Ronen advises "people who should not listen"

Ronny Kerr · December 15, 2010 · Short URL:

Avner Ronen, CEO and founder of Boxee, gives advice to entrepreneurs that maybe shouldn't listen


Avner Ronen, CEO and founder of Boxee, set the tone for his talk at Vator Splash with one simple line: "I'm not very good at giving advice and I'm not very sure you should be listening." The idea is that entrepreneurs have succeeded with multifarious approaches, and the next big entrepreneur might even pave a new road. Here are the key takeaways from Ronen's talk:

--Know what you are trying to do. Ronen and his team thought TV could do better. "TV today, to be honest, is kind of embarrassing. It's amazing that your biggest, most beautiful screen has the worst user experience." Your iPhone and Android phones, tablets, and PCs all look amazing; what's wrong with TV? Enter Boxee.

--"Working from two continents makes for some great debates," read one slide in Ronen's presentation. He works from New York and his childhood friend and company partner works from Tel Aviv, Israel. As it turns out, people in the U.S. and people in Israel use TV differently. This divide created some challenges, but it also helped Boxee address different needs. Now the company helps people both watch great content only avalaible in the U.S. (like Netflix and Hulu) and connect personal video content from the user's computer to the TV set, something in demand internationally.

--Fulfilling the theme of his talk, Ronen didn't really say how to get funded. But as someone who is currently working on his second startup, he knows that you need money. "There are many rules and advice of how you get funded" and Ronen had many plans for how to do it his second time around, but in the end, "plans and experience all went down the toilet." Now he's constantly raising seed money from "anyone willing to write a check. [It's] probably not the best way but it's the only way to get by."

--Basically, be relentless; don't take "no" for an answer. (You'll hear "no" a lot.) Five investors will turn you down, so change something about your pitch or direction, or don't! Maybe you spoke to the wrong five investors. Or maybe you didn't; are you sure you shouldn't change your idea?

--In terms of building a team, biography does not equal destiny and present passion is more important than past experience. Boxee now has 33 employees, many of which were hired because they were passionate Boxee users. Ronen doesn't care about the school you went to or work you did ten years ago.

--What's best for the users is usually best for your company. Ronen views users as people not just "the customer."

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