Home Technology In The Face Of War, An Israeli Ad Tech Startup Chooses Resilience

In The Face Of War, An Israeli Ad Tech Startup Chooses Resilience

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Moti Tal (left) & Maor Sadra, co-founders, INCRMNTAL
Moti Tal (left) & Maor Sadra, co-founders, INCRMNTAL

“Excuse me, I’ll be right back. I just need to leave for a few minutes.”

An air raid siren, one of many, sounded in Ramat Gan, a city that borders Tel Aviv to the south, during a Zoom call last week between INCRMNTAL, an incrementality startup based in Israel, and one of its US-based partners.

As the company’s CTO, Moti Tal, stepped away to his air raid shelter, Maor Sadra, his co-founder and the CEO, took over the meeting.

“Our partner was shocked. They asked if we wanted to postpone the rest of the call,” said Sadra, who lives in Kfar Saba, a suburb of Tel Aviv slightly north of Ramat Gat. “But we said no, no, let’s finish, let’s continue with business as usual as much as we can.”

Although “business as usual” can only be a relative term in the wake of terrorist attacks on Israel earlier this month. Roughly 1,400 civilians were murdered and nearly 200 hostages taken, including children, sparking a war between Israel and Hamas that has also claimed the lives of more than 2,800 Palestinians.

“We have to call it like it is – no one is feeling OK, it’s hard to focus,” Sadra said, “but work is at least something that we can focus on.”

It’s OK, reach out

Every morning, all of INCRMNTAL’s employees – those who haven’t been called up to serve in the army – do a check-in with each other before the day begins.

Many customers have also been getting in touch to check in, although some aren’t reaching out, in part, because they just don’t know what to say. But even the briefest message of support or a quick “Hi, how are you doing?” over email goes a long way, Sadra said.

“I’ve had people say to me, ‘I wasn’t sure if I should email because of the situation’ – but, please, don’t hesitate, because it’s more helpful than you can imagine,” Sadra said. “And that’s even more true if you’re in a business relationship with someone. Believe me, we want to hear from you.”

Still, it’s difficult for people who haven’t experienced war or whose country doesn’t have compulsory military service, like Israel does, to understand what it’s like.

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Telling a client, “So … your account manager is out of the office right now because she’s fighting in a tank” often doesn’t really compute, Sadra said.

Several of INCRMNTAL’s 24 employees have been summoned for reserve duty, as have many of their partners. And everyone on the team has been affected by the violence in some way.

On Friday morning, Sadra plans to make a second trip to drop off supplies, which are running low, to support the soldiers and reserve duty personnel at nearby army bases.

“No one has time to mourn; the real mourning will come later,” Sadra said. “For now, we are just doing what we have to do.”

Homecoming

Sadra and his family, including a young son and daughter, have only been back in Israel full time since January.

They returned after eight years in Berlin, where Sadra was working in executive roles at mobile user acquisition platform Applift, including as CEO, before the company was acquired by MGI in 2019.

Sadra and Tal co-founded INCRMNTAL in Israel while Sadra was still in Germany. As the company grew, it felt like time to come home and be closer to the business, Sadra said.

But now it feels important to be in Israel.

Although he couldn’t have envisioned the events of the past two weeks, Sadra said he’d rather be in Israel right now than anywhere else in the world, despite the danger.

As the conflict goes on, work continues to be a welcome distraction, but humor has also become an important coping mechanism wherever possible.

Sadra’s own past military service has become a topic of light ribbing, for example. Sadra, a tenor who plays multiple instruments (including keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, flute, harmonica and accordion), served between 2000 and 2003 in an IDF entertainment troupe as a singer, musician and producer.

“We joke that if I end up getting called up, then things are really bad,” Sadra said. “I really would be the last resort.”

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