significant and it must be validated and, of course, analyzed. So what we’re doing is much more than just collecting data. There are many things that you can generate from each startup individually and also when you combine and aggregate them all together by sectors, you can learn a lot. You take all the data points and you transform them into insights.
“Entrepreneurs are trying to sell their idea and their dream. Now, we’re already sold, we’re with them. We’re looking to communicate their story to the world, and the best way for it to be done is through data.”
Entrepreneurs are trying to sell their idea and their dream. Now, we’re already sold, we’re with them. We’re looking to communicate their story to the world, and the best way for it to be done is through data. So when we speak to startups or to any entity that wants to be part of Finder, we need to find out what is the future in terms of solutions, in terms of features, and benefits, how they are funded, how is the product being tested, do they have paying customers? So first we have to know exactly what are the right questions to ask. Founders have to remember that it’s not like Shark Tank when they speak with us – we’re building real relationships with people. You’re not pitching to us or have anything to be afraid of because we’re already sold!
Finder: So just to give our readers an idea, how long have you been at Start-Up Nation Central, and how many startups would you say you’ve reviewed during that time?
Maor: I’ve been here almost three years now. In terms of being familiar with startups and reviewing their data, I would say I’ve reviewed thousands. Though you have to know that I’m also in charge of classification projects.
“Be clear about what you do – if your Business Information Specialist doesn’t understand what you’re doing, then no one understands.”
Finder: Okay, let’s do some rapid-fire advice for folks –
Q: How important is it for founders to provide accurate and up-to-date data?
A: Very important. It’s not just that it has to be updated, but it also has to be structured in such a way that will allow us to communicate the story.
Q: How often should people update their data or Finder profiles?
A: Every time something significant happens – and even if nothing happens – just let us know, because even saying that there’s no change is a type of data point.
Q: What’s something you want all the founders out there to know when talking to a Business Information Specialist such as yourself?
A: Be clear about what you do – if I don’t understand what you’re doing, then no one understands.
Finder: Awesome, that was great. Now let’s get to some fun questions. What would you like people to know about Israel and/or the tech ecosystem here?
Maor: In Israel as a whole, in the entire country, there’s a sense of everyone having a shared team spirit, a sense that you’re proud of what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it for. So I think this concept is relevant for almost anyone who lives in Israel, we’re just proud of the place we live in and this means that everyone is accessible to talk to. Almost everyone will help you and answer your questions. People always speak to me about their innovations. In Israel, it’s literally open – people aren’t afraid to ask questions and share and exchange ideas. My advice to people who visit Israel is not to be afraid to just ask questions. Whatever you need to know, people will help. Ask questions. Ask for introductions. Don’t hesitate.
Finder: Okay one last question – any recommendations for fun activities in Israel?
Maor: I’m a huge fan of city walks, just wandering endlessly in the city. It’s really good obviously for the body, but also for the mind and spirit. In particular, there are three cities that I recommend just wandering the streets: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa. Each of them has its own identity and history. So my advice is just to walk here in those cities, with no specific purpose; go slowly and observe your surroundings. And also if someone can recommend to me other cities in Israel to walk around, that would be cool.