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.
In this exclusive interview, we delve into the pivotal moments, challenges faced, and lessons learned that shaped Dror’s remarkable career.
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A Global Upbringing: Cultivating a Worldview
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Israel, Dror had the privilege of a global upbringing thanks to his father’s career as a diplomat. This experience exposed him to diverse cultures, languages, and people from all corners of the world.
Dror attributes this early exposure to different perspectives as the greatest gift his parents could have given him. Growing up in international schools, he learned to appreciate the richness of diversity, a lesson that would later influence his approach to entrepreneurship.
“Being exposed to different people, customs, and languages really opens up your mind, and I think that was the greatest gift my parents could have given me,” reflects Dror.
From Diplomacy to Discipline: Military Service as a Crucible & Musical Interlude
After his international upbringing, Dror joined the Israeli military, where he became the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the military police. His military service instilled in him three crucial values: discipline, integrity, and teamwork.
The discipline and integrity learned in the military played a pivotal role in shaping Dror’s entrepreneurial journey, preparing him for the uncertainties that come with building and scaling companies. His time in the army also exposed him to the very first cyber crimes in the history of the country.
“As an entrepreneur, you’re creating your own path. You need to be at peace with uncertainty,” Dror explains.
Post-military service, Dror ventured into a different realm – music. Studying musicology and considering a career as a professional musician, he soon realized the financial challenges artists face. Returning to his roots in technology, Dror found his passion for leading teams and building products.
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The Leap to the Big Apple: Unexpected Opportunities in New York
Dror’s entrepreneurial journey took an unexpected turn when a job interview in Israel led to an offer for a Head of R&D position in New York. This move marked the beginning of a two-year contract that turned into two decades. The dynamic challenges and opportunities in New York kept Dror engaged and hungry for more.
“The US really is the land of opportunity. It is the highest risk-reward profile,” notes Dror.
The Entrepreneurial Marathon: Serial Entrepreneurship and IPOs
As Dror explains, founders must have a very unique technology, a very unique service, or a very unique approach to a market. That’s how they can come under the radar of large organizations. Their entire job is to scout and find companies that are either complementary to what they’re offering or can facilitate their entry into a new market. He remembers valuing two of his companies at $16B and $5.5B.
Without this unique value proposition, founders will find fewer opportunities to make an exit, and that’s going to limit the value of the transaction size. The objective is to create something that has a real market, which is growing and therefore showing a revenue stream.
Revenue streams indicate that the company has a large future potential in the public market. What the market is really buying is the promise of the future. And the fact that the brand is going to either dominate or be a major player in a market or segment that has tremendous growth potential.
Due Diligence and Precision in Reporting
Dror talks about his experiences with IPOs and describes them as a tedious process, requiring a lot of due diligence, finance, and pitching to institutional investors, investment bankers, and pension funds. He recalls telling the exact same story, sometimes dozens of times each week, taking care not to veer in any way.
Another critical factor is to be very precise about the numbers they’re quoting and their mission. Founders run their companies from quarter to quarter, and there has to be accuracy in the reports they create. And that involves being responsible to investors and shareholders.
The Birth of Coro: Pivoting with Courage for Midmarket Cybersecurity
After returning to Israel, Dror took a hiatus, creating a seed fund and investing in several successful companies. He reveals that he started a total of 6 ventures before Coro. However, the desire to build led him to co-found Coro, a cybersecurity company focusing on the overlooked midmarket.
The journey wasn’t without challenges, and the initial product-market fit proved elusive. But with courage and a commitment to solving the midmarket’s unique challenges, Coro found its stride and achieved remarkable growth.
“We created innovation not in cybersecurity protection but in how it’s consumed and delivered to that specific market,” explains Dror. As he explains, building a company is all about generating value. M&As and IPOs aside, the real value to a marketplace is needed for a company to grow.
Navigating Funding Cycles: Lessons from Capital Intensity
Building a cybersecurity company is capital-intensive, and Coro raised nearly $80 million in funding. Dror shares insights into the evolving dynamics of funding cycles – from selling a dream in the seed stage to proving product-market fit and, ultimately, demonstrating execution capabilities.
Storytelling is everything, which is something that Dror Liwer was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Courageous decisions and strong investor support were crucial during pivotal moments, such as the decision to pivot and rebuild the product for the midmarket. Dror and his team went back to the drawing board and built a product that was designed from the ground up for the midmarket.
They realized they would have to address some key pain points that had been overlooked as yet. These included simplicity, affordability, and reliance on a cyber security team that most clients did not have. They would have to integrate numerous different products to be able to achieve real cyber security competence.
Building on these concepts, Dror and his team released their product sometime in early 2019, and ever since then, the company has grown 300% in revenue year over year. Their niche market comprises an incredible 600000 midmarket and small businesses in the US alone.
Dror talks about his experiences with fundraising and says that every round is unique. With each funding cycle, you’re selling a dream, a concept, and a team. You present a PowerPoint presentation and a proof of concept. But the main crunch is in the numbers that you sell to investors. And the story about the progress being made.
Securing Every Company, Regardless of Size: Coro’s Vision
As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, Dror emphasizes the importance of protecting every company, regardless of its size. The rise in attacks on midmarket and smaller organizations underscores the need for comprehensive cybersecurity solutions.
Coro’s mission is to ensure that every company, regardless of its size, is adequately protected against cyber threats.
Words of Wisdom: Surround Yourself with the Right People
Reflecting on his journey, Dror’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is clear: surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Whether in hiring, partnerships, or networking, the continuous pursuit of learning from those with diverse perspectives is key to navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.
In the ever-changing landscape of entrepreneurship, Dror’s journey serves as a testament to the power of adaptability, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of creating real value in the marketplace.
As Coro continues to grow and make strides in the cybersecurity industry, Dror’s story inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs to embrace uncertainty, learn from every experience, and surround themselves with a network of brilliance.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- 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.