In the bustling world of startups and technological innovation, few stories captivate and inspire as much as those of Dekel Skoop. From the serene landscapes of an Israeli kibbutz to the fast-paced world of hypergrowth startups, Dekel’s journey is not just about building a successful business but about making the internet accessible to everyone.
Dekel’s startup, accessiBe, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like K1 Investment Management, Phoenix, Itai Elizur, and Glilot Capital Partners.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Childhood friendships formed on soccer fields translated into valuable leadership and collaboration skills for Dekel and his co-founders.
- Transitioning from managing bars and restaurants, Dekel embraced the challenge of making the internet accessible, leading to an unexpected yet successful pivot.
- Selling their existing businesses to fund their startup showcased Dekel’s team’s commitment, proving that bold moves can pave the way for success.
- What began as a local initiative evolved into a global mission to make the Internet accessible, demonstrating the universal need for inclusivity.
- Dekel’s journey highlights the importance of constant adaptation, collaboration, and learning, particularly when addressing the diverse challenges of internet accessibility.
- While recognizing the evolving nature of technology, Dekel’s vision emphasizes an unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of internet accessibility and making a lasting impact.
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About Dekel Skoop:
As the CEO and Co-Founder of accessiBe, the leading web accessibility solution provider on the market, Dekel Skoop is passionate about making the internet an inclusive space for everyone.
Many people with disabilities don’t have access to the information and opportunities that the internet provides due to accessibility barriers. The vision at accessiBe is to bridge the digital accessibility gap.
Dekel is also a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient and co-founded a previous company, YKEY. His articles share his perspective as an entrepreneur who is passionate about how accessibility and AI are transforming the business landscape.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today. We have a really exciting founder. You know a founder that they is joining us from startup nation. You know I think that his journey is quite remarkable. You know we’re going to be learning a lot about all the good stuff that we like to hear you know and we’re speaking with founders anything around. Building scaling financing and and all of the above you know on the show Today. We’re gonna be really talking about what you? what what what? this guest has learned from really establishing a business with his childhood friends also about bootstrapping the company initially you know right now they’ve raised about 58000000 or so. And we’re going to also talk about you know some of the good things about accessibility and and and really starting from nothing. You know a company that it was very difficult to get financing at the beginning. No loans, no nothing and they brought it all the way to a point where finally you know investors you know we’re all over it so without farther ado. Let’s welcome our guest today dekil scoop welcome to the show.
Dekel Skoop: Alejandra Nice to meet you. Thank you very much for having me here.
Alejandro Cremades: So born in akibbuts so tell us about how was life growing up there in Israel.
Dekel Skoop: Will do so those of you don’t know a kibbut is some sort of small community and being operated independently usually without help from the the government of the country. My parents who I like to say they used to be hippies during the 80 s. And the 70 s were were were living there. They decided to bring to life my sister my older sister and then on me in that kibbutz I didn’t enjoy there too much time because we had to move to the city 7 years after I was born. But I do remember visiting the kibbutz every weekend and meeting my my my parents’ friends and it was It’s a very very very very relaxed area. Very relaxed life and in the kibbutz working a lot with animals and you know growing apples from making a living in the kibbutz. Great life for people who like it I myself preferre the city life the fast paid life. That’s me and we moved to a small city next to Tel Aviv when I was around 3 to 4 years and most of my childhood was there and that’s also where I met the the 2 of my friends who became. My partners to excessively and and I would love to share a bit more about that.
Alejandro Cremades: But obviously soccer you know was where you eventually met your childhood Friends. You know you guys were like very competitive playing soccer. So What do you think soccer taught you and and and you’re now co-founders about Leadership. Ah. About getting out there and really making it happen and then also about collaborating between you guys because it sounds like that experience of you guys playing soccer together really built a really strong ah foundation for the 3 of you. So So tell us about this.
Dekel Skoop: Yeah, so first of all for our friends outside of the us when we say soccer I’m in football you know my friends from England will if I keep calling it soccer so it’s also football and and that’s how we actually met.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, that’s right.
Dekel Skoop: We played the same team from around the age of 7 um and and and the reality of growing up in a competitive sport especially team teams and type of competitive sport brings you a lot of values and teaches you a lot of how to collaborate and how to.
