Interview with Talia Mashiach
Inspired by her love for business and technology, Talia Mashiach was driven to develop Eved, an online meeting and event services marketplace that is revolutionizing the event services industry. Talia has said about entrepreneurs as a group: "We are builders...Giving life to something that didn’t exist is an incredible fulfillment." This passion explains why Eved is such a success.
An Interview with Talia Mashiach
CEO and Founder, Eved
Date: April 23, 2012
Lucy Sanders: Hi. This is Lucy Sanders and I'm the CEO of The National Center for Women and Information Technology or NCWIT. And with me today is Larry Nelson from w3w3.com. Hi, Larry.
Larry Nelson: Hi there. I'm really happy to be here again. This is a great series. And the women technologists and entrepreneurs I think are just fabulous.
Lucy: We've had some great stories. And today's going to be no exception. Today we're interviewing Talia Mashiach, the CEO and Founder of Eved, an online meeting and event marketplace. Eved connects buyers and suppliers -- it's all very cool -- in the meeting and event industry through an easy-to-use online platform which I understand was created through some years of professional services. And then they kind of created a secret sauce and created an online platform to help people who have events and people who supply events. I was reading online that this can help reduce event spend by as much as 25 percent which is something we could use at NCWIT, I have to tell you.
Larry: [laughs] Yeah.
Lucy: We have meetings all over the country and we're definitely going to check Eved out. So Talia is a recognized entrepreneur. She's been inducted into the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame as well as being named one of the Winning Women by Ernst and Young. So we're really excited to talk with Talia today. Welcome, Talia. Tell us what's going on at Eved.
Talia Mashiach: Thank you very much. I'm really excited to be here. We've had a lot of excitement going on in the last year. As you've mentioned, we launched our online meeting event marketplace first in January 2012 and have continued to get great traction on it. We measure our success based on a number of transactions. Our goal is to move the $263 billion market that's transacting offline, online through Eved. And we did about $7.5 million in transactions last year...
Talia: ...for the full year. And we're already at over $5.5 million for the first three months of this year. And we're really fortunate to do a really nice infusion of capital and get support of some really great VC's. And so the company's on a very exciting path. And it's very intense and fun and challenging.
Lucy: Well, it sounds like great growth for a new company.
Larry: Boy, I'll say.
Lucy: Well, you know the event business is tough business and so anything that helps and saves money I'm sure will be quite popular.
Larry: Yeah. Years ago when we had a business where we did a lot of events, I wish we had known you. [laughing]
Lucy: Absolutely. So Talia, tell us a bit how you first got into technology and as you look into your crystal ball, what technologies do you think will be particularly important in the future?
Talia: You know I always loved business. And especially my passion is around automating business processes. I was exposed to technology back in 2000 when I launched a company called techcloseouts.com. And this was like way back when people didn't really have much in websites, certainly not e-commerce. That was all just beginning to start. And what I did was I sold overstock computers from Dell to small businesses. And what I was doing was I was taking those orders by phone and then faxing the orders into the warehouse. I was moving it around and trying to manage all the clients. And I just thought there needed to be another way to do that that would be so much faster. And I said, OK, why don't I build a website that can automate this entire process so that I have the inventory from Dell even before it ships. And my customers can go and see it, they can order it, and then it can ship directly from Dell to the warehouse to the customer. And then I don't have to sit and pick up the phone and go back and forth with all these things. And that was kind of the starting point where I said I have to turn this into something on the web where I was exposed to technology. I've been in it ever since. I think you know what's really cool today around technology and one of the things I see is that I think the future is going to be around cloud collaboration, certainly around business software. I think it needs to start looking and feeling a lot more like the applications that people are used to using in their daily lives, like Facebook or LinkedIn. And businesses use email. They use it for everything. And it's completely overused and not even used in the way that it was originally intended. So just like you used to have to email your pictures, like to 10 different friends from your vacation and then it would sit in everybody's email and take up everybody's space and they'd all keep it in their email accounts. And then you have Facebook. You post your pictures once online and you invite your friends who can see them. And they all get to see them. And it's in one place and you can collaborate in that one place. So that's what we're really doing it at Eved. We're really focused on that collaboration, you know, as a business application for the event space. Specifically a good example of that is that we have a product called Private Networks. That's the ability for the meeting planners to manage their suppliers in a similar way. So they can kind of create a directory so the suppliers go in and they create their profile. They manage a beautiful profile just one time. And the buyers just go in and invite their suppliers to be in their private network. They just accept an invitation and it appears there. And then there's all this collaboration that goes on. If there's a change in contact information or they need to change products or they need to change anything else, the supplier just changes it once. And it updates, obviously, for all of their buyers. So it's just some really cool stuff that I think will continue in the cloud collaboration space around business technology.
