In the bustling world of startups and technological innovation, few stories captivate and inspire as much as those of Dekel Skoop. From the serene landscapes of an Israeli kibbutz to the fast-paced world of hypergrowth startups, Dekel’s journey is not just about building a successful business but about making the internet accessible to everyone.
Dekel’s is a fascinating narrative that weaves together childhood roots in a kibbutz, the camaraderie forged on soccer fields, and a bold pivot from hospitality to hypergrowth tech. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating interview with Dekel Skoop, we’ll uncover the layers that shaped Dekel’s path, and delve into the challenges, pivotal moments, and transformative lessons.
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Soccer, Leadership, and Collaboration
Dekel Skoop’s roots trace back to a kibbutz. Then, at the age of three or four, he moved to the city, where the bonds of friendship forged on soccer fields during childhood laid the foundation for Dekel’s future endeavors. Competitive soccer taught him invaluable lessons in leadership and collaboration.
Dekel and his childhood friends brought these lessons to the business world as co-founders, creating a unique dynamic that propelled them forward in the competitive startup landscape. Playing on the same team from age 7 also taught them the basics of collaboration.
They learned that it is not necessary for a single person to have all the solutions to problems but that team effort is crucial for success.
From Bars and Restaurants to Hypergrowth
The journey from managing bars and restaurants to hypergrowth in the tech industry is not conventional. Dekel’s initial foray into the business world involved the hospitality sector, a stark contrast to the technology-driven focus of his current venture.
Dekel reveals how he and a co-founder entered the restaurant business while the third became a developer. A few years down the line, Dekel and his partner wanted to do something more challenging.
That’s when they decided to establish a marketing agency and provide marketing and branding efforts to small businesses selling products or services. The objective here was to grow their customer base.
Dekel’s third co-founder is an established developer and engineer. At the time, he was managing enterprise-level clients like banks, investment houses, and big brands.
This was the invaluable experience he brought to the table when the trio, including Dekel, Shir Ekerling, and Gal Vizel, started providing web building and software solutions to their clientele along with marketing efforts. Shir opted to sell his software house and join them.
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Developing AI Machine-Learning Solutions to Make Websites Accessible
The pivotal moment occurred when they recognized a gap between the rightful expectation for businesses of all sizes to make their websites accessible for all and the actual capability to do so. The Israeli government led the way in using regulation to enforce inclusivity, becoming the first to require businesses to ensure their websites were accessible to people with various abilities.
This revelation led them to pivot, leveraging their diverse skill sets to create a solution that would enable businesses of all sizes to make their websites accessible to everyone. As they started to explore their options, they realized that most businesses did not have the capital, knowledge, or tech capabilities to transform their digital assets and make them accessible.
Dekel and his co-founders realized they would have to find other ways to speed up the process. That’s when they came up with the idea to develop an AI machine-learning solution that could help businesses of all scopes and sizes.
Sometime around the beginning of 2018, they developed the first prototype and implemented it on their client websites to make them accessible. Dekel talks about how the company accessiBe, started selling the product to businesses in Israel and the US.
Dekel describes it as a mission they were compelled to undertake, recognizing that since 99% of the US market consists of SMBs and mom-and-pop stores, there would be significant challenges in making their websites accessible. As they continued working, they realized that they would have to create an ecosystem to provide accessibility in different ways.
Their solutions would have to be customized depending on the size of the business and its stage of the accessibility journey, particularly where it is now. The solution would also have to grow and evolve with the growing needs of the business to achieve maximum accessibility for maintaining its digital assets.
accessiBe’s mission is to provide an ecosystem of accessibility solutions to enable businesses of every size to create and maintain accessible websites.
Bootstrapping and Bold Moves
With a vision to make the Internet an accessible and inclusive space, Dekel and his co-founders faced numerous challenges. Their initial attempts to secure funding from banks met with resistance, forcing them to take a bold step—selling their existing businesses to fund their startup dream.
This bootstrapping approach demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the mission, laying the groundwork for future success. Dekel recalls how he invested his own money and his co-founders sold their bars, the marketing agency, and the software house and invested all the money into the company.
Their initial fundraising efforts yielded small returns, and they quickly realized that they would need large amounts of investment. Their next step was to reach out to angel investors and a mentor who had supported their marketing agency. They also managed to rope in a private investor.
Dekel and his co-founders ended up creating a coalition of smart investors and managed to raise $0.5M to keep the company growing. Eventually, more investors caught on to the concept and recognized what Dekel, Gal, and Shir had been talking about: the internet was the center of the world. That’s when they finally raised $58M for accessiBe.
Storytelling is everything, which is something that Dekel Skoop was able to master. The key is capturing the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides. 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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The Global Impact
What began as a local initiative to enhance the accessibility of their customers’ websites for all users rapidly evolved into a global mission. Dekel and his team recognized the universal need for internet accessibility and expanded their reach to the United States.
By collaborating with individuals with disabilities and constantly iterating on their solutions, they adapted to diverse challenges, creating a global impact. Dekel also talks about the personal aspect of his mission to develop these accessibility solutions. He also explains how he envisions the company’s global impact, starting with 200 employees from the get-go.
Dekel also reveals how they initially doubled down and rebranded the company to sell their product in the US. He recognizes that every country and individual has unique challenges, and the key is to adapt the way accessiBe does things. That’s how they can ensure that their solutions are a perfect fit for their clients’ problems.
Dekel also stresses that as technology evolves and grows, accessiBe will have to consistently learn, adapt, and change to meet the needs of people with disabilities. He points out that the one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work here.
Dekel’s journey is not just a success story; it’s a testament to the power of perseverance, collaboration, and a shared vision. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs echoes these principles—work closely with end-users, believe in your team, and don’t be afraid to take bold leaps.
Dekel Skoop’s journey from a kibbutz to the forefront of internet accessibility is a tale of innovation, adaptability, and social impact. As his company continues to grow, one can’t help but be inspired by the passion and commitment that drive Dekel’s mission to make the internet accessible to everyone, one website at a time.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- Childhood friendships formed on soccer fields translated into valuable leadership and collaboration skills for Dekel and his co-founders.
- Transitioning from managing bars and restaurants, Dekel embraced the challenge of making the internet accessible, leading to an unexpected yet successful pivot.
- Selling their existing businesses to fund their startup showcased Dekel’s team’s commitment, proving that bold moves can pave the way for success.
- What began as a local initiative evolved into a global mission to make the Internet accessible, demonstrating the universal need for inclusivity.
- Dekel’s journey highlights the importance of constant adaptation, collaboration, and learning, particularly when addressing the diverse challenges of internet accessibility.
- While recognizing the evolving nature of technology, Dekel’s vision emphasizes an unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of internet accessibility and making a lasting impact.