Omri Geller’s startup is helping fuel the growth of artificial intelligence, by equipping others to build better and faster. His venture, Run:AI, has acquired funding from top-tier investors like Insight Partners, S Capital, and TLV Partners.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How Run:AI is enabling the future of artificial intelligence applications
- Who you need to hire, and who the right people to hire are for new startups
- Omri Geller’s top advice when launching a new business
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About Omri Geller:
Omri Geller co-founded Run:AI in 2018 and, as CEO, leads all of Run:AI’s day-to-day activities, managing an executive team who are together responsible for the company’s sales, business development, research and development, and marketing activities. Prior to Run:AI, Omri worked in an elite technological unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, leading large-scale technological projects. Omri received his B.Sc. (cum laude) and M.Sc. in electrical engineering from Tel Aviv University, where he received the Tel Aviv University award for excellence in M.Sc. studies.
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Connect with Omri Geller:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Hey, alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So we have a very exciting founder today. You know a founder that day you know he’s gonna tell us all about building scaling pivoting the business. Ah, you know you name it. All the good stuff that we like to hear and I’m sure that you’re all going to be very inspired with his journey so without farther ado let’s welcome our guest today ori geller welcome to the show. Thanks.
Omri Geller: Thank you Handra Great to meet you. Thank you for inviting me.
Alejandro Cremades: So originally born there in in tel avib you you were raised there so give us a little of a lie of a walkthrough memory lane. How was life growing up in Tel Aviv
Omri Geller: So Tel Aviv is is an amazing place to to grow up First of all, the weather is fantastic. It’s pretty warm. There is sometimes a bit of ah you know wind and and rain but mostly sun life on the pitch is great. Um, and great food. Very vivid atmosphere so people are very um, very happy and communicating one with each other so it’s a really friendly place and as like as a kid growing up. There is just amazing.
Alejandro Cremades: And obviously it’s amazing when you also have ah you know this this this passion for sports Basketball. So Why I got you into basketball. Also what Ah what a combo to combine that with also math and physics I mean that’s kind of like weird because typically you would have like the good basketball player that is not so good On. Um, maybe like the um, the the academics but in this in this in this case, you know you combine both.
Omri Geller: Yeah, well you know I think I was better in math and physics than in basketball. But I did play basketball for ah, most of my junior life. Um, all my friends were there so it was a professional team. We’ve been. You know training 4 or 5 times a week which was great I think it it was a lot of investment from my side because I wasn’t that talented and also from a physically ah perspective I wasn’t the ah the highest person you know for the basketball team. But. It gave me a lot because it helped me understand what discipline is it helped me um, be in a competitive landscape that push you to the limits and it also helped me be better in math and physics. Overall I believe so. Did add those 2 parts in my life. A lot of sports on the 1 hand and a lot of you know study on the other hand. Um, and I think it went well together.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now. Let’s talk about problem problem solving I mean the whole engineering thing I mean has been you know a real big thing in your Dna right? I mean you’ve you’ve been you know, studying it undergrad you know so you did your master’s do in electrical engineering. So. I mean would you say that perhaps like the the whole thing you know how you were always you know having this passion for math and physics. Maybe it got you into that path and why specifically that path.
Omri Geller: It’s a really good question. So I always loved the you know the the science I found it super interesting and satisfying to solve those problems. And when I started my first degree in engineering it wasn’t clear to me yet that this is the yeah the path that that I want to take for the long run but it was clear to me that this is the next step once I love you know those scientific subjects but the more I got into it. Um. The more I understood that trying to tackle problems that the solution is not trivial many times is not there at all. For example, you know in my master’s degree. Um I did I did a research with. My co-founder today Dr Oneendar and we he did his ph d I did my master’s and we worked on really interesting problems that were so new and it was super exciting. So I think during all my um, all my life as a. As an adult in a way I was chasing those new problems to solve and it just excites me time after time.
