May 23, 2022

Nim Interviews 01 - Noa Hilzenrat

Interview Highlights

Nimrod Ron [00:00:00] I'm here with probably one of the most fascinating people I've ever met, very inspiring, an author, Community Manager for monday.com, in particular for Startup for Startup. Noa, why don't you give a few words about yourself?
Noa Hilzenrat [00:00:15] So I started in the startup world when I was 16. I was bored in school and I was looking for other ways to impact the world and even just to have fun, because I hated to sit in a classroom without doing anything, and that's how I found the startup world. So, I started a community, the first community, when I was in high school, for young people who want to do big things, because I was the only weirdo in my school who wanted to make an impact and do things that are more than just the final exams.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:00:55] And I found more people like me. So I opened the [00:01:00] first community then. Now a few years after, I'm leading the Startup for Startup community for monday.com, which is I think the biggest startup community in Israel and definitely one of the best communities, but I'm not objective.
Nimrod Ron [00:01:15] I can agree with the fact that this is probably the best community. 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:01:18] The people there, it's not me, but the people there are amazing, and the knowledge that they share is really amazing. I hated high school, as I said, so I published a book called “The Lessons you won’t Learn in School” which contained all the lessons I wish that someone taught me in school, like how to manage your time, how to manage money, how to know what you want to do, how to be happy and more. Yeah.
Nimrod Ron [00:01:49] It's a big question how to be happy, but, I don't know a lot of people who wrote a book in that age, especially not a successful book, [00:02:00] what basically drove you into doing this? 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:02:03] So I think in the beginning it was just for myself, you know, in school they teach you math and they teach you history, and I'm not saying it's not important, but they don't teach you how to deal with real life. And I felt like I have a lot of potential, but no one told me how I can reach this potential. So I was looking for ways to do that, and I started to read books and to see Ted Talks on YouTube, and then I started to meet interesting people that I find successful.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:02:38] Literally sending them an email or message on Facebook, hoping for someone to answer. And they did - some of them, not all of them. And I started to write all the lessons I learned for myself, on Google Drive. And when I finished high school, I did so many other things, more than just [00:03:00] the final exams and I wrote a post about it.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:03:03] And I think the main message on this post was- the most important things I learned were out of school, not in school. School was just like a border in the middle. And it was viral at that time, I started to get messages from teachers, from students, even from parents telling me “my daughter feels like you” or “my son feels like you”, “my students feel like you”, “what should I do?”
Noa Hilzenrat [00:03:32] So I was like, okay, you want to give me your email? I'll just add you to the Google drive, where I wrote to myself all the lessons. I thought that no one would read it because it was an ugly, Google Drive, Google Doc with, you know, lessons I wrote to myself, but people actually read it and they asked for more and then I understood.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:03:54] It's not only my need, everybody doesn't get what they need in school . [00:04:00] So I need to do something bigger. And then I decided to make it into a book. Last year I even brought a lesson plan for teachers so that they can take this book and they can really teach life lessons in school. [00:04:19] And I hope that one day every student will get these lessons.
Nimrod Ron [00:04:24] Well, first of all, I have no doubt. You said that you started basically reaching out to successful people, to a lot of experts, to a lot people that you admire. So I can tell basically, that you're good at opening doors.
Nimrod Ron [00:04:42] So what's your secret, and why won’t you share with us a little bit about that.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:04:46] There is a chapter in the book about how to open doors by the way. 
Nimrod Ron [00:04:52] Exactly. So why won't you share with us how you do that? 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:04:56] So basically just do something instead of do nothing. Instead of watching [00:05:00] Netflix episodes, I'm not saying Netflix is not good. I think it's awesome sometimes, but if you do more things with your time, go to a conference, learn something, everything.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:05:11] I think this is the key to open doors. But in general, just to reach people, to reach people and to just send a message. Say “Hi, I want to catch a coffee with you” “I want to learn from you.” I think most people are not doing it because, firstly they don't think about it. They don't have this option in mind that they can learn from successful people or from people that they can learn from.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:05:45] And second, I think most people think “he might not answer me”, and he might not answer you, but he might answer. So just, don't be afraid, don't be shy because you don't know what one message can do. [00:06:00] And I think also just to love people. I think people are the most interesting thing in the world and because I love people so much.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:06:10] For me, just to talk with someone it's like, I don’t know, the best thing I can do. 
Nimrod Ron [00:06:25] First of all, I couldn't agree more because most of the people aren’t sending because they are afraid that they won't get answered. But that's basically what leads me - that this is the situation right now where no one answered me, so I can only make it better for me. You know a lot of people, you have a broad network, I'm sure that you have mentors as well. Do you mind sharing the best advice that a mentor ever gave you, something that goes with you? 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:06:55] I don't know. I don't think I have a specific advice that a mentor gave me, but I can tell you [00:07:00] just listen to yourself and not to mentors.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:07:03] You can take advice from mentors and I think it's amazing if you have people in your life that you can really trust and you can really listen to their advice and their experience, but then, in the end, listen to yourself. You might know better than anyone else what's good for you or what's good for your product, for your company.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:07:29] So I think something that I always remind myself is that I might have a better understanding from my point of view, and that, yeah, it's okay, it's not okay - it's important to listen to other people and to listen to people that have more experience than I have and more knowledge that I have. Make the research, but in the end [00:08:00] I will make the decision. So, listen to yourself.
