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.
This interview is with Ofir Chakon, Co-Founder & CEO of Datagen.
Ofir started programming at the age of 7 with a 600-page HTML book. He was always interested in building products with code that delivered value to the people using them. Ofir received his B.Sc and M.Sc from the Technion with thesis research in Robotics and Dynamics under the Brakim elite program. Before founding Datagen, Ofir was the founder and CTO of ClickFrauds. For the last six years, he gained extensive experience in both deep algorithms and computer vision. He lives in Tel Aviv with his wife, Oriya, and their dog, Jason.
Q: What are your main productivity tips?
My top tip is to hire people you trust and give them room to run and do what they do best. When you can step back and focus on the truly important things, your productivity will increase. But, on a day-to-day basis, I make sure to schedule “focused work” times for myself proactively – these are blocks on my calendar when other meetings aren’t scheduled when I can guarantee an extended period of time to tackle my top priorities (instead of 20-minute blocks between meetings). I like to keep running agendas for our one-on-one meetings; we add to the list of topics over the week as things arrive. This allows us to be efficient and focused when we actually sit down together. Finally, I like to do important brainstorm sessions outside the office. My co-founder and I regularly sit at a cafe to think together – a change of scenery can spark inspiration and limit distractions.
Q: What is your favorite drink?
If we’re talking non-alcoholic, nothing can beat a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. But, if we’re talking about more adult drinks, I am a huge fan of Somersby Hard Cider.
Q: How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
First off, building a young company is a stressful project! So, you have to embrace the fact that pressure, uncertainty, and challenges come with the territory. However, too many people in the tech industry think that they have to fight that stress by working non-stop and losing any semblance of work-life balance. To some extent, I am always thinking about Datagen somewhere in the back (or front) of my mind, but I make sure to find time for things that allow me to step back and relax. I love extreme sports – for instance, kitesurfing. My wife and I love cooking and experimenting with new gadgets (sous vide is a gamechanger). And I make sure to get out of town on the weekends with friends and family. One major tip I have for CEOs is to really take some time away and disconnect – you’ll see that the company can survive if you’re off Slack for a few hours. I just spent three weeks on my honeymoon in the US and Caribbean and actually got offline for a while. It was amazing.
Q: Your tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Coming from an engineering background, we all dealt with technical debts in the past – patching the code to deliver fast at the expense of future stability of the software. In practice, debts exist in every aspect of building a company. Managerial debts, HR debts, project debts – short-term optimizations that help us move fast or please our peers in the short term, at the expense of sacrificing time, resources, or relationships in the long-run. My tip is to try and avoid these debts as much as possible, or at the very least be aware of them when making decisions to add them to your pile (very much like when doing with code).
Q: Who in the Tech industry would you like to meet for lunch?
Fei-Fei Li, who is a professor at Stanford, and a leader in the field of AI and Computer Vision. She’s a true visionary, and I admire her contributions to our field of research, including her work making AI and Deep Learning more accessible to a broader audience.
Q: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
I just returned from my first trip to the Caribbean, and I am still thinking about the beaches, the water, the food, the amazing weather. So, putting aside the challenges of the time difference, I wouldn’t mind spending a longer period of time in the US Virgin Islands.
Q: What is your favorite book recommendation?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. One of the values I care about most at Datagen is transparency and building a culture where people can give and receive feedback and engage in difficult conversations. I appreciate Horowitz’s honesty about the challenges, trade-offs, and difficult decisions that come with building a company. I think everyone in Tech should give it a read. It’ll make you a better decision-maker, communicator, and team player.
Q: Why are you in Tech?
I’ve been interested in technology since I was young (I think most hi-tech founders will say that), but working in Tech is an amazing opportunity to see ideas be transformed into products, technologies, and tools at an extraordinary pace. I love that this industry gives me a chance to work with amazing people, not only here in Israel but in teams around the world. And, being part of a company like Datagen that is developing new, cutting-edge technology makes you feel that you’re really shaping the future.
Datagen is leading the data revolution in AI by generating high-performance, photo-realistic data used to train computer vision systems that focus on human and object perception. Our proprietary, data-centric technology delivers images and videos with unmatched domain coverage and fully controlled object variance. With our platform, companies generate high-fidelity synthetic data with associated ground truth in a seamless and scalable manner. Datagen customers include Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Founded in 2018, Datagen is led by recognized AI experts and is backed by AI industry luminaries.
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