Enon Landenberg started his first company because he had nothing better to do. “No one wanted to hire me after college,” he says, laughing. These days, he’s the co-founder of Israel-based company launcher SFBI (Small Factory, Big Ideas), a sought-after business speaker, and marketing advisor to SpaceIL – the Israeli entry to Google’s Lunar X Prize competition for putting a vehicle on the Moon.
His attitude toward work and entrepreneurship did not get him far in job interviews. “Even during the interview I was already trying to fix the company I was interviewing for,” he says. People with an entrepreneurial spirit are always thinking about the next thing. “I think anyone who interviewed me understood that about me,” he adds.
The SFBI team claims to lay out a company’s entire business plan from the first idea all the way to its exit strategy.
Landenberg founded his first company, an interactive advertising agency called E-Dologic, in 1999. It evolved out of a website he started to help young people find apartments, apply to university courses, plan trips, and more. He planned to finance it using advertising, but he discovered there wasn’t a good digital marketing agency in Israel at the time. So he shut down the website and started his own agency to sell advertising online.
After launching campaigns with clients like Coca-Cola, Ford, and Nestle, E-Dologic was acquired in 2001 by French multinational advertising company Publicis. Landenberg stayed with Publicis as chief innovation officer until 2013, at which point he struck out on his own.
Next came a company called Infinity Augmented Reality, an AR software development company where he served as president, before founding SFBI in 2014.
Solving problems he saw around him became a theme. “I’m not sure this was always the reason why I started companies, but today it’s definitely that,” he says.
SFBI has launched businesses that address various human needs. For example, Leo is a mobile bot assistant for personal insurance and Gistit provides CliffsNotes-like summaries and study resources to students.
The venture builder claims to lay out a company’s entire business plan from the first idea all the way to its exit strategy, and only goes ahead with that #startup if it’s satisfied with that plan. Its team members join in as co-founders, advisors, or mentors. SFBI also pours in some initial investment in the new businesses.
SFBI’s latest venture is called Bosco and it’s being rolled out in Asia first. Bosco is a “parental intelligence” app that promises to help parents keep an eye on their children’s online activity so they know when it’s time to intervene.
Focusing on the child’s smartphone as the center of their social and digital life, the subscription-based service tracks location, monitors changes in the child’s social networks (like people following or unfollowing), flags calls from unknown numbers, and more.
The app can also pick up on signs in the child’s voice and determine their mood when the parent speaks to them on their phone. If the child sounds stressed or unhappy, the app will let the parent know.
There are other apps out there that offer inappropriate content monitoring, location tracking, and prevention of cyberbullying, like MMGuardian, SecureTeen, and Norton’s own Family app. Others offer functions like sleep monitoring and limiting of online time. Bosco’s edge seems to be in combining all those different features together and adding functions like daily routine updates about the child’s schedule and voice mood detection.
As a father, Landenberg knows first-hand the challenges of raising children in our digital age. “In the last few months we have seen more and more discussions around kids’ problems, especially after 13 Reasons Why,” he says. The controversial Netflix series chronicles the impact of a teenage suicide on the teen’s family, friends, and school.
The app is available in English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese. One reason why the Bosco team focused on Asia was the relative dearth of competing ventures in the region.
I’m not sure this was always the reason why I started companies, but today it’s definitely to solve problems I see around me.
The team also sees a potentially greater need for what the app offers, as the more traditional and conservative family values in many Asian societies can get in the way of open communication between parents and children.
Bosco has already received a US$1 million grant from Singapore’s Economic Development Board and is preparing to close a US$3 million funding round from Asia-based family offices.
Landenberg says he prefers such investors rather than VCs. “It’s better to talk to the money owners themselves, as much as you can,” he suggests. “When you’re working with angels or family offices, you’re closer to those owners.”
The connections these investors can bring to the table are also valuable, he adds – mostly from their existing businesses and expertise.
By partnering with schools, non-profit organizations, and local business partners, Landenberg hopes to increase awareness and adoption of the app. “I can tell you as a parent myself, parents don’t really like to talk about this issue,” he says. “We feel like we are bad parents if we have to seek help. There’s a lot of education we need to do in the market.”
Right now, one of the things SFBI wants to test is the viability of launching in markets other than the US. A vast majority of Israeli entrepreneurs who target international markets choose the States as their primary market, Landenberg says.
Written in the stars
And then there’s space. As part of Google’s competition for private companies to land a vehicle on the Moon, SpaceIL is a promising candidate – in fact, Landenberg thinks the team has it in the bag, although he’s obviously biased.
SpaceIL is currently looking at a 2018 launch, as the team is hard at work assembling its lunar vehicle. “It took us some time to build the foundations,” Landenberg says. “We are the only group that’s a non-profit, all the rest are looking to sell their company.”
SpaceIL’s motivation is to get young people in Israel excited about science and technology.
SpaceIL’s motivation is to get young people in Israel excited about science and technology and that forms a big part of their outreach efforts. “Even if we don’t win – which we probably will – I think the biggest achievement is that we’ll have more young kids in Israel interested in tech and robotics, getting into it at a young age. [We can] motivate the next generation not only to make money but also to build new things,” he says.
It’s that aspect of building ventures that Landenberg enjoys so much.
“The bad thing about riding a rollercoaster is, when you reach the top, you know you’re then going to the bottom. But then you climb to the top again. So we try to enjoy the time when we are at the top,” he says. “The interesting thing about young companies is that you can be at the top and bottom of the rollercoaster at the same time.”