Alejandro Cremades: So obviously the the military service is mandatory there in Israel and I mean you took it seriously because I mean you were there for about about 8 years I mean how many years is typically the military service and why why did you stay for so long.
Omri Geller: You hear. Yes.
Omri Geller: Ah, yeah, so the the the mandatory service in Israel is 3 years basically um and you’re right I was there for more than eight years and I think it’s it’s it wasn’t an amazing journey for me and they’re one of. There are more There are multiple reasons why you know Um, why I was there but the first the first reason is that it was good for me from many perspectives I felt um, a lot of um, a lot of I felt really good contributing to to the country I felt that. I was in the military I was in a technical unit meaning that my my um, my goal there was to develop cutting edge technological projects and to be part of the development of those projects and that was exciting and really satisfying. So. I was there and kept kept improving my technical capabilities and personal capabilities and I think just relating to the problem solving point that that you mentioned one of the great things in those technical units that that I had the opportunity to be part of. Is the fact that most if not all of the problems. There are problems that haven’t been solved before so you spend a lot of time trying to bring solutions to problems that typically the world doesn’t know.
Omri Geller: And that was super exciting with bright people and super smart folks that are working in in those teams. It was just an amazing experience to be part of.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now I know that you know obviously nowadays everything is ai related. No everyone says oh we have like an a I think I mean every project you know they talk to you about Ai or whatever that is but hey back then you know when when you got started with this thing. You know it was not that popular. So. What caught your attention and and and why what did you find so exciting about artificial intelligence.
Omri Geller: So it’s absolutely right though. The concepts of Ai are here for decades and decades. So for those that are familiar with the details already. You know, maybe probably in the 40 s or fifty s neuroscientist thought about. Building machines that would mimic the the human brain but in in reality the um those algorithms or those methods never brought good enough results until there was a big change. In the world I think we’re looking about ten years ago or something like that where computing power and specifically um gpu by nvidia graphical processing units um were actually used in order to run. Um, ai models and when you had enough computing power the the Ai models themselves started to bring good results. So kind of the the intersection between there is a lot of more data in the world and there is enough compute power in order to to try and. And um and build those ai models that were a dream before made the the the world into a situation where ai started to show um good results initial science of success with with Ai models now when we saw that ronan and myself.
Omri Geller: We also believe that there’s going to be a trend that that computing power which was an enabler for building those Ai models will be more and more important over time. So we we believed. You know, looking five six years ago that’s the point in time when we discussed it. We looked at the future and we thought that ai is going to be everywhere because finally the true potential of ai started to be unlocked so we felt that ai is going to be everywhere because it’s only the beginning. It’s still very early in the journey but five six years ago it was much more. Ah, early in the in the but in the journey so we looked into the future and we felt that okay, if Ai is going to be Ai applications are going to be everywhere and they require a lot of compute power then there is also going to be. Um, revolution on the computing power that that the world has in order to run those ai models so we felt that there is just this is um, you know a space that is going to grow significantly the the computing infrastructure for Ai and. We also believe that ai is going to change the world and we set ourself on a mission to help humanity solve the unsolved and we believe that Ai will solve the unsolved and we just started the journey trying to look where we can bring value and and innovate.
Omri Geller: And enable the world basically to build Ai solutions and that’s why we started the journey in the ai space.
Alejandro Cremades: And obviously you know as they say I Ed Yes, they are like doormant. You know you don’t even know that they’re there and then you know, ah over time you know they develop you know and they take their own shape of form and then eventually one day you know you’re like my god.
Omri Geller: Um, then.
Alejandro Cremades: You know it’s just like so obvious so clear to you that you know that’s the direction that you need to you know Pursue. So at what point you know, did you obviously run and you know you met your co-founder ah during during your studies and after you know I mean obviously you know you were combining that with the military but but at what point. Do you want to run and said screw it. Let’s do it.
