Neil Patel

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Leor Catalan is an innovative founder whose story embodies curiosity, resilience, and relentless innovation. Join us as we delve into his remarkable trajectory, from his formative years in Tel Aviv to the helm of a global company with over 600 employees.

In this exclusive interview, Leor talks about building his startup and scaling it by reinvesting $100M worth of revenues as against raising from external investors. That’s how Leor successfully built his company, PassportCard.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Leor’s childhood curiosity laid the groundwork for his entrepreneurial journey, emphasizing the power of inquisitiveness in driving innovation.
  • Leor’s transition from the public sector to consulting underscores the value of diverse experiences in shaping entrepreneurial vision and strategy.
  • PassportCard’s approach to reinvesting profits over traditional venture capital highlights the importance of challenging conventional norms in business growth.
  • Leor’s emphasis on listening to customer feedback and fostering a culture of innovation underscores the significance of customer-centricity in business success.
  • PassportCard’s entrepreneurial spirit thrives on a culture of collaboration, where every team member’s voice is valued and contributes to the company’s evolution.
  • Leor’s emphasis on focus, humility, and adaptability serves as a guiding principle for navigating the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship.
  • PassportCard’s vision of empowering travelers worldwide reflects Leor’s commitment to creating meaningful impact through innovation and customer empowerment.



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About Leor Catalan:

Leor Catalan, based in Israel, is currently a CEO of Corporate Ventures at DavidShield – PassportCard, bringing experience from previous roles at Robin EB Inc., TravelCard Real-Time Travel Insurance, and PassportCard Nomads.

Leor Catalan holds a 2002 – 2005 BA in Economics @ The Hebrew University. With a robust skill set that includes Economics, Valuation, Business Strategy, Business Analysis, Analysis and more, Leor Catalan contributes valuable insights to the industry.

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Connect with Leor Catalan:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really incredible story. You know we have a founder that has built a company that is ah, an incredible rocket ship. You know they have really reinvested. You know the proceeds the founders versus a really raising money. From outside investors we’re talking about reinvesting 100000000 plus a company now with over ah 600 employees keeping that entrepreneur entrepreneurial mindset that we’re going to be talking about but you don’t see many companies like this and I find that the whole building scaling I find that you’re all going to very much enjoy it so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Leor Catalan welcome to the show. Hello.

Leor Catalan: Thank you handle. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously giving that last name you know there’s some spanish origins but born and raised in Tel Aviv so give us a walk through memory lane I was life growing up there.

Leor Catalan: Yeah, well, ah you know Tel Aviv fantastic city to grow in um, ah the naive 80 s and 90 s early days of person computing and the internet age. Um. You know, fantastic time I was a very curious kid and well my parents never got tired of my questions which which is great always dismantling and rebuilding stuff and I think this has remained part of my Dna into entrepreneurship. Um. Yeah, so fantastic time.

Alejandro Cremades: What do you think? got you into assembling things looking into the design of stuff I mean that that engineering mentality.

Leor Catalan: Like I don’t know I always say that it’s It’s Engraved. It’s something that I was born but born with but it’s ah you know from a very early age looking at how things are designed trying to rethink how they could be designed maybe better. Um, you know, sort of. A very early on dream Career dream was to become an architect of all of all things. So ah, you know it’s all part of the same story I guess.

Alejandro Cremades: So Your parents were very very very supportive now of you asking questions. You know, thinking about the world thinking about problems I Guess say it sounds like you have very much that engineering Mindset. So I’m just wondering like. Why did you ended up going into business economy and law versus maybe like getting an engineering degree.

Leor Catalan: Well, you know it’s it’s it’s I think that it it is at that point of of getting into um you know my so my academic studies and looking into my career I wanted to have as many doors open and really try to.

Leor Catalan: Um, get as much of the world as possible. Um, you know, having many international relationships beforehand. It seemed like a logical step to start with ah but you know from very early on in my career. It was very clear to me that.

Leor Catalan: The building stuff element is is very much there and and this is what I would eventually do so you know history remakes itself I guess.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s Amazing. So then so then in in this case for you when you ended up getting your degree. You ended up going into ultimately corporate right now as part of that before corporate you decided to take a look into the public sector. So The Ministry. The ministry there of finance. Why were they like the ins and outs that they that you experience or that you learn from let’s say like being exposed to the public you know sector.

