After incurring multiple parking tickets, Ouriel Lemmel decided in 2015 to build an app that would make it easier for people to challenge them. WinIt has been downloaded more than half a million times and processed over 700,000 tickets, saving over $10 million worth of tickets on behalf of its users. Without raising a single VC dollar, WinIt has grown to millions in revenue in four years. As the CEO of WinIt, he was recently selected as a top young entrepreneur for Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
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Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Ouriel Lemmel: After incurring multiple parking tickets, I decided in 2015 to build an app that would make it easier for people to challenge them. WinIt has been downloaded more than half a million times and processed over 700,000 tickets, saving over $10 million worth of tickets on behalf of its users. Without raising a single VC dollar, WinIt has grown to millions in revenue in four years.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Ouriel Lemmel: When you’re launching a business without outside investments, you’re constantly dealing with chicken and egg problems. You need revenue to build a product but you need a product to capture revenue. The challenge is to think pragmatically and recognize the necessary concessions you need to make in order to have your first product prototype live. Then you get valuable feedback from users and you can keep building to refine your product.
First, I knew that the product I wanted to build was relevant and needed. I experienced how unavoidable and annoying dealing with tickets was. Second, testing: I tested with my own tickets and realized there was a way to create a process to efficiently dispute them. Third, the economics: with the size of the market and our clear business model, we knew we had a shot at trying this.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Ouriel Lemmel: Our technology connects drivers with knowledgeable attorneys that are experts at fighting and winning traffic and parking tickets.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Ouriel Lemmel: Most successful entrepreneurs I know didn’t wake up one morning and decide to become one, they’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. If you have a business idea or project, don’t be shy—try it. College is a great time for this as you have more available time than when you start working.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Ouriel Lemmel: If you have a business idea or project, don’t be shy—try it.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Ouriel Lemmel: Be adaptable with your employees and understand that the pandemic has shifted the way we all work. Empathy is a great quality to have and will build employee engagement and loyalty. And make sure everyone in the company is aligned with your ethos, in our case we focus on the customer experience.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Ouriel Lemmel: At first there were fewer police and fewer cars on the road so fewer tickets were written. Now our app is even more relevant than ever before for two reasons:
- More people are using cars to reduce the use of public transportation where social distancing can be difficult.
- Users don’t want to take the risk to go to court and potentially be exposed. A single attorney in court can represent multiple users so you can reduce the number of people being physically present in that court.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Ouriel Lemmel: Always understand your customer, especially in these times. Know your customer’s needs inside and out, and don’t veer from that, When you start thinking too much about the how instead of the why, you will lose focus and then business.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Ouriel Lemmel: We were positioned to be ready for the pandemic when it struck. Now our app is even more relevant than ever before for two reasons: More people are using cars to reduce the use of public transportation where social distancing can be difficult. And users don’t want to take the risk to go to court and potentially be exposed. A single attorney in court can represent multiple users so you can reduce the number of people being physically present in that court.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Ouriel Lemmel: Meeting the demands of our customers as we continue to grow in other states.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Ouriel Lemmel: Grit, persistence and humility. I am also fortunate to have a great co-founder. I think it’s helpful and healthy to have someone with a different approach to things who is able to constructively challenge you.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Ouriel Lemmel: This decision wasn’t that difficult, but it’s about understanding that the new hybrid workplace is here to stay, and the only way to move forward and serve our customers is to adapt to change and create new ways of working.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ouriel Lemmel for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ouriel Lemmel or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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