Yair Kuznitsov is a CEO on a mission–to remove the frustration that typically accompanies compliance and in the process, save InfoSecurity teams millions of hours per year collectively. After building and managing teams in different units across the IDF Intelligence Corps, Yair became the head of the hardcore R&D section of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit. After leaving the army, he led the Innovation Group at Insight, where he successfully brought new products into a highly competitive market. In 2020, he started anecdotes — the leading InfoSecurity compliance solutions provider — with Roi Amior and Eitan Adler to re-build the InfoSecurity Compliance ecosystem to fit the cloud era.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Yair Kuznitsov: My name is Yair Kuznitsov and I am the Co-Founder and CEO of anecdotes, a leading InfoSec Compliance solutions provider. I spent most of my career in the cybersecurity space and for many years I worked as a software engineer. Before my role with anecdotes, I managed a team specifically focused on innovation. This position played a significant role in preparing me for a life of entrepreneurship. For the first time, I was able to take off my R&D glasses and I started seeing the bigger picture. I worked with sales, product, marketing, and all other departments, gaining a better understanding of what running a company truly entails and it is what empowered me to start anecdotes with my fellow co-founders.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Yair Kuznitsov: I am 100% convinced that entrepreneurs are made, not born. You don’t become an entrepreneur because you have a certain mindset or approach to life, but rather, by cultivating a skill set that allows you to act as one. Designing a product and understanding go-to-market and sales strategies are just the beginning. To be an entrepreneur, you need to know at least a little bit about the many aspects of a business. What makes you a truly successful entrepreneur, however, is always continuing to learn. You have to be willing and able to learn about the things you don’t know or are not good at in a short period throughout your entire career, not just early on.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Yair Kuznitsov: I’d like to believe that I’m ambitious. Once we reach a goal — one that seemed perfectly impossible when we set it — it’s time to set another new, highly audacious one. As part of this, I’m also constantly learning — whether from the success of others, from my own experiences, or most importantly, from my mistakes. I am also very involved in a network of entrepreneurs with varying levels of experience. Much of what I have learned has come from those who have more experience, but I gain just as much from offering advice and my mentorship of those just starting in their careers.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Yair Kuznitsov: At anecdotes, we believe that Compliance doesn’t have to be a burden and that instead, it should catalyze growing your business. We have built a comprehensive Compliance solution that allows startups and hyper-growth companies to establish mature and smart Compliance programs that enhance trust with customers and partners and generate greater revenue. That’s what we do today. But honestly, we started in a very different industry. We initially built a travel startup and then, just a few weeks later, COVID hit. As you can imagine, we had to quickly change course and go back to the drawing board, which is when we decided to focus on the next best thing – Compliance.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Yair Kuznitsov: They must assume that the market that existed when they came up with their idea will not exist when they are ready to present their solution. The market is always evolving and changing. If that basic assumption is truly understood, then you can build your business in a much smarter way. Static innovation is not enough — you need agile innovation. You need to build a solution that will allow you to adapt as the market does, and you always have to be attuned to where the market you’re in is going. Otherwise, the market will go in one direction and you will miss it completely.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Yair Kuznitsov: We assumed that new, innovative tech is enough to drive immediate adoption, but that’s not the case at all. When you want to bring innovation to a big market, you have to know an industry inside and out. To get companies to trust and adopt your solution, you need a deep understanding of the industry, and without that, you cannot make a real impact. And the real impact will always win over “cool new tech.”
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Yair Kuznitsov: Don’t go into the travel business right before an international pandemic hits! In all seriousness though, I would have tried to involve as many domain experts, in every field, as early as possible. Marketing, customer success, and every other customer-facing aspect of the business, you name it. This would have enabled me to build the more tailored offering that we have today at a much earlier stage.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Yair Kuznitsov: One of the worst pieces of advice I’ve received was, “Aim for the biggest deals possible.” There are different opportunities in different parts of the market and solely focusing on enterprise (or any other group exclusively) might work for some companies, but it doesn’t work for everyone, and it definitely wouldn’t have worked for anecdotes. You need to live and breathe your market 24/7 and be able to find the different opportunities that exist in the market. Then, you need to identify which are the best ones for your company.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Yair Kuznitsov: There used to be an assumption that to build a coherent company culture, you need to start with a local team and only then expand. COVID has disproved this theory. Building a company culture is about setting values that resonate with the entire team and more importantly, making sure that the day-to-day in the company reflects those values. This can be done through tactics like Zoom happy hours, but also by the way the team regularly communicates. For example, at anecdotes, we have nurtured two streams of communication: Slack and WhatsApp. The first is for business-related conversations while the other is more casual and serves as a replacement to in-person conversations that we’d be having at the office. We emphasize both.
In terms of what hasn’t changed, investors have and will continue to be integral partners during your company’s journey. It’s, therefore, crucial to spend as much time with them as possible before you decide to bring them on as part of your “family.” We all suffer from Zoom fatigue, but a half-hour call is not enough to make such an important decision. It’s increasingly important that we find ways to continue to build and cultivate those deep relationships. Just because we can’t meet face-to-face as easily anymore doesn’t mean that reality has changed.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Yair Kuznitsov: That being a successful entrepreneur is all about “who you know” and the connections you have or that you need to be in the clique to sell and get investments. My advice: Find the right partners, hire the best people you can find to be your first employees, and start developing the product. If it’s good, everything else will fall into place. This of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t network, but it’s not the end-all-be-all to success. I believe that if you come up with a good enough idea and product, you will find yourself receiving networking requests instead of only sending them.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Yair Kuznitsov: You have to be super ambitious. You also need to be good at one thing but can learn many other things. The ability to learn more and acquire new skills will take you far. You have to have a passion to create a change in the field that you belong to. And above all, you need to be a leader who not only has the confidence to tell people what they need to do but the confidence to accept advice and direction from people who know more than you as well. You have to assume that you don’t know everything.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Yair Kuznitsov: I found that for me, the best way to improve and learn is to find someone who was where I am now three years ago and turn them into a mentor. Find people who you can trust and who will share with you the truth about the challenges they faced. Books are great, but connecting with someone to bounce ideas off of and engage with who can give you advice tailored to your needs and where you are can prove even more valuable.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Yair Kuznitsov: I’ve played piano for many years and it is still one of my favorite pastimes. If I could be anything else, I would want to be a musician. I love the creativity of music.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Yair Kuznitsov: I’d have to say, Albert Einstein. He has many great quotes, but my favorite one that also inspires me as an entrepreneur is: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Yair Kuznitsov 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 Yair Kuznitsov or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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