Omri Geller: Okay, so yeah, we’ve been ah it wasn’t easy to to take that decision of you know, just do it. Um, we understood pretty quickly that we want to continue and work as a team and build a company with good Dna and great culture. But then we started a process of trying to understand what exactly we want to build and that process is I would say is challenging and also it’s really hard to know when to stop and when to say just do it because for every idea that you have. Um, there will be some hard questions you can ask and get the the answers that you don’t want to hear that says hey let’s not do it. So I think we’ve been in this ideation phase for about a year following the moment we decided that we want to open a company so we’ve been at the ideation phase for about a year looking on different problems to solve in the ai infrastructure space and the moment when we felt that there is um enough opportunity for us. Is after speaking with I would say a few dozens of um Ai companies and again it was Twenty Seventeen 2018 so there weren’t that much of Ai companies at that stage at that point in time.
Omri Geller: But we spoke with enough and we started to see a clear trend that you know in our interviews with those companies. We started to see the trend that that they always feel that they don’t have enough compute power to build their ai solutions and then it was clear to us that there is. There need to be some innovation in that in that space that will allow organizations to always feel that they have enough compute power so they can build Ai solutions when we felt that we felt okay, that’s that’s the right time to to start a company. And we started to dig deeper. You know to understand exactly what is the product that we want to solve Huh So What happened next? So then it was this ah this stage that you really need to to understand what is the product that you’re building so we convinced ourself that there is.
Alejandro Cremades: So what happened next.
Omri Geller: Enough opportunity in the ai infrastructure space. Um, but we need also to we needed to convince ourselves that there is a technical problem that we can solve using you know our capabilities and so on so we started to um to. Work with a few companies that helped us understand what is you know the Mvp what is the Mvp product that we want we want to build um it was back then in the beginning and still today but it is a software that knows how to um. Basically utilize the compute power for ai better so that the ai practitioners can be more productive and can build um build a applications faster using using run ai which is the product today. And we started and we’ve built a um, a technical Mvp of the product that technical poc basically that showed a few of the companies that we discussed how they can accelerate their research time and how they can bring. Ai solutions faster using our software so they can train their Ai models faster and bring faster time you know have faster time to market so that would happen. We started to build a product. Um, and once we had once we had ah this. Ah.
Omri Geller: Proof of concept. We went to raise our sid funding.
Alejandro Cremades: And obviously the idea has changed a lot since then um I guess you know for the people that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of run Ai how do you guys make money.
Omri Geller: So maybe um, a little bit about run Ai then and then I can also talk about the the specific business model. But in general what run ai build is we’re in a compute. Management platform for Ai infrastructure. It means that every ai computer or ai processor in the world that runs an Ai application can use run Ai as a middleware that optimally run the a application on this. Ai accelerator. Um, and with that we ah, we’ve built a business model that actually charge annual subscriptions from customers based on the amount of compute power for Ai that they have. So the more compute power they use the more they pay to to run Ai um, and obviously with run Ai the result for the business is overall higher utilization of this AiCompute processors and faster time to market. Um, with their ai solutions and this is the business model. So really straightforward just the yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And and and obviously you know like 1 1 thing that team that is very interesting. There is that I mean you guys have raised a quite a bit of money. Ah, but I know that after you had raised you know past the series. A. You know which is typically interesting because you know normally at the series a is when you have already raised money and everything is validated and you have a clear understanding you put x you take out y now in your guys this case you know like you realize that. Things were not really working as you had hope for I mean this scale you know you you couldn’t see it. It was not. You didn’t have that clarity on it and you went to the board. What happened.
