In the world of entrepreneurship, success stories often carry a unique blend of passion, resilience, and the ability to navigate uncertainty. Dror Liwer, a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of two successful companies with valuations in billions, shares his inspiring journey from being a diplomat’s child in Ethiopia to becoming a prominent figure in the cybersecurity industry.
His latest venture, Coro, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Moniepoint, Balderton Capital, JVP, MizMaa Ventures, and Energy Impact Partners.
In this episode, you will learn:
- An international upbringing equipped him with a diverse worldview, fostering innovation through exposure to different cultures, languages, and people.
- Military service instilled the values of discipline, integrity, and teamwork, laying the foundation for his entrepreneurial journey.
- Coro’s success story underscores the importance of courageously pivoting when needed, as they redesigned their cybersecurity product to meet the unique needs of the mid-market.
- Emphasis on the significance of delivering real value to the marketplace, whether through unique technology, services, or innovative market approaches, is a key factor in achieving entrepreneurial success.
- Shared insights into the evolving dynamics of funding cycles, highlighting the importance of strong investor support and making courageous decisions during critical junctures.
- Coro’s vision extends beyond enterprise-level cybersecurity, aiming to secure companies of all sizes and address the rising threat landscape faced by midmarket and smaller organizations.
- Advice to entrepreneurs emphasizes the continuous pursuit of learning from those smarter than oneself, both in professional collaborations and social networks, as a crucial element in navigating the entrepreneurial journey.
For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
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About Dror Liwer:
Dror is co-founder and Chief Security Officer of Coronet, the first cyber security company to protect organizations from wireless network threats.
Dror is passionate about helping enterprises ensure the security of their employees and customers as they connect to ubiquitous Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
He believes that the pervasiveness, necessity, and accessibility of today’s wireless communication shouldn’t lead to people’s privacy being jeopardized.
Dror has extensive management and technology experience, having successfully built and led several digital technology-centric, client-facing companies.
Previously, he was CEO and Board member for a cloud-based, Point-of-Sale company, Pose, and served as an advisor and Board member for Cloudyn, a leading provider of multi-cloud platform optimization solutions.
Spanning more than 16 years of experience, Dror has served in senior executive roles at IXI Mobile, Blast Radius, and Context Integration.
He began his career in cyber security while serving as CIO of the Israel Defense Force’s Military Police, thwarting some of the very first cybercrimes and threats.
Dror is a frequent speaker and panelist at international technology and business conferences.
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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 founder that has done it so many times that I kind of got got disy when I heard the number of companies that he has founded. He has you know ran he has sold he has ipo I mean he’s ipo 2 companies. You know one that they you know the peak was it. It was like about sixteen billion the other one was about five billion five point five billion but again you know we’re going to be talking about all the good stuff that we like to hear we’re going to be talking about building scaling financing. We’re going to be talking about how you go about building a successful and winning team. To have the courage to change directions and we all know about the pivoting and how that happens when it comes to adjusting to what the market is asking. You also how to raise money from the right people that are really supporting. You know the mission of the company as well as understanding why your company exists. Which is most important you know more important than anything but without further ado let’s welcome our guest today drawer liver welcome to the show. So originally born in Ethiopia but you know then eventually you moved back to Israel I mean you you moved quite a bit you know. Also.
Dror Liwer: Thank you a hundred great to be here.
Alejandro Cremades: Ah, growing up as a kid so give us a walkthrough memory lane. How is life how was life growing up.
Dror Liwer: It was Great. So Um I was very Lucky. My dad was in a diplomat So We moved around a lot and I I think one of the biggest gifts that I was given as a kid was being exposed. To cultures languages people from all over the world as a diplomat you usually go to school in what’s called International Schools. So with me, you know I had people from literally every corner of the world. And it’s very good because as a kid you you know you grow up in a little bit of a bubble and then when you get to see other people other customs other cultures other languages it really opens up your mind and I think that that was ah the greatest gift My parents could have given me.