Larry: That's really fascinating. Once again, I wish we'd known you years ago.
Larry: Now, here's a two-part question. Why are you an entrepreneur? And then what is it about entrepreneurship that makes you tick?
Talia: Well, I think that entrepreneurs have some common traits that make us really different from most people.
Talia: First of all, I think we love to problem-solve. The harder the challenge, the more excited and motivated we get. I think that we're very goal-oriented and driven to succeed. And when most people would give up and, you know, stop climbing that mountain, the successful entrepreneurs that you read about are the ones that persevered, that just kept going. No one was able to stop them. When 50 people said no, they looked to the 51st person and kept going. I think that is incredibly unique. I also think that we like to create things from nothing. So we're builders. It is, you know, probably the challenge around building something is what we really like. It's that giving something life that didn't exist is an incredible fulfillment. And I think that, you know, your life and your work, your career take up a tremendous amount of time in your life and you need to spend it doing things that you love. And so I love to build and grow companies. I think I have a lot of these traits that make up the entrepreneur and make us a little different than everyone else. I think that's why I'm an entrepreneur.
Lucy: Well, that's a great definition of entrepreneurship.
Larry: Boy, I'll say.
Lucy: And along your path, who influenced you? What types of mentors? What kinds of things can you say around what prompted you to become an entrepreneur?
Talia: I don't think I'm very old at 35. But when I was in college there wasn't all this excitement around entrepreneurship. There weren't classes, at least that I was aware of. It wasn't like everyone said, oh, I'm going to become an entrepreneur. I see so much of that now today. So I don't think I ever thought of myself...although I used to tinkle with lots of different little businesses when I was younger...I never thought when I was younger that I want to grow up to be an entrepreneur and I want to go start companies. What I knew I did was I loved business. And I went to business school. I had a family very young. It was really important to me to be able to be home and to raise my kids. And so I started a company because I wanted to do something that gave me a little bit more flexibility and allowed me to be home with my kids. So out of college, I was at home with my kids, but I was still looking for something else. You know, you have that drive, that passion, all those things I mentioned before, that you want to do. But yet I didn't want to go put 18 hours into a job and not have any time with my children. So I think it just kind of naturally happened when I had this extra time to say, OK, then what am I going to do? And then it sort of just grew from there. You know, obviously now the place where we're at today and growing a large company is not quite a small business out of my house because as entrepreneurs do, we like to keep building and we like to keep growing. And we never stop. But that was sort of my starting point. And I don't think I originally ever set out to do. I had a number of different mentors and role models that helped shape my path. I think that most entrepreneurs will say, maybe the older ones, I don't know that I was ever going to say I would be an entrepreneur. But there were certain things that shaped me to get me there. And a lot of that had to do with people that influenced you. So Ed Chen was one of my very first clients in my last company, a service company. That was really my first real large company. And you know the biggest thing was that he gave me a chance and believed in me. And you never forget that. You never forget that first person who you need to be able to give you that chance until you can prove yourself. And I'd also say Michael Farrow, a tech entrepreneur in Chicago that has built some successful companies and now really works in leadership and involved in entrepreneurs. He really was the one who said I know you like your lifestyle business but you've got the ability to really go build a big technology success story. And he really pushed me just to take that leap and do it. I'd also say my father has been a great role model. And I probably migrate to other entrepreneurs who have experienced what I have yet to experience so that I can learn from them and that share similar values to me. Like the values of building a great company where you feel like you've really built something wonderful. And because of that you have great profits.
Larry: M-hmm. Wow.
Lucy: Wow. You know those stories of encouragement are so important. I know listeners have heard that before...the power of encouragement to spark peoples' careers. It's really, really important.
Larry: Yeah, for sure. I have a feeling you're going to be a mentor to a number of people.