Omri Geller: Yes, so we raised our sid our sid money with a $3,000,000 in in April Twenty eighteen and pretty quickly. Um, with our product. We started to to bring the first customers to run Ai so a few months later we already had paying customers which is relatively quick. Um, and it started to scale. The business looked pretty pretty good and towards the end of 2018 we went. And did another fundraising so in early 2019 we raised our a round. It was a $10,000,000 round and um and the idea was to continue and scale. You know the go to market scale the business because we already had this. Ah. Um, initial traction that you want to see after your ah your Sid investment and the business was growing but what actually happened is that that was the time when we went out of stealth and when we went out of stealth post the a round. Got exposure to significantly more organizations in the world. So obviously you know when you’re still in stealth there is only so many there are only so many organizations you can speak with based on relationship introductions and so on.
Omri Geller: And it’s only when you are ah going um going out from stealth that you can start and reach out to um, you know the wider audience all the companies in the world. Basically and once we did that um we identified. That as run Ai is building a product that knows how to optimally manage compute power. We’ve built our product um not based on a very strong. Um.
Omri Geller: Tool that the world started to use which called Kubernetes I guess that some of the listeners here are familiar with Kubernetes and the cloud native ecosystem and run Ai was not connected to this ecosystem. We actually built our product without integrating into the the ecosystem of um. Cloud native container ecosystem and many organizations gave us as a feedback that this is missing that they cannot install run Ai as a compute management platform if it’s not connected to they are already. Existing resource management layers like Kubernetes. So for us. It was an understanding that we probably need to reengineer the product. The value proposition was there utilizing the compute resources better was there the helping. You know organizations to get the production faster was there reducing compute cost. It was there but when we started to speak with the enterprises. They just wanted us to be part of their already existing environment versus installing run Ai as a. As a standalone product that is not connected to their overall it environment. So for us. It was a moment to take a decision if we want to continue and grow the business without being a.
Omri Geller: You know in connect without connection to the cloud native ecosystem or delete everything that we’ve done build the product again basically from scratch with um with the same value proposition. But this time in a way that can plug in to Kubernetes environments. And Kubernetes became at this time it was already in every enterprise became the de facto platform for container orchestration and we understood that what we really want to do right now in order to scale is instead of creating a you know a full. Compute management layer actually building run ai as a plugin to Kubernetes that makes Kubernetes efficient for managing Ai compute clusters and in order to do that. We needed to go back to the drawing board start to. Write the code again and stop the scaling of the business but it was the best decision that we took because we went back to the drawing board and after a few months we came with a new um, a new product. Basically. Based on a plugin to to Kubernetes and and and actually that made us scale very quickly from that moment on and enterprises started to to be super engaged and that’s you know the board.
Alejandro Cremades: And and the rest there is this history There rest is history I’m ready and so so how much capital have you guys raised today.
Omri Geller: The beginning was the.
Omri Geller: So until now raised one hundred and eighteen million dollars so past that moment we have we raised another hundred and probably one hundred and five million dollars in 2 funding rounds from insight partners and and tiger target global um, and that was. In you know in recent 2 years as the business is scaling consistently quarter after quarter and continue in that environment as well.
Alejandro Cremades: And what’s the process because I’m sure that there’s going to be a lot of people that are outside of the us. You know that are probably like thinking about raising money or what’s the process of being overseas. Let’s say from so far away you know there in in Tel avib and and being able to get. Caliber of investors like tiger and insight that you were able to onboard that are so far away from you. How were you able to to do that in.
Omri Geller: So I think the there is Israel is a very small country and also far away basically from the us where we can where the main investors that we want to work with will are at. But Israel is extremely exciting when it comes to technology the basic of population in Israel or the ratio between ah the amount of people in Israel and the amount of companies startup companies that that are succeeded succeeding is probably the highest in the world. So Israel is under focus point of many large investors among them. You know, insight and tiger as you mentioned so they are operating in this in Israel and are very active here and that allows us for the opportunity to get the um you know to get the exposure. To investors in that caliber and Rania is a super exciting company so we were also able to excite them and and add them on board. So I think it was a great win-win.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing now in your case you know I know that the team is very Important. You know? Yeah,, we’re talking about here investors which is bringing people you know on Board. So when it comes to Team. You know what? what should I found or you know keep in mind to make sure that they have the right people.