Alejandro Cremades: How do you think it I mean obviously it opens up your minus you’ve said in ah in an amazing way. But there’s a couple more things there that are interesting. No like 1 is moving from 1 place to another starting from scratch. You know, new friends new everything new environment I’m sure that. That has helped you to deal with uncertainty so I guess some of the things that come to mind is one is how would you say that moving like that growing up, you know, really helped you in being with uncertainty and then also how do you think it helped you. Having that worldview that that new perspective because you know there was much more out of Ethiopia or or out of Israel for example.
Dror Liwer: Yeah, So um, that’s a great question and as you’re asking the question I’m getting to think that my entire life as an entrepreneur was informed by that because you’re right as you move around and as you get exposed to different people. And as you join different social circles every time Anew. Um, there is an enormous amount of uncertainty and as an entrepreneur there is always uncertainty and maybe living with that uncertainty as a kid you know all the way up into my ah 20 s. Um, helped me become the and the serial entrepreneur entrepreneur or as my wife likes to call it the masochist ah going and building companies over and over again and dealing with all of that uncertainty on all Aspects. You know as an entrepreneur you’re living and you need to be at peace with uncertainty because. You know if you wanted certainty would go work for a very large organization that has very obvious and clear paths that you need to follow as an entrepreneur you’re creating your own path.
Alejandro Cremades: So so in your case eventually you ended up in the army and there you also became the Cio of the military police So talk to us about this experience too and then also what you got out of being there and perhaps discipline.
Dror Liwer: Um, yeah.
Dror Liwer: Yeah, yeah, so I think um so like every Israeli I had to serve in the military. Um, and um I decided that instead of getting the orders I’ll give orders I went and became an officer.
Dror Liwer: Not knowing that of course you always get orders and then um I grew up in the technology organization and became the Ceo of the israeli military police at a very young age. Um and dealt with ah what were the very first cyber crimes in the history of the country which was pretty amazing. Um, but what you get out of the military um is two things more than anything maybe 3 things more than anything else one as you said discipline you know you have to be disciplined. They drill it into you from basic training. Through officers academy everything is about discipline two. It’s all about integrity. So I don’t know if you know this but the number 1 thing that you flunk out of the academy on is integrity if they find out that you were dishonest or. You lied or or you or anything. It’s an automatic expulsion. You don’t um and and the third thing is teamwork nobody is an island in the military you always rely on other people. Ah and your reliances in many cases. Ah, you rely on them with your life so you learn to work in a team and you need to ah learn how to rely on people and identify the strengths in other people and rely on those strengths and then fill the weaknesses with either other people that are as stronger in those areas.
Dror Liwer: Or grow those strings yourselves. So those 3 things ah were pivotal for me and and they come at a very formative age. You know you joined the military when you’ were 18 I left the military when I was ah just under 23 um so these 5 years were pivotal in. Shaping of my worldview on what work ethic is what discipline is what integrity is and what teamwork is.
Alejandro Cremades: And also it sounds like once you finish the army. You know you were there for about 5 years then you experience I mean you had the creative in you you had the the bug for wanting to be a musician but then you realize that that there was not a lot of cheese at the end of the tunnel.
Dror Liwer: Yes, yeah, exactly so so leaving the military. The 1 thing I really wanted to do was stay as far away from technology as possible because I ate drent slept. Ah, and dealt with technology every day all day at extremely high stress levels. So I went and I ah studied musicology of all things and then I thought I’d become a professional musician but very quickly found out that being a musician. And having money were mutually exclusive. An artist is not exactly and and being ah you know so so I decided that um maybe um, that would be a nice thing to have as a hobby but not as a profession and I should go back to what I knew how to do which was. Leading teams leading technology teams and building product and and that’s really what I did.
Alejandro Cremades: So then in your case you know like a you did that and then eventually you decided to come to the Us. So what? what? what was what was say the calling you know for you to come to the Us.
