Israeli-born Roy Dekel heads one of Irvine, CA’s fastest-growing startups, technology company SetSchedule. The novel technology connects real estate professionals, homebuyers and sellers in a way that helps them do more with their minute, making transitions happen with efficiency and ease. It was the brainchild of Dekel and Israeli co-founder Udi Dorner.
Although only founded in 2014, SetSchedule has introduced over $1 billion in real estate transactions and growing. The company also has over 100 employees and continues to expand even in today’s uncertain climate.
Dekel attributes much of his success to his Israeli heritage and military experience, and wanted to continue his upward path in the real estate industry, by starting something brand new. In this in-depth interview, Dekel shares more about himself and how his path can inspire other Israelis.
Jacob Maslow: How does Israeli military experience translate to running a business?
Roy Dekel: The Israeli military has vast infrastructure not too dissimilar from a large corporation. It’s also a setting with little room for error. Your own drive is responsible for your survival. That is something that has stayed with me even now as I am responsible for the livelihood of SetSchedule and its employees.
Being an officer in the military was a natural stepping stone to leading, and I feel it prepared me quite well. Having no previous technology experience could have easily been something that fell flat when creating SetSchedule, but I have always been comfortable in a leadership role, and I was able to gain valuable experience as part of the Israeli military. In my five years of service, I was constantly driven to innovate. That innovation and drive taken from my military background continues to propel me to create something new and different. The development of SetSchedule, and the use of AI, machine learning, and other cutting edge technologies seems like a natural extension of that drive.
J M: How has your Israeli heritage played a role in your startup?
Roy Dekel: As an Israeli, I think survival is in our blood. We have a deep sense of obligation in our culture that translates to our professional commitments.
It’s no coincidence that my business partner and co-founder is also an Israeli. Our energy feeds off one another, and we have similar ways of thinking. We both had experience running companies before starting SetSchedule together, so it was a natural fit. I’m so thankful to have met him after moving to California.
Israelis are born to be pioneers. We are constantly looking to improve and better our situation. It’s something we have in common with Americans, which is why I fit in so well here.
J M: Where did you get the idea for your business?
Roy Dekel: Udi and I had brought experience from the technology and real estate industries. Between us, we had run four different companies. Over a decade into our friendship, the timing was right, and we were both looking to start something new.
We recognized there was a pain point in real estate that technology was poised to solve. Other industries were making use of technologies like machine learning, big data, and artificial intelligence, so why shouldn’t real estate benefit from them? With our combined experience, it was an ideal place for us to target.
I still remember the all-nighter we had in Las Vegas—not partying on the strip but holed up in a hotel room mapping out the bones of what would become SetSchedule. It was a crazy evening filled with whiteboards and hundreds of sticky notes.
Together, we knew we could streamline the real estate experience using technology. It was eye-opening, and we’ve never looked back. Now our many tools are serving real estate professionals and their clients. We’re helping real estate customers get a better experience while at the same time helping real estate professionals grow their businesses. It’s a win-win.
Looking back, I’m so glad we chose to go down a nontraditional path rather than going into something like real estate brokerage. It has been a rewarding wild ride ever since.
J M: What are you passionate about outside the office?
Roy Dekel: SetSchedule is a lifestyle for me. It is about creating a world where I want to live, so there really is not “outside of the office”, because everything is connected, and my life and my company are intertwined. SetSchedule is not just about innovation, or working 9-5, It’s about my community, where people call home, raise their children, and create memories, and for me SetSchedule ignites my passion to better my community. As an Israeli, I feel a strong connection to my community. As an entrepreneur, I think when you experience success, you should remember to give back to others. I strongly believe in giving back, especially to charities that foster child health, safety, and education.
J M: How was the transition from working at a company to leading your own?
Roy Dekel: For me, the transition into a co-founder and CEO role felt quite natural. I always saw myself as a leader. My father owned several businesses, so I was used to seeing this growing up. Perhaps as a result, I have always been one to push boundaries. I think I was destined to lead my own company.
From leading in the military to other top positions in the real estate industry, I also had experience turning my visions into reality by building a strong team. But ultimately it comes down to my nature, and that’s something you either have or you don’t. I know I would have never been content following along an ordinary path for my career.
J M: Is the COVID-19 crisis affecting your business?
Roy Dekel: At SetSchedule, we’ve been fortunate that the pandemic has accelerated a digital transformation in real estate. Tools like our networking and communication functionality, as well as virtual open houses, and the SetHello video and audio conference tools are helping to keep the real estate industry in business during these difficult times. Rather than holding in-person meetings or face-to-face networking, realtors are turning to apps for making connections and scheduling.
Helping local real estate professionals continue operations of their small businesses we are currently working on the expansion of our current product offerings, ushering the industry through a much-needed acceleration toward embracing technology. On the flip side, we are helping consumers connect with the highest engaging, local agents. Our machine learning models identify, in real time, the best ranked local agent based on professional engagement, consumer reviews, activities and internal rankings, making the connections to real estate professionals easier than ever.
I like to focus on the future, and I think there is a great opportunity ahead for SetSchedule.
J M: Do you have any advice for other would-be Israeli entrepreneurs?
Roy Dekel: The entrepreneur path is not an easy one, but it is rewarding. You have to be persistent and resilient. No company makes it to a million dollar company, let alone billion dollar company without their own struggles.
Obstacles are not failures, and every company, big and small, will have obstacles, but you have to be willing to push through the hard part to make it for the log run. If you look at any company still standing today from a mom and pop shop to a billion dollar conglomerate, you can find a time when they had troubles that needed to be overcome.
If being an entrepreneur is something you want deep down, then stay strong, be creative and stop at nothing to realize it.