Dekel Skoop: Not thinking that you have you’re the one who has the only solution for everything and the collaboration and and the competitiveness alongside your friends is very empowering and I think that that’s also our big value that we bring today to our workplace and to the people who work with us. And that’s also something that helps us as kids to grow up and fulfilling and our plans and and and also getting some energy out instead of making problems at school and in our houses we used to go and kick some balls and run get all the energy out on the field which is great for children. And I would love my kids to go and and and also take a part in competitive sport when they grew up so that’s how we met. Um, as you said very competitive with big dreams wanting to do big things in our life unfortunately soccer wasn’t the path for us genetics and also other things in our head. Told us that that’s not the right way to go and and after growing up a bit and after serving in the army. We decided to start working together in other endors. Um so two. Yeah, high.
Alejandro Cremades: And that was with restaurants and bars restaurants some bars out of all things I mean it’s quite ah is quite a quite quite a transition knowing to what you guys are doing today. So How do you get started with bars and restaurants. And then all of a sudden and you know go into marketing and then for marketing now into Hypergrowth building companies.
Dekel Skoop: So only 2 of us had the scene of going to work in the bars in the restaurant ones. The third one actually was a bit smarter and decided to become a developer which was a very smart move so 2 of us went in open bars and restaurants and that was what we thought we’re going to like and do. We did that and after working there in several years we decided that we want to do something more challenging. Um for ourself and that was to establish a marketing agency and provide marketing efforts and branding efforts and some sort of 3 60 for helping small businesses to sell the products or services and. Growth for customer base at the same time parallelly and as I said that the smartest cofounder alongside us was a developer an engineer he has he had his own startup. He sold that he established a software house. Um and provided services for bigger. Companies at the market agencys you also forgot for clients were s andbs and and and our partner who managed the software house at the enterprise level clients like banks investment houses and and big brands and and we used to work together that was nice because we were friends who can actually also work together. Used to provide services that that completed each other so and share with the software house used to provide web building and software solution to our to us and to our clientele we used to provide marketing efforts for share and his clientele and it was amazing to work together and that’s how our business journey.
Dekel Skoop: Also started all across all together. Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: So then so then tell me at what point do you guys? you know, really come up with the with the idea of what you’re up to now with accessibility because I mean obviously it’s quite the transition here and you know one learning tech the other ones learning marketing. Ah, at what point do you realize? hey this is a very meaningful problem I think that there is something big that we could do here because I mean obviously at this point not a lot of people was doing ah you know that much with Ai now when you guys were.
Dekel Skoop: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Doing this. It was 2018 you know before the whole craziness 2016 yeah so before all this craziness that they that we are now embracing so how did all that come together.
Dekel Skoop: Um, even before without him. Yeah.
Dekel Skoop: So. The first time we encountered the challenges around making websites and digital asset accessible was when the israeli government which actually was the first government in the world to do so decided to create regulation that would enforce private businesses to make their websites. Accessible for people disabilities which was very important. We believed that it was a very important move but most businesses as andbis mainly couldn’t do it. They didn’t have the capital. They didn’t have the knowledge they didn’t have the tech abilities to take their digital assets and make them accessible. Ah, bigger clients had and and and sheil who used to manage bigger client in the software house had to find solutions to make his client accessible. That’s how it all started. He came up with the idea. Um so his clients came to him told listen regulation is coming. We have to become accessible help us and then he started. Doing it manually at the getgo when he saw that there is a battleneck of doing it manually most of the market won’ we able to become accessible if that’s going to be the only way so it’s’s a very good way but there are probably other ways to add to that and to have some sort of ah a variety of ways and solutions to become accessible. That’s that was the get go of his ideas and he started developing an ai machine learning solution and then he came to me and ga the other two cofounders and told us this guy. There’s a problem here’s the problems I believe I’m going to get go to find a solution that can help everybody.
Dekel Skoop: Not only people or not only businesses with a of money and capital to become accessible and let’s do something together and and that’s how it all came into life and then we kept developing the solution and then at the beginning of 2018. We had the prototype implemented it on on on our client. Clients websites and manage to make them accessible. That’s that’s how we all started. Okay and.
Alejandro Cremades: So so so how what? what? I guess for the people that are listening to really get it to what end that up being accessly today I mean how how do you guys make money.