Dror Liwer: You know like a lot of things in our lives. It wasn’t planned you know I went for a job interview for a job in Israel and the guy looked at me and said look I’m looking at your resume and you are way overqualified for this job. But. We have a head of r and d position in New York that we’re recruiting for and you’d be perfect for it would you would you consider it and you know being a young guy with very little you know liabilities I looked at this and said hey you know why not and they offered me a 2 wo-year contract in New York and I thought it would be a great opportunity to go out and learn and be exposed yet again to something completely new and that’s exactly what I did I went there to New York for 2 years and ended up staying 20.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s unbeliev. What do you think? kept you for so long in New York
Dror Liwer: The challenges. Um, it was like constantly a new huge challenge would show up in it and I’d be just too excited about it to drop it and go back home. So every time I thought it was time and we had my wife and I were um. Talking about this constantly we were you know she kept reminding me. We came here for 2 years and um and she really wanted to come back to Israel and but every time there would be like this amazing challenge in front of me an amazing opportunity I mean the us really is the land of opportunity. Ah, and it is the highest I think um, maybe there are 2 countries in the world I think that have such a high risk reward profile Israel and the us um and in the in New York specifically it was constantly new challenges. New New Ideas new opportunities to grasp and I just was so hungry for that and I felt that I could have such impact so 1 thing led to another and. Another company that we founded or another company that asked me to come in and help them scale and it just kept going.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, so prior to corra which we’re gonna be talking in just a little bit. How many companies did you either founder or run ah some you and in an event and and and initially what got you into the venture world.
Dror Liwer: 6
Dror Liwer: So when we moved ah back to Israel I looked at what do I want to do. Basically we decided it was time. There was a nice gap ah in between companies I had just ah, finished the transaction. Um, and then. We decided it was a good timing also from ah at the time my daughters were at the right age that we could easily ah transition between the 2 places so when I decided to move to Israel I thought to myself. What do I want to do and um. The idea of creating an incubator or a fund came to mind as a really interesting opportunity. Ah, and I said you know this is something I’ve never done before. So let’s go and try that out. So I created the seed fund ah here in Israel. And we invested in a few companies. Um and and some of them were very successful. One ended up getting being sold to Microsoft and it was a really good experience but I’m much more of a builder than an investor. So I ended up joining one of our portfolio companies as a Ceo and then after that after selling that we I started Cora with my cofounders.
Alejandro Cremades: So Then let’s talk about the experience of running and and founding all these different companies before core and before the venture Capital fund. So for the companies that you guys that you sold you know with with the teams there. What what did you learn about. M And a about Acquisitions. You know how do you go about the whole process of you know, really getting companies excited to come. You know, start swimming around you so that they end up taking the bite and and they end up buying your business. How does that work.
Dror Liwer: It it all ah is driven by value so you need to be able to generate value. Um as a company regardless of M and a or Ipo. It’s Irrelevant. You need to deliver. Real value to a real marketplace in order for a company to grow and as you’re doing that either through very unique technology or through a very unique service or through a very unique approach to a market. Um, others that are interested in that. Technology or market or service or whatever it is that you’ve created are going to take notice because there are people people in ah these large organizations that their entire job is to scout and find companies that are either ah complementary to what they’re offering or. Ah, can facilitate an entry into um, a new Market. So really, It’s all about um, fundamental Value. You know if you don’t have a real value as an organization if you’re just another metoo organization that does something. Then it’s going to be.. It’s going to limit your exit um opportunities and when you exit it’s going to limit greatly the value the the transaction size.
Alejandro Cremades: So there were 2 companies too that you had the opportunity of taking public one at the peak was 16000000000 the other one was five point five billion obviously incredible success. You know to be able to create a company like that. I guess in terms of patterns that you saw on on those 2 companies which is like the promised land. You know what every founder you know like a pearlie that is listening you know wakes up every day and dreams of like ringing the bell and all of that stuff. What were some of the like the 3 things perhaps that you saw in common. On those 2 companies that were like rocket ships like what were some of those traits that were similar to 1 another.
