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Sharel Omer of Affogata On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Ken Babcock

Our mission is to land and expand — land on a certain team in a company and show the value Affogata can bring to the entire organization and from there expand (upsells) through other teams in the organization.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sharel Omer, CEO & Co-Founder of Affogata.

Sharel Omer is the CEO & Co-Founder of Affogata, a leading AI-Driven User Insights Analysis Platform that enables brands to be truly customer-obsessed by bringing their customers’ voice to the right teams in the organization. Previously, Sharel was CEO & Co-Founder of Communit360, a social media management and intelligence platform, which helped thousands of marketers and small businesses increase their ROI from their social media activities. Sharel holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and a Degree in Engineering in Computer Science from SELA.

Affogata, a user insights analysis platform used by companies such as Wix, Etoro and Playtika, specializes in putting the customer first by collecting qualitative data. Affogata was founded with the mission of enabling organizations to analyze their customers’ feedback and brand sentiment and turn this important data into actionable insights. The platform gathers real-time data from across the open web, as well as internal sources, enabling clients to take a proactive approach to planning business roadmaps and reacting to customer feedback.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I have been working in the tech industry for almost 20 years, working a variety of roles mainly in entrepreneurial start-ups. My journey with Affogata began at Community360, a social media management and intelligence platform for small businesses that helps them increase their ROI from social media activities. We started Affogata in 2019, creating a more specialized , wider-reaching platform that better served the needs of major clients at Community360. I have a passion for building personal connections and relationships between brands and consumers, and I am dedicated to bringing the consumer voice to brands and organizations.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

The decision is to not give up. As long as you are passionate about what you do, I believe that things eventually will change for the better and always decide to surround yourself with great people.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

Definitely it was the pivot we decided to do from our older startup, prior to affogata. It was all about understanding that in order to create a new reality and an evolved vision, you need to make tough choices.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

We make mistakes all the time, so you have to keep your vision and lighthouse clear. Always make sure that even if you deviate from it, return to your vision.

Some of the mistakes we made were in targeting the wrong personas or customers, understanding our true value, and also in some pricing matters. However, all those mistakes led to several lessons that have helped us grow a lot in the last year.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

I’ve been lucky to partner with amazing people and learn from them. I also learned a lot from major international founders, in such companies as Wix, wToro, Fiverr, Ironsource etc. And last but not least, I gained knowledge and wisdom from our investors that keep us pushing us and advising us all the time.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

To me it is always about being as honest and transparent as possible. It is also about knowing how to prioritize and focus on the right things at every turn of our journey.

Surrounding yourself with people that are better than you is also key. So is bringing passion for your visions, products and sales. And all of these points are inspired by the great companies and colleagues I have mentioned above.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. GROW THE TEAM.

In order to improve our platform and service, our team has increased from 8 to 50 employees in two years. Scaling up the team means a better product and a continuously improved customer service.

2. UNDERSTAND THE MARKET AND THE INDUSTRY.

Understanding the market and the industry of the company is essential in order to find your business’s place within it, and in order to disrupt the industry. This also means understanding and anticipating consumer needs in this industry: What’s missing? What’s needed? What will the future look like?

3. MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN.

Affogata attends relevant conferences and events to increase awareness of our product and team. We also put a lot of emphasis on content creation and on our organic social media accounts and make sure we spread the word about Affogata to the right people.

4. STAY ALERT FOR OPPORTUNITIES.

By constantly talking to our investors, advisors, managers and employees, we make sure to stay alert for opportunities. Simultaneously, we also try to create opportunities on our own. Here are three examples.

Affogata was chosen with eight other Israeli startups to participate in A Deloitte special program intended to help Israeli hi-tech companies to better penetrate the American market and expand our business there.

Affogata has created a series of professional podcasts, discussing customer feedback from the customer viewpoint (It is reps from our own customers who have been interviewed in these podcasts, discussing their own experiences in handling customer feedback).

Finally, we created special industry and use cases reports to showcase how our platform massively transformed brands and services, by observing how companies used our platform for improvement.

5. HAVE CLEAR GOALS.

Our mission is to land and expand — land on a certain team in a company and show the value Affogata can bring to the entire organization and from there expand (upsells) through other teams in the organization.

In the gaming world, this means signing up with a specific game product team, and once they are happy with our platform, they recommend it to other game product teams within the same organizations.

Also, our ability to provide different teams with their own specific customer data needs, carried us from starting with one company team (product), and via their satisfaction from our offering and recommendations to their management, to upsell our product to other teams (CS, Marketing, etc).

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

Always read and stay on top of your company’s feedback. In the content creation world you often hear people saying “never read the comments”, well, if you don’t, you’re putting yourself at a major disadvantage. Listen to everything, analyze everything and use this feedback to help you understand your customers’ wants and needs and make business-decisions driven by useful data that will help you scale.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

Our team has increased from 8 to 50 employees in just two years, as we try to improve our platform and service. Scaling up a business so dramatically means understanding that company structure and culture will change. Pushing against that and trying to prevent change is detrimental to businesses and to company culture also. A business must be clear on its values and goals in order to preserve company culture and ethos when growing, making sure that you are hiring people in the right positions who hold those same values.

In addition, maintaining close relations with the new employees, from their onboarding and through the weekly company updates, as well as by sharing an open and transparent company’s culture, brings them closer to our values and goals.

In the company’s update meetings, as well as in team meetings, I make sure to always remind everyone what our vision and goals are, thus making sure we never lose focus on who and what we are. I keep describing our journey in similar fashion to a ship, which takes a long cruise in stormy waters, but through the team effort manages to reach its destination.

True to our promise and goals, we listened to our customers and have made constant improvements on our platform. For example, we integrated with Discord and Vanilla Forums in 2021 and we are working on integrating with Steam in 2022 to make sure we provide the ultimate platform for the gaming industry.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

We combine a platform guideline text (it is a sort of our platform bible) that team members can refer to with constant internal team discussions regarding workflow, procedures and areas that need improvements. Then we have cross-org meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page.

I must point out that a lot of intel comes from our customers, via their feedback on all platform and service matters. We consider their feedback with the highest regards, and in fact, they help us make our product and service much better.

What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?

We onboard our new hires in a variety of ways. We introduce them to our platform via videos, content presentations and team sessions. Then we move to OJT (on job training) which includes adding them to customer or prospects’ meetings. We then assign them to supervised tasks, take their feedback and give them ours.

Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.

Helping entrepreneurs build their next big thing, and fulfill their vision to make the world a better place.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow our work online through our blog: https://www.affogata.com/blog, or by following us on social media: https://www.linkedin.com/company/affogata/ and here: https://twitter.com/AffogataTeam

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!

About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.


Sharel Omer of Affogata On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.