Nimrod Ron [00:08:06] Amazing, that's good. Well, you manage a community Start for Startup. It's basically an unusual example of building a real community from inside the company from monday.com. What was the inspiration for it? Why do you think it's so successful? That's the main question.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:08:29] So first I think it's successful because of the people in the community. Community has people. I can do whatever I want, but at the end of the day, if the people in the community will not be active, will not share knowledge and will not participate in the community. I can just be by myself in the space.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:08:51] And it doesn't matter if it's physical space or online space. But I think that maybe I'll give a bit of [00:09:00] background for people who don't know what Startup for Startup is. It's an Israeli community. Now it's Israeli, hopefully one day we'll have a global community as well. It's a community to share knowledge between startups.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:09:14] Entrepreneurs, investors, people who work in startups, all of them have insights from day-to-day life or from things that they did well or maybe did wrong sometimes. And I think most companies share this knowledge only inside the company. Many companies have a book of how the leadership in this company looks, or how we did that.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:09:41] But then, when it comes to the outside world, to share it with other companies, I think most people are not doing it because they aren't used to doing that. And second, because you know, sometimes they teach us that the world is one big competition and we need to win, right? [00:10:00] But then you understand that if you share something and, I'll give you an example.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:10:08] If you have $1 and I have $1, and then you give me $1, I have $2 and you have nothing. But then if I have one idea or insight, and you have one idea or insight and we'll share it with each other, I have two, and you have two, so you don't lose anything. You can just get much, much, much more knowledge. And I think the reason why this community is so successful is because people need each other. You have a startup, so you know how hard it is and how many challenges you need to face every day.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:10:48] And you're not the only one. There's so many other people who already faced the challenge you’re facing right now. Who learned something that might help you. So why not share with each other, why [00:11:00] not help each other? And then the whole world will be better. So I think the main reason why this community is successful is because people are willing to share and to help each other.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:11:12] As you said, it’s from a company. I'm working for monday.com doing it, but it's not for monday.com. The only thing they want me to do is to impact startups and help startups to share knowledge with each other, nothing about monday products. I think that's what makes it so successful because I’m only focusing and measuring the impact, nothing else.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:11:41] That's what makes it so successful.
Nimrod Ron [00:11:44] I think that one of your biggest talents is that you allow other people to show their vulnerability. I see different posts on this community of people that basically open their heart in front of 20,000 people that they don't know. [00:12:00] And as someone who's about to write next month,
Nimrod Ron [00:12:06] I feel that you have the talent of making people be much more vulnerable and basically speak very honestly about the process that they've been working on, or the experience that they had. My question is what do you think that allows other people to be vulnerable when you reach them.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:12:30] So it was super hard in the beginning. Now that people are already sharing, it's easy. Now if I send you a message, “Hey, you want to show something?”
Noa Hilzenrat [00:12:40] You'll probably say yes, because you know this community and you see other people doing it, right? But in the beginning, no one shared anything, and if I asked for someone to do that, they would tell me “Listen, nobody else is doing it, why would I?”. And that's what people said. In the beginning when I started to manage this [00:13:00] community, the first thing I did was about 100 meetings,
Noa Hilzenrat [00:13:05] one-on-one with people from the community, asking them why you’re not sharing anything, and what do you need? What are your challenges? They said “Listen, no one else is doing it, so I will not do that.” Then I realized if that's what everybody said, so if no one will do that, no one will do that. I need to do make the first person do that. 
Nimrod Ron [00:13:33] People are usually, I mean, especially in the startup world, especially in high-tech, people are writing about how successful they are, “Oh I just raised $20 million, we're doing so well and we’re hiring a hundred people right now and we have a $20 million ARR, everything is amazing, everything goes for us.” It wasn't that common for people to write how awful this experience is. I mean, it's a way of [00:14:00] life, but most of the time it's difficult. And the peaks that you have give you the strength to keep on doing this.