Dror Liwer: So So I can name two that that are very very clear innovation doing something. Ah no one has done before um and product Market fit where. You create something that there is a real market for it and the market is growing and therefore it’s showing a revenue stream that that has a very ah large future potential remember that in the Public Market. What the market is really buying is the promise of the future. And the fact that you are going to either dominate or be a major player in a market or in a segment that has tremendous growth potential. So in both cases. It was exactly that it was creating something that was new yet. Had a very quickly growing potential market that could generate an enormous amount of revenue in the future.
Alejandro Cremades: So the Ipo experience. How was that.
Dror Liwer: Very stressful. You know you have to understand that the ipo itself ah working up to an ipo is a very very tedious process. It’s an enormous amount of due diligence and finance and road show and. Pitching and and all of that work because normally when you’re ipoing the institutional buyers have already bought into the ipo upfront. So the the entire process of that is um, very tedious. Very difficult because you’re telling the exact same story sometimes dozens of times each week and it has to be the exact same story. You can’t veer. Yeah, so it’s going back to discipline. We spoke about discipline you meet with investment bankers and you meet with institutional investors and you meet with it. Ah, with with um, um, pension funds and and all you need to do is tell them the story and be very very clear about the numbers and be very very clear about the mission and not veer from the message even though to you it became the most boring thing on earth because you just told that story 160 times over the last month right and and it had to be exactly same post Ipo. It’s extremely stressful because now you’re a public company and you live quarter to quarter. You have to meet your numbers every quarter you have to be very careful about how.
Dror Liwer: What is communicated What is not communicated because you know as a public Company. You have enormous amount of responsibility of vis-a-visa scc and vis-a-vis your investors and your shareholders and so forth and so on so it suddenly becomes a totally different ballgame where um. Every ah I must be dotted. Every team must be crossed to the end degree and it’s It’s a very um, big adjustment mentally from an entrepreneur’s perspective where you know entrepreneurs are guns blazing. That’s that’s our definition. We are. We are go getters where we’re and suddenly you have to be very very focused and very very disciplined on the next Quarter’s numbers. Ah, because that’s all the public market is looking at So It’s It’s a very big shift.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in this case, you know you also had your successes but you also had a failure you know and as they say you either succeed or you learn so from that company that didn’t pan out the way that you have hoped for what was that lesson that you took away from that.
Dror Liwer: Um, there are two lessons don’t hold on to a ah dream. Once you read once everybody once the market is showing you that that dream is just not feasible or not correct and to. Um, don’t fall in love with somebody else’s vision and not be critical about it.
Alejandro Cremades: Now let’s talk about 2015 let’s shift gears here. You know that’s the moment where you got you know together with a friend and the idea of coral starts brewing. You know, really bringing it to life walk to us about walk walk walk us through that.
Dror Liwer: Chuck.
Alejandro Cremades: Ideation incubation and bringing to life you know Journey What was that like with coral.
Dror Liwer: Yeah, so coral has been an incredible um journey and um, it’s it’s almost a decade now and let me tell you the First. Ah years were very very challenging because again. Figure out figuring figuring out that product market fit an audience um was not easy, especially in our space. So perhaps I should I should spend 2 minutes to explain what we do. We are a cyber security company and our focus is. On the midmarket and the entire and the entire cybersecurity industry and there is about 2700 vendors out. There is focused either on the enterprise market or the consumer market nobody is focused on the midmarket. So what happens is. The enterprise players are trying to shove an enterprise product down the mid-market throat and the consumer players are trying to shove a consumer product down the s and b throat. Um and neither is really a fit so when we sat together. As a company as founders. Initially we like every other cyber security company out there ah thought that we were building an enterprise product. Um, and then as we started selling that enterprise product into the market.
