Welcome to my Tech Leaders Interview Series, where I interview impactful leaders and ask them to share tips and techniques that have benefited them, both in their personal and professional lives.
Amir Orad is CEO and chairman of the board of Sisense. With a focus on building and scaling companies, Amir has led startups to become industry leaders with hundreds of millions in revenue and multiple M&As. He is a serial entrepreneur specializing in growing big data and cybersecurity businesses, with over 25 years of experience as a leader in these fields. During his previous tenure at NICE Actimize, he grew the business 10x to a $200M revenue run rate. Previously he was co-founder of Cyota, which he sold to RSA Security. He holds an MBA from Columbia University and has been acknowledged as a Top 50 SaaS CEO.
What are your main productivity tips?
I always recommend finding time for yourself and your family. I know it is counterintuitive and took me a decade to learn it, but working 24 hours a day doesn’t make you better, and answering every email doesn’t make you wiser. I failed with that early on. I quickly burned out trying to do it all and became non-productive.
It took me a lot of time, courage, and discipline to stop working 24 hours a day and realize the importance of not just relying on myself but relying on my team. I learned that when I let go a bit and trusted my colleagues around me to help with important projects and solutions, everything improved. Today, I live a full life which means both my professional and family life are balanced in their own ways. I have the support of my family in my personal life and the support of my team in my professional life. You must have both; it’s very important.
What is your favorite drink?
Any natural smoothie will do the job.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Work hard, play hard, know how to take time off to think and recharge.
Your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
While the CEO’s job is centered around defining the strategy, vision, and the North Star, the most important role of a CEO is to build and empower the right team that aligns with the vision and core values of the company. Talent is our number one asset, and building a team you can lean on, and trust is vital to an organization.
The stronger your team is, the stronger you are. Spend every possible ounce of energy making sure you have the best people and the best team around you. Make sure they’re diverse. Make sure they think differently. Allow them and encourage them to push back and tell you that you’re making a mistake. I’ve seen the value of that over the years. To me, the most successful executives surround themselves with people who think differently. It’s a very important lesson.
Also, the key for a CEO is to build and maintain the company’s culture and values. As an executive, you are a role model to many; you must lead by example and exemplify qualities that demonstrate fairness, dedication, kindness, openness, and passion. The behavior you model inspires every employee throughout the company.
Who in the tech industry would you like to meet for lunch?
Elon Musk- because I love meeting people that I can learn from and have an open discussion. Not because of the influence he has, but because of his incredible vision for the future. In the last few centuries, he’s one of the only people, if not the only one, that was able to revolutionize and win in different markets, different technologies, and different categories at the same time. That’s huge to me because most people don’t dare and don’t win. Few dare, and few win. How many people do that across many dimensions? Not many. What he is doing is super impressive.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Where my wife is
Why are you in tech?
First, I’m a geek and techie by background, so I didn’t have much choice. I had my first software startup when I was just 16 years old because I needed money to buy a new gaming computer, so I decided to sell software for an insurance company to save up for it. While there, my computer skills were recognized, and I joined the intelligence corps, spending six years building data technologies there. I left in 2000– and in the year 2000– you did only one thing when you were a techie: start a startup. I spent seven years building it (Cyota) within the online security space, using analytics and data to fight cybercriminals. That led me to the second startup, fighting more extreme situations in financial crime (Actimize now part of NICE), mostly as the CEO for eight years, which eventually became a successful $200 million revenue company.
I realized that using data and analytics had endless power and capabilities, so I decided to join this little company called, Sisense to help it expand those capabilities to more businesses. Lo and behold, six years later, that “little company” has over $100 million in revenue, and I’m humbled to say, is one of the top 100 cloud companies worldwide. What we do today at Sisense is go beyond traditional business intelligence by providing organizations with the ability to infuse analytics everywhere, embedded in both customer and employee applications and workflows.
Tech has the power to change the world and people’s lives from the ground up, and it is doing that as we speak from health to education, from travel to leisure, from space to virtual reality. It’s an amazing place to be and make an impact.
Sisense has over 2,000 global customers, representing all verticals and companies of all sizes, from data disruptors, like Outreach, GitLab, and UiPath, to large Fortune 500 companies, like GE, Motorola, and Verizon. Sisense’s mission is to help businesses go beyond the dashboard, infuse analytics everywhere and empower their customers and employees to act on their data at the right time, every time. Whether that is to drive more value to their customers, optimize their business or innovate new products and revenue streams. They do it by going beyond the dashboard to allow users to build custom analytic experiences and embed them in their customer and employee-facing apps and workflows – so people can infuse insights when and where they need them.
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