I was standing as tall as a 9-year-old could in my childhood home, not giving an inch while arguing with my older brother. We shared a fascination with technology, but we weren’t sharing much on this day. We both wanted our hands on the latest gadget.
Back and forth, my brother and I yelled at each other. Finally, my parents stepped in. They gifted both of us CorelDRAW, the latest graphic design program that we quickly installed on Windows 95. There was a large manual that showed all kinds of designs you could make. At the time, in a pre-Photoshop world, it felt like magic.
We absolutely fell in love with design. We studied the manual day and night, sharpened our English skills, and decided we wanted to make money from our new passion. Before long, we were creating sticker designs that we’d sell to schoolmates.
I later went on to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces’ elite visual intelligence unit and founded two successful cybersecurity companies. My brother is now a successful interior designer, sharing his love for design and creating beautiful things.
We both agree that our experience selling stickers as children taught us some valuable lessons about entrepreneurship that we both employ today.
1. Your passion and unique skills are your differentiator
Back when I was 9, I needed some pocket money. So I did what I did best, which was also what I enjoyed the most: design.
It was a natural progression. Our mother was a former graphic designer, and I had been working on computers since age 6, tinkering with a Compaq Deskpro 386. I discovered that creating different styles of stickers was both satisfying and lucrative thanks to my unique design skills.
When I co-founded my first company, I had the same overwhelming feeling of exhilaration as I did when I was 9. I was still nurturing my passion for design, but I also had a new passion, one supported by the unique skills and expertise I had acquired from my time in the military.
In the most basic way, developing my passion for cybersecurity allowed me to do what I love while making money and making the world a safer place.
Pursuing your passion will keep you going when times get tough. Your unique skills and experiences will allow you to spot customer needs and desires and fulfill them in ways others can’t. This combination of motivation and preparedness is absolutely necessary for serial entrepreneurs, especially in an uncertain business environment.
2. Experience is invaluable, but embrace learning on the fly
I’m grateful for a childhood in which I was encouraged to dream big and had access to the kind of tools that could help me develop advanced skills. At first, using CorelDRAW was complicated, but I would study and practice my design skills day and night.
When I started selling stickers, I had a good background in design but learned some practical lessons in monetization and sales along the way.
By the time I turned my sights to cybersecurity, I had years of schooling, military, and business experience under my belt. I was more fully prepared to meet the challenges of running a startup, but as an entrepreneur, you never stop learning.
My design skills allowed me to get hands-on with the product we were developing in my first few months with co-founder Amit Bareket. Through this process, I also advanced my coding skills on the go, much like how I picked up new abilities as my school’s resident sticker salesman. Only this time around, I was selling subscriptions to users all over the world.
3. Feel the love, lose the fear
Perhaps the most important lesson I learned at age 9 was not to fear failure. If you’re doing something you love, doing it responsibly, and giving total effort, you can make your dream a reality. Nothing can stop you.
As a serial entrepreneur nearly three decades removed from our sticker startup, this same feeling provided me with tailwinds to navigate many storms.
Real-world experience can sometimes detach you from the inspiration that got you started. But I can honestly say I feel the same deep enjoyment of design, from graphics to products, as I did when I was selling stickers.
Because of this creative passion, I’m able to help create products that provide a simple and seamless user experience and interface. Designing new initiatives or projects is a daily routine now, so my creativity can take me and our company places we may not have realized we need to go.
If you’re an entrepreneur with passion, skills, and ideas, and if you can effectively listen to customers and deliver them value, you’ll create a similar self-nurturing path to startup success.
Even if that means an occasional argument with your brother.