Dror Liwer: We realized at one point that despite the fact that we were aiming at the enterprise the folks that were actually buying it were the midmarket and then when we looked at why were they buying and we discovered that they were buying our product because it was simpler. To use that was it. We didn’t invent a new cybersecurity paradigm. We just took something that was very complex and made it simpler and then we said huh let’s let’s think this through because we were really struggling. To sell to the enterprise because the market is so saturated with such great companies that have been around for some some of them 2025 years and have built a following in brand awareness and here’s this little you know 15 person company out of Tel Aviv trying to sell ah into these. Giants and you know it was very very difficult. It was a struggle and then we find find out that there is this market out there that is vying for a solution and just simply doesn’t have one that is appropriate for them. So. What we did and and this is going back to ideation and thinking and being courageous. Is we said you know what? even though the product that we designed and built is appealing to this market. It wasn’t designed and built for them. It.
Dror Liwer: It was an accident. So We said let’s stop. Everything go back to the drawing board and design a product for them So we went back to the drawing board and built a product that was designed from the ground up for the midmarket. Which meant you know there were there were a few very key issues in that market that we needed to address that nobody else addressed um simplicity being one of them price point being another ah the reliance on a cyber security team which my customer simply doesn’t have. Ah, Cyber security Team. It’s their it team. So. It’s a little bit of a different skillset and the concept of having to integrate numerous different products ah to be able to achieve real cyber Security competence. All of these things we had to resolve so we went back to the drawing board. Literally stopped selling built a product that was designed for that market and then launched it in late 2018 early 2019 and ever since then have grown 300% in revenue year over year. Ah, every single year because we found that product Market fit and we created and our innovation was not in the cyber security protection but in how it’s being consumed and how it’s being delivered to those ah to that specific and by the way. Huge.
Dror Liwer: Market segment. It’s by no means a niche market. There is over 600000 midmarket and small businesses in the us alone. So it’s it’s a massive market to target so that’s really what the ideation and the thinking was you know, understanding that there is a need. Going back to the drawing board and having the courage and the backing of your investors to do that to say stop everything rebuild from scratch and now go to market with the right kind of product.
Alejandro Cremades: And I guess say also for building something like this is capital intensive So how much capital have you guys raised to late.
Dror Liwer: Ah, so we raised just south of a 80000000 yes
Alejandro Cremades: That’s a lot of Zeros there drawer. So how how was the journey of of going through the different financing cycles.
Dror Liwer: So each funding cycle is dramatically different ah than other funding cycles. So when you’re in the seed funding cycle you’re selling a dream. You’re selling a concept. You’re selling a team. And a powerpoint and maybe a proof of concept of some sort. But really what you need to sell your investor on and the numbers to zeros are very fewer. You know at that point you need to sell them on a a dream and be that the team in front of them can actually execute. That dream and turn it into our reality as you’re progressing in the cycles. Um, you’re ah talking about ah you know the next round would be more around a product market fit saying. Okay, so now we have a product and it’s a real product now we need to go to market. And you need to trust us that we will know how to take it to market. It’s a great product your tech your being the investors tech guys can look at it and give us a thumbs up that it’s a great product technically. But now we need to take it to market. Totally different storyline totally different dynamic in that. Investment committee ah, and then once you have the product market fit. It’s all about execution. So you know when you can show that you’re actually taking that product to market and you’re growing 300 % year over year consistently and you’re meeting.
Alejandro Cremades: And.