Leor Catalan: Look I Think what’s what’s amazing about that stage in my career is the impact that you have as a very young person right right out of University Very early stages in in my career. The level of impact that you have is is amazing. And just looking at how life changing decisions are made what um, what type of um, ah questions you need to ask yourself in order to make the right decision. And make sure that it’s balanced and it’s it impacts positively. Ah, people’s lives for for generations I think is is amazing and you know it’s It’s a a responsibility exercise if you wish you have to grow up very very quickly because you understand that. If you make the wrong call. Ah the implications are are immense. Um, so I think you know it It was an incredible experience. Um, and you know I’d recommend anyone to try and and and. Look at that at the world from that angle as well.

Alejandro Cremades: So so then obviously you know like here you spend you know quite some time. So how do you go from being in the ministry to all of a sudden you know getting into consulting because you were there in the ministry for about 2 years and then in consulting you spent quite a bit of time I mean you were there for about 5 years you know doing you know stuff around financial advisory services and and and and helping on valuations. So what exactly were you doing and I guess out of this consulting work. How did you also shape up the way that you were thinking about. Resolving and addressing problems.

Leor Catalan: Look it’s it’s it’s exactly that right? It’s I think that management consulting and financial advisory The whole point was that creation piece that that entrepreneurial sort of element still under a corporate element I didn’t have I wasn’t brave enough at that point to to jump. Ah, all the way to to entrepreneurship. But um, you know, being there working very very closely with management in order to solve problems rebuild processes um trying to bring. Um. Information and and make discovery into decision making I think this this excited me at that point and I really wanted was you know a first jump into entrepreneurship or or. Um, that rebuilding and and design of of things that engineering of things. Um and and you know it’s I think that what’s great about consulting is. How dynamic it is and and the way you’re able to see so many industries in a very short while and and be there to solve problems and and working with fantastic people. You know the really the the cremdala cram if you wish.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously it was just a matter of time you know, given that the background of yours of looking into things you know problems assembling and assembling stuff since you were a kid. It was just a matter of time for you to really join the venture world and.

Leor Catalan: Practice.

Alejandro Cremades: Obviously you know you joined backed In. You know it was about 2010 when you decided to join the founding team as a cofounder there of passport card and that’s what you guys have been doing and pushing for quite some time. But. How did the idea come knocking to you and how did you guys really get the band together and and go going with this. Okay.

Leor Catalan: Yeah, so you know it actually goes back to management consulting because a good friend who was 1 of my clients named Aone Ketsev was into international health very traditional at that point but they have this. You know novel idea of how do you How how do you make insurance easier for people and really wanted to do something about it as they’ve had a vague idea of somehow using or combining a debit card in claims payment. And he ah you know he offered me to jump ship if you wish and and join the founding team of what later became passport card and there we completely reversed the way insurance is. Made this run if you wish and completely which we set out to do completely solved the inherent conflict between an insurance company and the insurance member. You know if you come to think about it. Insurance is is a pretty bad industry because you know the insurance company. For them to pay a claim means more losses. So it’s not in their interest to play a claim. So how do you solve that conflict that inherent conflict and and what we did is to put the insurance the insured member to put them first to put them in control of the process.

Leor Catalan: And essentially we tied 2 industries together. The fintech financial industry banking industry if you wish with insurance and created a new new ecosystem where a person can walk into. Um, any service provider around the world and instead of paying out- of pocket and then being reimbursed just hand out a debit card that we issue for them and pay for the claim and that’s it and though the the engineering part that came into that was not only putting those 2 industries together and 2 completely significantly. Different logics together but also not compromising the controls that are so gravely needed in the insurance space. Um, and that I’m sorry.

Alejandro Cremades: And how do you guys And how do you guys make money and how do you make money. Obviously you were sharing there the the way that the company works. But how do you guys monetize.

Leor Catalan: So We um, um, we eventually we control the the ecosystem from a to Z so we sell insurance plans to our members mostly international health and travel Insurance. Um. And um, we operate the entire business in a completely seamless way for the member. So for them. They only deal with us and and that’s it where are their insurance plan wherever they go whenever they cross a border and wherever they grow they go in the World. We are their enterings plan.

Alejandro Cremades: So for you guys, you know like what were the early days like for the company because I mean know you see 2010 you know you’re coming back now from the craziness of the a recession in all the crises that we had in the economy.

Leor Catalan: I.