Dekel Skoop: Okay, so it’s very important to say that the mission is not only to make money. It’s also to make the internet accessible and we are lucky enough to manage to combine those 2 together and doing good while also providing so we started with ai machine learning tool that helps mainly. S andbs and moms and pub shops to become accessible because they didn’t have the tech abilities and the capital to pay for services companies to make them accessible. It’s a very very very expensive process and also takes a lot of time and we wanted to solve their problem because at the end of the day if you look at the american business ecosystem. 99% of the market is built out of s andbs and mums in pop shops and they had to find a solution to make themselves accessible and we saw it as a mission that we have to fulfill and that’s how it started and then we started selling the product to businesses in Israel and then in the us. And we managed to help a lot of them to become accessible. Um and slowly slowly we had also understood that we need to develop more and more ways of helping the business to become accessible and we need to create some sort of an ecosystem that provide accessibility in a variety of ways solutions products manual services. All and all together depending on the size of the business who needs it depending on the stage of the accessibility journey. The business is in right now and to grow with him to the maximum of accessibility he can achieve and maintain into his digital assets. That’s the mission That’s what we’re doing today.
Dekel Skoop: Start with very small businesses and helping them scale their accessibility and solutions and services into their dedicated as sites. We also help Enterprise companies making their digital asset a lot more accessible and more usable for disabilities and actually unlocking the challenges of becoming accessible online. That’s how. We we grow and you know make a business and that’s our mission.
Alejandro Cremades: And what was what was the journey to of um, doing this in a bootstrap way because I mean obviously now you guys have raised quite a bit of money but doing this from a bootstrapped perspective is very difficult. So so why do you guys.
Dekel Skoop: Yeah, yeah.
Dekel Skoop: Yes.
Alejandro Cremades: Embark in that path and and how did that unfold.
Dekel Skoop: So the thing is with a visionary people like my partner shi who thought of the idea that sometimes they see things before everybody else is seeing them and he came with this idea and we tried to raise money from at the beginning from banks loans from banks to you know. Ah, bringing money into the business we can run the business and banks didn’t even want to give us Loan and we had a problem so we decided that the only way to move it forwards from here is probably to say bye bye to our former businesses. Our milking cows. Let’s call it and put all that money into the business. We believe it’s going to change the world and that’s what we did. We sold our bars. Sold the marketing agency. We sold a software house and took all of that money into the company and and started growing it and after we proved to the but to the banks and to an investor that there is something here and the internet will need to become accessible and we will help it happen. They started believing it also and only a few. 1 or 2 years after we started getting some small loans and after the investments and that’s a whole story. You could speak about also so that’s how it all started.
Alejandro Cremades: So so so tell us about that moment where you feel that you’re turning a corner you know with investors and now you’re starting to spark interest from them like how did that unravel.
Dekel Skoop: Yeah, So the the the the most challenging things um of the thing about a market is the educational part of things people businesses individuals. Whatever it is have to understand that the internet have to become accessible and this is something mandatory for everybody. And that was something It was very difficult to explain to investors or to banks because they didn’t see it yet and only when the regulation came in place and said this and everybody you have to become accessible things started to move forward things started the the wheels of this of this you know and train started to move forward and then. Bank started seeing that okay that those guys were right? but that they probably onto something and also investors said okay internet is now the center of the world. It’s more than makes sense that it will need to become accessible just like the physical places that are already accessible. That’s what the world has to become and then they become. Then they started to believe in what we’re doing and wanted to take apart and join the journey.
Alejandro Cremades: So how was the fundraising journey like to as well because you guys have raised quite a bit of money. You guys have raised about 58000000 so what was the journey of raising all that money like.
Dekel Skoop: So. The first time we took money that wasn’t ours to grow the business was taking loan from a bank small bank in Israel and we had to convince him that that’s the right thing to do so he gave us a small chunk of money at the beginning in terms of dollars I think it was 25 $ $30000 he told us take this and show me that you have a good business. We took it. We showed him. We came back and then he gave us another $60000 we took that and keep running the business but then we understood that we need you know mo dry powder because we have a bigger mission and we need to make the internet accessible and to take small chunks of loan from banks is not going to. Make the difference and move the needle and then we decided that we need to turn and become startup and raise funds like startup usually needs to do and then we met a few angel investors. 1 of them was a mentor in our marketing agency who believed in us and so what we’re doing and really wanted to help us so he brought. 2 colleagues of his and they invested in us and we also added another investor and private investor that actually owns venture capital colleaguely lot but he joined alone without a capital with his own private money. He really believed in us. And we created some sort of a coalition of very smart investors impact for investors that helped us grow the business so that was a smaller amount of money we raised probably around half a million dollars back then and we managed to take that money keep growing the business keep making the engine internet accessible more and more and then we understood that there is another phase of growing as ah as a.