Dror Liwer: Ah, your targets twelve quarters in a row then the conversation is not about a dream but rather about is this team able to take this to the next level is this team able to scale is this product going to scale is the market big enough. To actually generate enough interest in revenue to justify a billion dollar valuation and that’s really where you know each one of the funding cycles was ah luckily for ah me and and my co-founders we um. We were able to um, live through each one of those ah you know, junctures you know the dream juncture the go to markete juncture and of course the execution juncture ah very successfully I have to say that along the way when we decided to pivot we had to do a capital raised there. And it took an enormous amount of courage from our investors. Um to do that and it it I have to say you know the the team at jvp that was with us from day one um and is still an investor at core today invested in every single round. Has been instrumental in our success.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, because I mean if you don’t have them reinvesting then that’s a negative signal to the Market. So I guess say and that could be catastrophic because then newer investors are going to be like hey they’re not reinvesting something is off with this business so we shouldn’t invest either. So I Guess that’s an incredible point that you raise there because when. Things are going Well everyone loves each other but when things are not going so well and it will you get to see the real human being right? The real people you know behind you know what are what are the true colors. What have you learned in that regard because going through a pivot and racing money at that time.
Dror Liwer: After.
Alejandro Cremades: You really need to know that you have the right people for the right reasons with you. So what did you learn about that during that specific time.
Dror Liwer: That’s a great question. Um, to tell you that we knew from the very beginning that our investors would be as courageous as they were we We probably did. We probably did because they had an incredible reputation. Um, and they understood our market really really? well. Ah, our market at the time being Cyber security. Um, but I’m not sure that they had the same level of experience in the Midmarket. Ah, actually very few investors have if you look at the Vc community in general very few have experience in the midmarket. Um, so we were very lucky that they had this courage to look at the market and say yes there is a massive market. There. Let’s go conquer. It. Um, and you know kudos to um, youov threeya and nere margalite who were ah investors in us from day one through Jvp who had that courage and now are seeing our success. And are sharing our success on a daily basis.
Alejandro Cremades: So Obviously you know vision is a big one so you know that’s why you ultimately enroll people in and whether it’s employees investors or customers. So if you were to go to sleep tonight drawer and you wake up in a world where the vision of Koro is fully realized what does that. World look like.
Dror Liwer: Every company regardless of its size is protected.
Alejandro Cremades: That will look like a beautiful world Now here’s the thing.
Dror Liwer: Unfortunately in today’s world what we’re seeing is that the midmarket and smaller organizations are exposed and the bad guys know it and see them as easy prey easy targets. It’s much harder to ah penetrate a large bank than it is a mid-market credit union um, so that’s who they’re going after now last year was a first year where there were more attacks on midmarket and small business than the enterprise according to the Fbi. And I think that’s exactly why? Ah, this is happening because they are less protected and more vulnerable but still have assets and still have um a you know, really good monetization for the bad guys to go after them and in a perfect world for me. It would be where every company regardless of its size is protected.
Alejandro Cremades: So obviously we’re talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past with a lynch of reflection. Let’s say I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back to that moment that you were in New York now you know about to enter the world of startups and let’s say you were to have a conversation with your younger self. And you were to give you that younger self one piece of advice for launching a business but would that be ny given what you know now.
Dror Liwer: So so I would say um, surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and by surround yourself I don’t mean just hire people that are smarter than you or partner with people that are smarter than you. It’s also surround yourself socially and and networkwise with people that are smarter than you because you can learn so much from ah other people you know as a tribute I can I can mention unfortunately. A dear friend of mine and a mentor of mine who just passed away this year Gary Rupert I’ve learned so much from this man and he was so generous with me as far as sharing his knowledge and sharing his point of view much smarter than me. Much more experienced than me he he was I think 2025 years my senior and in having that understanding that you don’t know anything everything you know some things but you don’t know everything and you need to surround yourself with people that do know what you don’t know so you can learn from them. Is super important.
Alejandro Cremades: I Hear you so draw for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi where is the best way for them to do so.
Dror Liwer: Probably Linkedin I’m very active. My profile is available on Linkedin and they’re happy I’m happy to link with people and answer questions and be helpful if I can.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey draw thank you so much for being with a deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Dror Liwer: My pleasure Alejandro thank you so much for having me.
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