Lucy: I think so...probably already.
Talia: Yeah. I do spend a lot of my time...well I shouldn't say a lot...the time that I do have outside my five children and building a company...I do try to spend some time with entrepreneurs who are where I was because I am so grateful for all the entrepreneurs that are ahead of me and that spend time with me.
Larry: Wow. Yeah, I've got a lot of empathy for you. We have five children also.
Talia: Oh wow!
Larry: With all the stuff you've been through, what is the toughest thing that you've had to do, in your career?
Talia: I'd probably put two different categories. Probably the biggest thing was risking every dollar I had. It was based on believing in myself, that I would succeed. When you get to that point where you've really got to put it all on the line, you've got to really look at yourself and say, "Can I do this?" I had four kids, and I had a mortgage and everything else. I just said, "I can do this", and that was really hard. That was probably the toughest thing, to just take the leap and go do it. As far as from a business standpoint, I think the toughest thing that happened is when you have to go tell a client, or anyone that for whatever you set yourself up to do, that you didn't reach those expectations. Whether it was a service that you were supposed to deliver, whether it was delivering a result, profitable result, or sales result for investors, or anything. I think it's that overall, we set such high expectations for ourselves, as entrepreneurs. We want to deliver on those, and we're probably our harshest critics. The hardest thing is when, for whatever reason, you don't deliver.
Lucy: That is true. I learned that at Bell Labs. I also learned that if you were honest with the client as soon as you knew, and told them what was going on, 90 percent of the time they understood and they worked with you. It's really difficult to tell them that, I agree with that. Talia, if you were sitting here today with a young person and you were giving them advice about entrepreneurship, what would you tell them?
Talia: I would tell them that they should really find something that they absolutely love, then ask themselves to honestly take a look and say "Am I willing to persevere, and take all the risks that it's going to take to get to the goal?" I think that we hear a lot of these glorious stories, and it's great, there are a lot of opportunities out there. But the ones that succeed are the ones that do take those risks and do persevere. Not everybody can do that, and it's important to understand that that's what it's going to take, and know those expectations, that work ethic, that never giving up. I'd tell them to really think about that. The only way that you are going to be able to do what it takes, through all those sleepless nights, and all those worries and everything else, is because you love what you do. If you don't love it, you're not going to be able to take all those risks and have all those challenges, in order to make that happen. I think that that mountain is really high and you have to keep climbing it, and sometimes that top looks so far away, but if you really believe in yourself and you love it, then you can get there. I would also tell them that I think it's important to make sure that they understand what their personal goals in life are. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? Why do you want to create a company? Is it for money? Is it for flexibility? Is it for fulfillment? Is it for enjoyment? That you could build something? What is it? Then just remember why you're doing it as you go down your path. I think the path takes you in different ways, and you want to make sure you pick that path that gets you to the reason why you did it to begin with.
Larry: Talia, you have really said a number of different things, and given us some great advice. You've touched on my next question, and that is, what are your personal characteristics that you think have given you the advantages of being an entrepreneur?
Talia: The number one thing I think that you need is passion. I've never met a successful entrepreneur that wasn't passionate. Even when I look at people who are successful for passion. I also think it takes leadership skills. It's not just about having a great idea, it's about leading your team to actually create that vision, to make it happen. Work ethic, as I mentioned before. It is incredibly hard, a lot of work and a lot of focus to build a company and to make it successful. You've got to be willing to be that person who works. You've got to be able to work hard at it. I think you've got to have confidence in yourself, you've got to believe in yourself. Not arrogance, but confidence that you can do it. There's so many times where everybody's going to tell you you can't. If you don't believe in yourself, then no one else will believe in you. I think that I'm lucky to have the support of my family. I don't know that I could do it without that. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy, and you need the people around you to be able to support you in that. I also think one of the things that actually helps me as an entrepreneur, is that I think I'm very human. I have five kids to go home to, that need their mom. That keeps you really, really grounded. When you're going through all kinds of things, when you're in the media, when people want to talk to you. All that stuff doesn't really matter that much when you're really grounded. I think the kids really do that for me. I think being a likeable person is important. People have to want to help you. You're not going to be able to do this on your own. If people like you, and they want to help you, then you're going to get the support that you need. And I think that the last two things would be the ability to motivate others to be better than what they ever thought they could be. Because it takes being better than you ever thought you could be to build something. And you need to be able to motivate them to do that and motivate everyone around you. And lastly, I think you need to be a person that in which you can get other people to believe in you. Because there are going to be a lot of times where they're going to have to take a leap of faith. Whether it's your first client, whether it's your suppliers, whether it's a bank, whether it's investors, whether it's your own family. And you've got to be able to convince them to believe in you which obviously starts with believing in yourself.