Dekel Skoop: Startup and from Aio investors to move to the vcpeworld bringing a big strong investors behind us that will really help us push that to the next 5 to 10 years and really help us change the internet and and make an impact. And then we met k 1 amazing investors from West Coast from and they believed in the company and they put the first investment in and then the company kept on growing kept on creating more solutions more services more products helping more business become accessible helping more individual with disabilities. Use the internet and then the dream that we had really came into life really make it and accessible and then k one invested more money in the company because they kept seeing the trajectory of what we’re doing and then the private angel investor from glilo decided to bring his own Vc as well. So they joined. Um, and brought also some of their lps to invest in us and now we have a very strong coalation of investors beyond accessibility helping us realizing the dream of making data internet accessible so it was like a developing stage by state from small loans to a small engine investing. And then to a big private equity and a syndicate of investors behind us.
Alejandro Cremades: Obviously when when investors invest they want to make sure that you know that founder is Committed. No and that they really have the passion for the problem that they’re solving obviously in your case too. There is a background there. You know in the family as well of Disability. So. Why at a personal level. This was so important and dear to your heart.
Dekel Skoop: So first I’ll give a caveat I don’t like to say that because of my family problem I can and and make a business I’m here because I believe in it regardless of what I have in my private life That’s the journey I I chose to take because I believe in in it in an ethical way I believe in it in a business way. Yes, also making money It’s okay. Ah, the bad thing. Um, but I believe and I also spoke about it at my psychologist 1 time that maybe in the back of my head that there’s also a part of wanting to do good, especially for a community of people disability is because I have my own experience in that world and my family has it and by the way. Also my co-founders. 1 of my cofounder also coming with a background on like that. Um. And and and I believe that probably it’s sat there in the back of my head because excessive is not the first time I’m creating a startup around impactful and around doing good for the world. They had a business before that I so I tried to establish a startup before that that also used to do good for npo’s it didn’t succeed. Nobody but they wanted to invest in that and unfortunately but that was the first time that I really tried to do something impactful. Um, and my my background counted my family is suffering from a condition called astherroreposesis. It’s very rare. Probably none of you know about that. And that causes more motor impairments mainly around ligaments and joints and muscles. Um, some of my family members suffer from it a lot more severe than what I did in my case, it’s only come in shapeping the palm of my hands if you can see used to be a shame of my hands but not anymore. Um.
Dekel Skoop: And some you know back pains and and stiffness. But I can’t complain I’m totally okay, no complaint. But I believe in my colleagues believe that probably there is something there. Um and but you know Thank God Thanks to technology and progress and innovation my kid. My daughter. Was born without any problem because we managed to do a process and ivf to help her help this embryo get the gene out so technology can really help everybody that that’s my take on that and that’s what I’m trying to do yeah thank you.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow, no kidding. That’s amazing now now now in your case. Um you know for example with the company. It sounds like I mean now you know global the approach over 200 employees I mean the impact is real. Did you guys think about that. Global approach from the gecko or did that they you know came up as as you guys were executing.
Dekel Skoop: No at the get go because Israel was the only regulated market and that was where the place we worked at we didn’t think about making it global we wanted to solve the problem for our people at the beginning to the small businesses and also people with disabilities in our country.
Alejandro Cremades: Man.
Dekel Skoop: We joined forces with a group of I disabilities that helped us improve our solutions or products and also worked with a lots of businesses to make them accessible and that was the ecosystem we operated at and then slowly slowly we understood that what’s happening in Israel. It’s probably just the beginning because the internet has to become accessible everywhere not only in Israel. In America in Europe. It’s going to happen and then we started developing and and and thinking about globalization of of helping business to becomeac accessible and then the us rejoined the year after the Israel government was officially feared about what accessibility regulation that do jane america also did some modification. And created a reality where businesses private businesses have to make them the website accessible and we saw this opportunity and we saw that we have ah we have a chance to really make a global impact and we put we doubled down on that and and rebreded the company and started selling our product in the us working with. People disabilities in the us learning their challenges. Every country have different challenges every individual have different challenges and we need to learn and adapt and change the way we do things to make to fit to their needs into their problems and that was the transition. It took a step by step. It didn’t at the beginning it wasn’t there to your question. It. It’s something that developed. Along the time we operated.
