Judaism Unbound Episode 65: Investing in the Future - Oren Zeev


Oren Zeev,  Founding Partner of Zeev Ventures, gives us a window into the mind of a Silicon Valley investor, as we continue to explore how the mindset of Silicon Valley might help us think about getting from the Jewish present to the Jewish future we hope might emerge. Oren Zeev is known for successful investments in early-stage companies, such as Audible.com and, recently, Houzz. How does he decide which projects to back? To what extent are the perspectives he has developed in the business world translatable to the Jewish non-profit landscape? [1]

Image Credit: TechCrunch

Image Credit: TechCrunch

(0:01 - 18:46): To begin the episode, Zeev describes his thought process in deciding whether or not to invest in a company. In particular, he emphasizes the importance of the people, by asking, "Who am I backing?" not just, "What am I backing?" He also explores, with Dan, the question of when and how companies should look to go to scale, in particular emphasizing how that issue can translate to Jewish non-profits that need the time and space to develop their ideas before they (eventually) grow. [2] Zeev then outlines the ways that relationships between funders and entrepreneurs can be healthiest in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.

(18:47 - 29:40): Zeev dives deeper into the origins of Tipalti and TripActions, two successful companies that he backs, in order to demonstrate what it looks like to support an idea as it moves from "half-baked" to "fully-baked." He also expands on some of the issues that are more challenging for companies in the for-profit world, and compares these with the advantages and disadvantages that manifest more frequently for non-profits. [3]

(29:41 - 41:41): Zeev discusses the particulars of backing a non-profit organization, emphasizing that he cares more about the effectiveness of the organization than about his personal connection to the cause. In conclusion, he looks back on his investment in Audible.com, a company that was initially seen as a failure but eventually bloomed into a huge success, [4] reinforcing an idea that was discussed last week about the timing of ideas and how sometimes a great idea can only translate into a successful company (or non-profit) when external factors change (in Audible's case, the creation of the iPod).

[1] Learn more about Oren Zeev by checking out this 2014 article about him, featured in TechCrunch.

[2] In this section of the episode, Zeev emphasizes the need for both non-profits and for-profit companies to "go slow to go fast." Learn more about that philosophy by checking out this article, published by The Foraker Group.

[3] If you'd like to compare and contrast non-profits and businesses even more deeply, we recommend reading the following two articles in tandem. First , read "Why non-profits should run like businesses," featured at NonProfitPro.com, and then follow it up with "Why You Should Run Your Business Like a Non-Profit," featured in Forbes Magazine. 

[4] We encourage our listeners to check out the offerings of Audible.com. Thousands of audiobooks can be found there, including many of those published by past guests of Judaism Unbound.