Alejandro Cremades: Ah, and and how how is it like you know those early days and and also at what point do you realize hey I think that we’re we’re into something here.

Leor Catalan: Look I think that the first challenge that we had was convincing um those 2 distinctly once again, different industries and and the different players within that those the different ecosystems. Come together and work together and create 1 seamless product. This didn’t didn’t come easy. Um I remember you know, walking through offices all across the us and Europe talking different to different entities which. And and people you know fantastic professionals but they just didn’t understand what we’re we were trying to achieve and it took a while to find those people who were willing to take that leap of faith. Um, um, and and and tell us you know what we’re with you. We’ll give you our support. And and really create that seamless user journey that that we ah were trying to to do so this was a struggle obviously mostly in the financial services space after the credit crunch. It was even. More difficult and and you know it was even harder to get people’s trust at that point. But I think that you know from the get go. We were um, willing to put our money where our mouth is and and that I think was very much appreciated by the different partners that we worked with.

Alejandro Cremades: And you know in in your guys’ case the way that you have gone about capitalizing. The business is is quite unique. So walk us through the thought process behind you know, not doing the whole Vc.

Leor Catalan: Back in the day.

Alejandro Cremades: Hyper growth. You know style of taking external money and and really you know taking the decision of going the way that you guys did.

Leor Catalan: Um, yeah, well I’m not sure there was actually any specific point that this was an actual decision. But I think that very early on. Um, we.

Leor Catalan: We were able to see how the business is growing and and becoming a very um, very well established from a financial perspective and this allowed us to start looking into different growth initiatives different ventures which. Is what I do in my my ah day-to-day. Um, you know, incubating new ideas new products going into new markets and at a certain point and looking back This became sort of a a method almost a machine that we’re working on a daily basis. And fortunately we were very very fortunate to very quickly establish a business that created significant Cash flows that allowed us to ah to invest heavily into those new ventures and you know different discovery of of different ideas.

Alejandro Cremades: But I mean obviously given the size I mean you guys have reinvested you know of of your guys’ money you know a 100000000 plus here and given the size of the business toys. It’s it’s It’s easy to get distracted because there’s people that are knocking on your door people that are offering term sheets people that are offering an acquisition offer. How do you? You know filter through that and and really get real with with just rejecting all of those distractions and just. Keeping it moving.

Leor Catalan: That’s a great question I think you know we’re we’re a group of people who are so ah, focused and convinced in what we do in the value we bring to our customers which to an extent makes it easy. We’re focused about creating value to our members. Um, and you know this is we always? Ah, we always say and it’s and this flows through the organization even in training of of new recruits that what? what counts first is our team. Our employees. Then it’s our members and lastly it’s it’s the shareholders, the partners and I think this is this is part of the mindset here. It’s really being focused in what we do Um, and and we feel that on the long run this would create. The the highest value for for everyone involved. Shareholders include.

Alejandro Cremades: So one of the strategies that you took on is the corporate ventures. You know So what? What? What are you guys doing there. Okay.

Leor Catalan: Correct. Yeah, so you know it’s it’s really all about how do you grow a business and um, you know insurance traditionally is a very local business by nature and while. 1 approach might be okay, we do one type of insurance in our case in national health and travel insurance we do that? Well so why don’t we do car insurance or home insurance or whatever and our decision was different. Our decision was to grow internationally number one but also really see how we can expand. Ah, the value that we bring to our customers who recognize us in that cross-border space and this created a methodology where under you know the corporate ventures which which I personally lead we have if you if you wish a 3 hree-pronged approach where. We have those you know a global expansion into new markets. We’re constantly building new products which you you know is if you wish to look at it as as an onion always expand the value proposition to our customers and an incubator of new technologies. A new um product approaches. These are the things we’re busy, busy with constantly and and we’re in a constant mode of building new stuff. Um getting you know the right team around it and releasing it to the world.

Alejandro Cremades: And.

Alejandro Cremades: Obviously a big component of that to is the mindset. You know that that you guys have I mean there’s like a couple of mindsets here I think that the first one you know which is a perspective and flexibility on the way that you view the world talk to us about this.