Nimrod Ron [00:14:07] But most of the time, it's not easy. So how did you make them write on the 95% and not the top 5%, let's call it.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:14:15] A few things, first,when they see other people doing it, it's easy. You need to give them the best example you can, and sometimes fake it until you make it. I believed that in the beginning I should ask from my friends, we have a WhatsApp group and I think they hated me at that time. Every post in the community, I sent them comments, or
Noa Hilzenrat [00:14:39] likes, I need it. And when people see other people do something it's easier for them. But yes, sometimes in the beginning you need to make the effort. You need to imagine what you want to see and then ask people to help you. And it's okay. It's okay that in the beginning I asked from my [00:15:00] friends because I know that’s how human nature works.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:15:03] They need to see other people before they do that. So it helps me a lot. And also I think that the personal connection with people. I know that most of the people that I ask to write a post about something or to share something, I'm not forcing them to do anything. I know that they have something to share and I know it can help other people.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:15:30] And I'm just showing them, listen, you have knowledge to share and it can help other people. And sometimes they want to do that to help other people because the goal, in the end, is a great one. It's something good. I’m not doing it for the money, it’s literally to help other startups.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:15:48] So why wouldn't they, right? And also the personal connection. I think at the point I am now, I know many, many smart and amazing people [00:16:00] that I call them friends, because I know that if I ever need help, they will help me. And if I can ever help them, I will do the same. And if you have this connection with people, sometimes it's like the best thing you can have because when you have a real connection with someone it's stronger than anything.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:16:27] In the beginning, that's why I took so much time to just talk with 100 people. It was zoom meetings, one-on-one. Listen, the whole first month at monday that's what I did. I was on zoom meetings. And it's hard, but it was super important because I didn't just like imagine
Noa Hilzenrat [00:16:54] okay, they have a startup, they do that, they do that. No, I was talking to people and I met the people [00:17:00]. I know your names, and I know what their challenge is and I know what their product does, and I know what doesn't work or what they need help with. So I can start making connections between the people and I can really help them.
Nimrod Ron [00:17:13] How did you create this connection between you and a new person that you just met that you’re just meeting on zoom? It's how to create this support between two people that don’t know each other. 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:17:25] It's hard, but it's also very easy. I love people like, why not? I think it's human nature to make friends to be part of something.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:17:32] And, I can tell you today that I think that some people in the startup ecosystem, if they see my name on a message, they know that I need something and they really don't like it, but it's okay because this is part of it. And I don't feel bad.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:17:50] No, I give them the opportunity to help other startups. It's a good thing. I believe I did something good. So I think that it's an opportunity for [00:18:00] them and for other startups. And also I just really, I love people and I think if you're not only asking for something, if you really come from a place of “how can I help you?”
Noa Hilzenrat [00:18:14] And what’s interesting to the other person, so it's not like someone wins and someone loses. No, it's win-win. So that's how I see connections between people.
Nimrod Ron [00:18:29] You meet hundreds of new people probably every month. How do you, how do you keep them engaged? How do you keep your network strong?
Noa Hilzenrat [00:18:40] So I think today it's a bit easier with social media, because I can share everything on LinkedIn, on Instagram, and I know, I can get to many people in an easy way. But then how to keep them engaged, if you mean, in the community, it's not easy. I need to [00:19:00] remind them all the time. It's not that like, you know, you do something once and that's all for life,
Noa Hilzenrat [00:19:07] it works. No, you need to work for that. You need to create new things and new opportunities and new ways to make people engage. And some of the things work, some of the things don't work at all, but I can tell you that because I am trying many things, some of them are working and when something works, it's what makes everybody else to be engaged.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:19:34] And I can give you an example. In the community there are many, many, many amazing people, and I was always looking for a way to make them introduce themselves in the group. So that they can network with each other because, you know, as a community manager, I see it and I know that he can help this person,
Noa Hilzenrat [00:19:53] he can help him, but they didn't know it. So I was looking for a way to make them introduce themselves in the group. [00:20:00] And I tried spotlight, each time, spotlight someone. And I tried to tell them, listen, you introduce yourself in the group, nothing worked. But then I tried a challenge to write three things about yourself that no one in the group knows about you.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:20:20] And I also went to a few people that I know that people trust. Entrepreneurs have many experiences or investors. And I told them, listen, I need your help. I want to make this challenge. And I know that if people will see you writing it, they will do it too. 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:20:39] And in the first three hours, nothing, literally nothing. I was like, oh my god, super embarrassing, why did I do it. But then the people I asked them to do it started to post two or three things that no one knows about themselves. And then it was crazy. Over 500 posts of people from the community sharing. [00:21:00] And at some point we had to stop it,
Noa Hilzenrat [00:21:04] like it was too much. But the amount of things we tried before that, before something worked. It’s like so many things that nobody, I think nobody from the community even saw because it didn't work, so they did not know about it. Just try as many things as you can. [00:21:21] And some of the things work, some not. Try. You have nothing to lose.
Nimrod Ron [00:21:26] I love it. What's one piece of advice you can share? 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:21:29] I literally believe that every person can do amazing things and we are not doing it, we don't know that we can do it. Like people don't know how much they can.
Noa Hilzenrat [00:21:39] So I would say just try new things. If you, let's say, like music, try to learn how to play the piano. If you have something that you think about, you can do it, just trust yourself that you can do it and make an effort for it because it’s worth it. In the end, [00:22:00] you can be whatever you want [00:22:02] it just depends on yourself. 
Nimrod Ron [00:22:04] Noa Hilzenrat. You're inspiring and amazing, and it's really good to kick off this line of interviews with you. So thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your knowledge. You have a lot of it, and obviously you have a lot more to achieve, and I'm sure that you're heading there. 
Noa Hilzenrat [00:22:23] I hope, and thank you for the opportunity. 
Nimrod Ron [00:22:26] Thank you so much.

Best of luck in your next negotiation!
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