Omri Geller: I Think the first thing is to always ask yourself that you have if you have the right people and because a company is built on the people and everything that we achieved is because of the amazing team that there isn’t. And run Ai and other companies success is also dependent on that. So my best. My best tip in in in a high level is always think about your team and make sure that you have the right people surrounding you now the next question is what are. What is the right people right? And what are the right people and I think here. Um, what I learned is that people that are dynamic adjustable and are eager to learn and succeed are the people who will drive success. In ah in a young startup because the things that you need to do as an entrepreneur and as and you know a small startup company is ever changing. There is no. There is no exact structure and there is no um, one plan that just always Works. So People need to take a lot of different tasks each of the people in the company. So The right people are those that find that type of diversity in responsibility as ah as something that excite them and they leverage it.
Omri Geller: In order to learn. Um, how to do things that they haven’t done before and you must have those type of people in your organization people that are just ready to always learn new stuff and change the responsibilities quickly and very eager to succeed. Personally and for the company. So when I look if I’m you know a young entrepreneur today that starting the journey I would bring with me the people that that are so hungry for their success and and want to improve themselves. And when people improve themselves then the company is also as in the root for success because people you know it’s kind of there is really high correlation between people success and company success. So people that are pushing their self limits. Will so will push the company to achieve more and more over time so that would be what I’m looking for in people joining building a team.
Alejandro Cremades: And we see you when we’re talking about limits. You know one thing that comes to mind too is I guess it’s the the the roller coaster of emotions that an entrepreneur entrepreneur needs to to go through right? I think that people really. Underestimate, you know what? the journey looks like you know people just say read the magazines they watch the movies and they think that this is all full of glamour and that’s not the case at all, you know you got to really embrace the ups embrace the downs which is where the lessons are going to be learned. But how who do you need to be. To keep everything together and and and and and to be effective with whatever you have in front of you how how has it been that roller coaster for you. Omri.
Omri Geller: It has been and still is the roller coaster I think the the first thing that you need to be is optimistic. Um, because there are going to be as you said ups and there are going to be downs and sometimes the the time. Frames between an up and down can be very short and sometimes it can be very long so there is a lot of the both ups and downs in ah in a startup journey. Having said that like you know, looking similarity to looking at. I would say the the public markets right? over time they’re going in up but there are some downs the only way to to keep to keep the momentum going when things are not amazing and there are a lot of times like that. Um. Is to always look at the bigger picture and understand where you want to go where you want to be in. You know, 3 4 5 years from now and making sure that you have the right strategy in place to get to this to this you know to this future that you that you envision now. If the strategy is not good enough then change. But in any case, whether it’s the best moment of your you know company life or the worst moment you have to look beyond the next day next month or next quarter you have to look 4 or 5.
Omri Geller: Plus years and make sure that you have what it takes in order to get there and be true with yourself and this is I think super super important and also understand that when you are thinking in that way and you are optimistic. Even very bad things that happen and believe me they happen they happen and they will keep on happening then if you understand the bigger picture and you have a moment you know to Zoom out you can actually you can actually understand that it wasn’t. Such a big deal and I’ll give a few examples from you know from run ai life right? So we’ve had this change that we discussed you know, post a round which at the at the moment felt like the worst thing that could happen for us I mean it was the company was scaling the business. And now go back after we raise our a round. It seems like you know such a such a bad point in time. The engineering was always excited about it because it’s building something again from the beginning which is great but from the business perspective. We. We went back? Okay. We went back but that allows us allowed us in the end to move much faster afterwards. So it was an amazing point in time even though it felt like a big low at the moment. A second point in time that felt at the moment like a very big low was when covid started so covid started.