Leor Catalan: Um, look. It’s it’s ah you know it’s really never taking anything for granted I think it’s part of our Dna and you know part of the challenges. Is really making sure that that Dna flows through the entire organization as we grow in internationally but it’s really looking at every problem and never being convinced that we’re already doing the right thing but always you know, um, challenging our own thinking. Um, and and never um, never taking any answer we’re taking we’re getting from a consultant or or any other person as as a given. Um it’s it’s almost um and it’s it’s a challenge. It’s something that is hard to do on a daily basis but eventually I think the the value that we we see that that is being created out of it once again, creating value to our to our customers is what makes us you know, keep going. Um, albeit or or despite the the hardship that is included in it.

Alejandro Cremades: And what about to the entrepreneurial mindset as well because now you are over 600 employees and when you have so many employees. It’s tough not to get into the whole corporate dish. You know, look and feel.

Leor Catalan: So I think you know it’s I would say it’s I would divide my answer into 2 1 is first of all the approach we’ve taken with the whole corporate ventures approach. So how do you grow the business right? And and um is it just. Sort of mixing the same water all the time or trying to constantly look how to expand the footprint and this by itself creates a a very flexible thinking um that flows through the organization because. You know we are always We’re constantly introducing new stuff and people are constantly on their toes. But it’s not only that because it’s you know to create the culture that goes all the way to the last ah person who you know the youngest person who was who just was recruited. And join the team It’s really, um, making sure that their mindset their opinion their idea and the way they challenge what we do that it counts and we take it in every inch of seriousness and and once. People understand that they understand they they are partners to something bigger than than you know each individual in the company people fall in love and play the game.

Alejandro Cremades: And what about the um division to know when we’re thinking about playing the game too and and and and keeping people rowing in the same direction when it comes to vision. You know is is everything. That’s the way that you get employees. You know, excited about the future that you’re living into you know also customers. You know, excited too. But when it comes to the vision imagine that you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of the company is fully realized what does that world look like.

Leor Catalan: Wow. Um, look I think you know our vision is is um to be um, people’s first choice when they travel when they cross borders. To be their point of confidence when they travel and this is what we’re working towards and we’re constantly adding more capabilities more services in order to um, fulfill that that vision.

Leor Catalan: Um, and you know I think that one of the one of the you know main success factors that I would say we’re looking at is whenever whenever we get feedback from our teams. The 1 thing that always pops up is that they feel that we’re we’re there for our customers. We’re creating value for our customers and this is what drives this organization. This is what drives us as individuals. And you know there is no beer success in my mind.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously we’re talking about here the um, the future but I want to talk about the past with with a length of reflection. So if I was to put you into a time machine you know and I was to bring you back in time maybe to 2010 now today moment where you guys were thinking about. Launching this and let’s say you’re able to give a piece of advice to that younger Leor that just put in the notice at Deloitte and let’s say you’re able to stop that younger leo and give that youngerlyor one piece of advice before launching a company. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Leor Catalan: I Think that the the main thing that took us some time to understand is to believe in what you do believe in the values you stand for and. Um, listen carefully carefully to your customers because eventually it’s it’s all about the relationship you build the long-term relationship you build with your customers and and this will eventually drive the best decisions. For you as a business.

Alejandro Cremades: This is amazing. So now when you listen to the customers have you have you come up with or have you thought you know during this fourteen years of pushing you know the company on maybe like maybe like the best. You know the top 3 ingredients. You know that can be really helpful when it comes down to listening to a customer.

Leor Catalan: Um, so one I I think is is to an extent an opposite because you know customers when they believe in you when they believe in in your. Brand and your ability they feel that they’re associated with you. They want you to be involved in in many aspects of their life. But I think focus is important and to an extent understanding what you’re good at and being focused in that and making sure you’re the best in what you do is. Ah, is super important. Um, so this is definitely the number one for me. Um the other is um, not disregarding. Anything that your customers say it’s very easy to come with a you know, sort of a precondition if you wish and you know where we all believe in in our creations but being very very open listening very open and and listening not only to the words but also the music is key. And that applies by the way to customers that applies to to your team and everyone you know that that you have the benefit of getting information about what you do And lastly I would say it’s.

Leor Catalan: It’s a value set. Um I know it may sound romantic but I think that business is not only about making money. It’s it’s about being impactful as Well. And. If You’re impactful in in in the right way it’ll it’ll prove itself to be successful also from a business perspective.

Alejandro Cremades: I Love Allure 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.

Leor Catalan: So Linkedin look me up the or catalan passport card. You’ll find your way.

Alejandro Cremades: Very easy, very easy is he enough so lear. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an absolute honor to have you with us.

Leor Catalan: Same here my pleasure. Thank you very much for the time.


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