Lucy: Great advice. Great advice. I think that this last thing that you mentioned around others must believe in you and take a leap of faith is so tied to leadership, as well. You're not a leader if there's no one there to follow. You mentioned your family and you mentioned how they make you more human. How do you actually bring that balance to your personal and your work lives?
Talia: It's a challenge, all the time. I speak with other women...You know, as women we're just a little bit unique because we don't want to give up our roles at home. Even if we have husbands that maybe would be willing to stay home, we still want to be the mom. We want to make sure that we can manage the home. And so we just have a tremendous amount of responsibility and it's an ongoing challenge to just try and balance where you can be there for your kids and you can be there for everyone in your company. We say it's one of your families and your other family. What I try to do is, for me, my family, my husband, my kids are really the most important thing to me and that is very grounding as well. Because when everything happens in your company and things go as they always do, at the end of the day you say, you know what? I've got my family and that's what really matters. It kind of just relaxes you quite a bit when you realize what's truly important. I love spending time with my kids, I enjoy that. What I've done is I actually try to work out a schedule that I can see them off to school two days a week and then be home with them when they get home the other two days. I'll leave at 6:45 in the morning twice a week but I'll be home by 4:30 and then the other two days I'll leave at 9:00 but then I'll come home very late. It's things like that. Or just try to do once a week where I'm out later with clients and then one breakfast a week. So it's really everyone at both sides so it's my family understanding what my schedule is. And that's really what it is, they know that there's schedules and there's expectations and everyone's good with that. And the office, they know what my schedule is and when I'm going to be here. That seems to be really huge in helping me to be able to balance everybody that needs quite a bit of time from me. But it's tough and I continue to look at different tips to do that. I actually have "Twitter" account "CEOMOM5" where I try to put tips around different things I do as a mom that makes me more efficient. And then what I do as an entrepreneur and what I've learned as an entrepreneur.
Lucy: I looked at that. I thought it was a very interesting mix of information.
Talia: Probably only could come from a woman CEO.
Lucy: But I thought it was great. And I thought it pointed out what I've thought to be true for quite some time. There really is some integration between your family and your business. Not to say that you're not spending time with one or the other but that everybody knows what's going on.
Larry: And by the way, Lucy lives that, too. That's great.
Lucy: Although my babies are 29 and 25.
Larry: They're babies as far as I'm concerned. Talia, you have done so much and I can feel your energy. You've achieved a lot already. What's next for you?
Talia: I really want to build "Eved" into a great company. As a market leader in the event market space. This space, this industry. is a manual, fragmented, 263 billion dollar industry that is transacting everything off-line. I want to be someone who's part of that leadership to bring the market on-line, and to truly create event commerce which really doesn't necessarily happen today. My goal is to really take "Eved" to an IPO and build it to a great company. I think the reason for that is I feel like I can. I feel like I do it and that's exciting for me. In my near future, I'm really focused around Eved and learning a tremendous amount along the journey and enjoying it as a lot of my friends who've had the opportunity to be able to build companies from scratch and take them to an exit. They always tell me that it is really the journey that was most fulfilling and exciting. And the end is good but they always look back at the journey. And while they were on the journey, they were so focused on getting to the exit that they didn't even get a chance to enjoy that journey. So, I'm really trying to enjoy the journey as we go down this exciting path.
Lucy: Well, best of luck to you. I mean, what a great business to be in. And it so reinforces what you were interested in your early days on automated business processes. It's great that you have a company like that.
Lucy: Well, thank you so much for talking to us.
Talia: Thank you very much.
Lucy: I just wanted to remind listeners they can find this interview at w3w3.com and ncwit.org
Larry: That's a fact. We are really looking forward to it. Thanks very much, Talia.
Talia: Thank you.