Omri Geller: Just to to put it on the timelines of front Ai so we did this change in the engineering at 2019 at the second half of 2019 and for those of you that remember covid started in March Twenty Twenty so exactly in the moment where we wanted to lunch. Our new product based on Kubernetes and all the good stuff. We were so excited we actually had this huge conference that we were committed to to to tell the world about the new product. It was in March and that that conference um was canceled last moment and the launch. Um, of our new technology and product was canceled because of covid and again it felt like we’re going to. We didn’t know where we’re going the world didn’t know where we’re going and for us as a company. It was also um, a very challenging time and back in that day and that time some companies. Um, had some some layoffs. Um, there were people were very concerned about where you know the world is going but we just decided to continue. We felt very confident in our product. We didn’t change anything. Continue to develop it and just wait for the right moment to launch it when the world will be in ah um, in a place where they can actually receive new technology a new product and amazingly few months afterwards as you know the economy changed and again it was an economy of growth.
Omri Geller: And we were and since that moment again, we’re able to scale run Ai so another you know that’s a second point in time where um where there was a big unpredictable event that was against the I would say the.
Omri Geller: Tailwinds the positive tail winds that we had to try Ai but that felt really bad at the moment but over time provedn to be super important event in in things that we did internally in the company and and where we are today. So if I if i. If I Want to summarize it if I want to summarize it So Basically optimism is super important. Super important believe in what you’re doing believe in you know the the place that you want to go to in few years from now and always Check. On a daily basis if the strategy is is right according to reality at that point in time but every event worse as it will be. You will always have worse afterwards. So just continue and operate. That’s that’s that’s the best thing I can say.
Alejandro Cremades: Well, that’s very very profound ori. Thank you, thank you so much for sharing that now. Imagine you were to go to sleep tonight ori and you have this news of a lifetime. You know you wake up, you know in a world all of a sudden where the vision of run ai. Is fully realized what does that world look like first.
Omri Geller: So this world is is a world where Ai applications are implemented and running everywhere whether it’s you know in in every in every vertical in dotton automotive and finance and healthcare. And you know education and our life to life. Our daily life is day by day impacted by Ai algorithms and in that line in that world Ai algorithms and Ai applications are running everywhere. And running everywhere meaning it’s you know in the data center and public clouds and in edge locations and in your cell phone and every every um, every location has dedicated Ai hardware to to run ai applications. And run ai is there to actually run those ai applications on the ai hardware it is everywhere so in my ah in my vision and you know where I want to see the world in a fews is basically ai workloads that are running anywhere. On top of the run ai system.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow now imagine omri that I put you into a time machine and I bring you back to that moment where you were you know speaking with Ronin where you were guys brainstorming about the future. Bringing a solution to that gap that you saw to that excitement around the world of ai imagine if you had the opportunity of going back and and having a chat you know with that younger ummbri and giving that younger ummbri one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Omri Geller: Wow, That’s ah, that’s a very very tough question. Um I think one of the things that um, that.
Omri Geller: Ah tip that is extremely important is to understand that building. A company is a marathon It’s not a sprint It’s take time efforts and you cannot expect quick outcomes over time. Great things happen. But expectations. Um from younger omri should be the expectation is that it’s going to take time and a lot of investment and it’s going to be very you know small increments that eventually um. Will lead to a very large progress. So I think just settinging expectations that it’s um, there are going to be a lot of hard times and all the plans that you put when you start a company not all but most of the plans are ah. Probably not going to be executed exactly like you think you thought it will happen and again just think of that as you know a Marton a 7 8 10 years run versus a few months at everything just working out and you know everything everyone is just happy happy happy. It’s not.
Alejandro Cremades: I Love it So omri for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Omri Geller: The way it works.
Omri Geller: So in any ah in any medium this is great obviously in Linkedin I’m happy to get as many connections and happy to answer you know. Ah, thoughts and then and and questions and also on on email. So my email is Omari At run dot ai I’m very very open to conversations and love to speak with entrepreneurs at any point and help.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey umri. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Omri Geller: More of them succeed.
Omri Geller: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.
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