Business development talk with Levy Raiz

Digital Horizon (Courtesy)

Levy Raiz is a venture partner at Digital Horizon, an investment company with offices in London, Moscow and Tel Aviv. Digital Horizon brings together a venture fund with an international focus and a venture builder that creates and scales technology start-ups. The fund’s Israeli-based portfolio companies include Market Beyond, Visual Factories, Lemonade.

Based in Tel Aviv, Levi is focusing on Israeli investment opportunities. Previously, Levy was a partner at Flint Capital, a $100M US-based VC and headed the firm’s Tel Aviv office and before that he founded and managed JSCapital, Jerusalem-based investment banking firm. As an entrepreneur and investor, Levy has been deeply involved into Israeli startup ecosystem in the last six years. His portfolio includes some of the fastest growing Israeli companies, such as YouAppi, Audioburst, CyberX, Walk.me, Blazemeter and others.

Levy Raiz (Courtesy)

What should business leaders know about business development?

It’s hard to give one-for-all advice on business development, because each industry has its own specifics and their distinct ways of doing business. So, I’ll try to talk about the industry I know best and that’s technology startups.

In our industry, business development comes first and foremost. It’s all about building networks and cultivating actionable relationships within them. The bottom line is that it’s a long-term game, not just a quick sale.

Technology is a fast-paced industry where people move a lot – from one company to another, from a failed startup to building a successful company. You can meet opportunities literally everywhere and they can come from quite unexpected directions. Respect for people can take you a long way.  The rule is be humble and respect all! Someone who served you a coffee in a restaurant yesterday, may create a billion-dollar startup tomorrow.

How has business development changed? 

Obviously, with lockdowns all around the world today, business development has moved to the Internet and, more specifically, to social media. I would say that the offline/online ratio in business development has flipped around from 80/20 ratio before COVID-19, to 20/80 as we see it today. It seems to me that it is a temporary shift and business development will bounce back, but will never be the same. It will become more like 50/50.

Where is it going? 

Even 50/50 is a paradigm shift for many software companies, because they used to have their business development and salespeople fly around the world most of the time to meet potential customers in person.

Old offline business development paradigm has several problems. One is the lower quality of life for business development and salespeople in general. Just imagine what it means to spend two out of four weeks every month traveling. It means huge travel expenses for businesses, low scalability of the process because you can only be in a limited number of places every day.

In-person meetings won’t disappear, of course, and nor should they. However, what can be done remotely, should be done remotely. Technology companies, specifically in the B2B sector, should further embrace the importance of building online communities around their businesses. They should invest into video content, thought leadership, create and participate in online events.

How should business development managers adapt? 

First of all, business development managers should accept and act. They should accept that online is a new offline. Things are not going to go 100% back to “normal”.

Secondly, they should build themselves up online. Invest into creating your online persona and make yourself valuable to your target market. It’s better to hire professionals to help you with this, because out of my own experience, you have enough on your plate already.

Finally, simplify your message. If you have non-stop online meetings, you can’t be focused and productive. It lowers your attention span. Be aware of this and make sure you can relay your message or grab attention within the first two minutes or your new friend, partner or client will spend most of your “Zoom” call scrolling through their social networks.

What should executives know?

The success of most great companies lies not just in good technology, an innovative product or a quality service, but in communities and networks created around their businesses. In fact, companies with weaker technology but stronger communities deliver significantly better business results than their technology-only focused peers with poor networks.

Community engagement strategies and networking are not nice-to-have anymore, they’re a must have and must-do for true business success.

About the Author
Sherman holds an MBA from The Kedge Business School, a Grande Ecole de Commerce et de management in France, which included time as an executive exchange scholar at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. He has a BA from The University of California, San Diego, San Diego, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.
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