Posted on 23 October 2018
A former data scientist in the Israeli army and the Israeli Prime-Minister's office, as well as a car mechanic, Michael has been passionate about transport and data for years. He co-founded Valerann with Shahar Bahiri, Gabriel Jacobson, and Daniel Yacovich after working as a strategic consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, where he focused on transport and connected vehicle strategy. Michael holds a BA in Philosophy and Economics from Tel Aviv University and an MBA from London Business School.. A normal day at Valerann is very varied. During the day we work with road operators developing projects and use cases together, and collaborate with vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers on how road-based data can support autonomous vehicles. At night, we may go to the road to either install new systems of test new capabilities. We talk with Michael Vardi about his impressions of South Summit 2018.
1. What does South Summit mean for you? How was the experience?
South Summit was an incredible experience. The opportunity for a small start-up to present its idea and value proposition to major market players is tremendously valuable. The experience was very exciting and insightful. It was a pleasure to compete alongside super promising start-ups. The quality of the competition in the Mobility track and in the final speaks to the value and reputation of South Summit
2. Why did you decide to participate in the competition?
We decided to compete because of the partners and sponsors that SouthSummit were able to bring to one table. I have not known other conventions to engage with such a wide veraity of industry leaders, at such senior levels
3. Why did you decide to start your business and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea came from our co-founder Shahar Bahiri. He used to manage large scale projects in road operations and maintenance and quicklly realised the opportunity of bringing state-of-the-art data capabilities to this industry. We worked closely with many of our potential clients to understand their most challenging needs and have built our solution around those needs.
4. Why your company is useful for the user?
Our solution is able to provide an unparalleled granularity of data about traffic conditions and road events, at a drastically lower cost. To speak numbers, we provide 50X more data points per KM at <5% of the cost of comparable solutions. This data can help reduce road fatalities by 32%, decrease congestion by 20%, and support the safe introduction of autonomous vehicles.
5. How did you feel when you knew you were winners?
Humbled. I remember looking at the other finalists' presentations and thinking about each and every one 'wow, this company is incredible!'. Being recognised as the most disruptive company out of all of 3,500 competing start-ups was a huge honour.
6. What do you think it will happen in the future of startups?
Today governments are becoming better at adopting innovation, and VC's are preferring to make a few big bets on 'game changers' as opposed to many smaller bets on easier challenges with smaller upside. These pressures will mean that start-up will need to look to really disrupt industries, as opposed to fixing specific problems within their value-chain. Specifically, it will mean that we will see more and more start-ups aiming to service government run and regulated industries, where the stakes and challenges are highest.
7. What advice would you give to those who want to participate in South Summit?
Most importantly - participate! Just the process of application, mentoring, and competition is super helpful in better articulating your own vision and strategy. We actually made changes to internal company processes and strategies based on our sessions with our super cool mentor, Alex Barrera. Of course, once you are at the finals, this is a huge additional door of opportunities with many of your potential clients, partners and investors!
8. What does being an entrepreneur mean for you?
It means make a 'unique impact'. It means making a difference, in an area that I feel passionate about, in a way that only I could make a difference.
9. What´s your dream in life?
It is hard for me to say what my dream in life is. But I can tell you what are my guiding passions: (a) Making a tangible difference in areas that have substantial impact on people's lives (b) Mentoring and helping other people develop (c) Working with people I value. In that sense, Valerann is a dream come true.