Alejandro Cremades: Now we were talking about investments earlier and and the approach of of going global as well. I want to talk about vision because that’s something Big. You know something Big. You know, especially as you’re onboarding folks Employees Investors. Let’s say if you were to go to sleep tonight. Decadelan. You wake up in a world where the vision of accessibility is fully realized what does that world look like.
Dekel Skoop: So First I don’t think that it will be possible that the vision will be fully realized because the technology always evolves and people needs always evolves and our mission is always be there and learn from the get from the people disabilities what they need. And always keep improving what we’re doing that that that that that’s my take of realizing the dream and websites keep on being built technology keep on changing and we always have to be there and modify and change and improve modify change improve and keep learning also learning all the time learning learning learning Learning. So. Um, I’m not sure it will ever be totally realizing all of the internet will become fully accessible. It’s a long process. It’s gonna take time but I believe that we can push as far as possible on that. Um and and the the mindset that we had to change is that. This is ah not one size fits Allll The the mission is to find different ways different products, different services manual servicestic services that can help every business and every technology to become as accessible as it can. We started with one product. That fits a certain part of the market and then as we grew we learned it. We have to develop more and more solution. We got a lot of feedback from the people disabilities that worked with us and we learned so much from Them. We keep learning so much from there and keep evolving all the time. So Now. Um.
Dekel Skoop: My dream is to keep evolving and keep creating the forefront of my market and helping the internet become more and more accessible. Hopefully one day it will be possible to make the entire internet accessible from the get-go. But right now we’re still not there and we have a long vision and long dream to realize.
Alejandro Cremades: So we’re talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past in doing so with a lensel reflection because you guys have been pushing this since 2016 so let’s say I was to give you the opportunity of going back in time I put you into a time machine and I bring you back to that moment where you guys are thinking about a future where you could do something here.
Dekel Skoop: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And let’s say you’re able to sit down all of you and you’re able to give all of you one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Dekel Skoop: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so I have a few of them one. It’s about the product and about the services we provide work a lot more with the end users of your solution. This is something we’re doing today full force with all of our company but at the get go. We had some challenges. We didn’t do it quite well. Um, and it gave us a lot of backlashes but we learned from it and today it’s the basic of the basic is to really work with the people who user solutions user services and our products and learn from them what they need and what they want that’s number 1 okay, if you want to solve. Someone’s problem. Do it with them not for them. That’s very important very very important and um second and believe in your people believe in them. Okay, when you establish a business at the beginning when you do the things. It looks very difficult to give it to someone else and believe that you will do what you did as best as you can, but. Your job as an entrepreneur as a leader is to find people will do what you did better than you. Yes, it will happen. People will do things better than yourself. That’s what you need to understand they are they are out there. It might be difficult to find them. It might be difficult to train them. But if you put your effort on finding them and training them correctly.
Dekel Skoop: You will help them to fulfill your business dreams and that’s something very important that we learned along with the way bring the right people in and let them do the work obviously onboard them teach them as much as you can, but from the moment they understand what you want from them. Let them do it because you are not the smartest person in the room. You will never be the smartest person in the room. Always gonna be someone’s more than you your job is to find him and let him work with you that that’s that’s number 2 and number 3 I think don’t be afraid of taking big lips when you need. We were very scared. Doing the move from Israel to the Us. But the moment we did it we we told ourselves how come we didn’t do it before we we needed to do it before so obviously create all the analysis and market research you have to create but the moment you understood. That’s where you need to go do the make make the jump make the leap. Do. It don’t be afraid. You’re not you don’t understand how much things will happen the moment you get out of your comfort zone and the moment you’re really trying to realize and dream things will start aligning without you even understand how and why? so I think those those are the tips that I can give.
Alejandro Cremades: I Love it I love it So they care for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Dekel Skoop: Um, I’m available on Linkedin Dele school always feel free to reach out I’m very responsive. Um I also have my email deca at accessy.com I love people I love working with people. That’s what I come from I’m a people’s person. And learned so much from people all the time I hope to give back when I can so feel free.
Alejandro Cremades: I love it? Well hey they have thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Dekel Skoop: Thank you and Handra Thank you very much for having me here. It was great.
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