Meet The Disruptors: How Gideon Rottem of Deeyook is Shaking Up Precise Location Technology
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
[Originally published in Authority Magazine ]
By Tyler Gallagher
As part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gideon Rottem.
Gideon Rottem is the Co-founder and CEO of Deeyook, a disruptive location technology company from Tel Aviv, Israel. Mr. Rottem for 20+ years has founded and led multiple technology ventures. He is an economist, lawyer, and historian by training.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
What led me to this path in my career? When it comes to Israel, military service is often instrumental in paving any Israeli’s as the country has a mandatory service law, three years for men, two years for women. For nearly ten years I served in a high-risk security position, during which I learned to work with small groups that constantly interact with one another and to achieve measurable results.
When I left the military, I studied law at Georgetown University. I graduated, started working as a lawyer, and quickly realized that while working for others might have been financially beneficial, my dream lay somewhere else; Not in serving someone else’s interests, but in creating something of my own.
There is great value in helping the disadvantaged, but if as a lawyer your sole job is to produce legal solutions for your clients, then for me personally, this had limited emotional value. I started looking for ideas of my own and at that time and place, creating something meaningful meant operating in the field of technology, which I have been doing for over 20 years.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
For startups in Israel, our advantage does not necessarily pertain to finance, marketing or business execution, but rather to the entrepreneurial spirit — thinking outside the box and coming up with great ideas. My partner, Eran Shpak, and I are always cognizant of the fact that there will always be another company that has more money or easier market access, so we believe our advantage lies in creative technological solutions, in thinking outside the lines. At Deeyook we are introducing the world’s first ubiquitous (indoor and outdoor) precise location solution. Using interferometry over orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), we are able to provide a precise location (10cm/4in) everywhere.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Some mistakes you make only once, and this is one of them. When it happens, you realize in real time that something is happening, and when it’s over, you swear to yourself that such a thing will never happen to you again. It was supposed to be a productive meeting with prospective business partners and we were meant to finalize an original equipment manufacturer agreement. While I knew the people and was in continuous, daily communication with them, I did not know the company’s senior executives personally. And so the meeting starts and I tell them about our product and it’s unique feature set, and to my amazement the questions I am asked are incredibly detailed, inquisitive and demonstrate a wider and deeper understanding of the core technology than mine. Time passes, I am sweating, and my answers become more and more tangled as the questions keep flowing. Only when I left the room, stunned, it became clear to me that one of the directors of the company was also the founder/CEO of a semiconductor company that did similar things that my company does and he was much more knowledgeable in the field than I was. 17 years have passed since that meeting and I have never repeated that faux pas. I learned the most basic rule: research, and then more research — Research everyone.
If you know in advance of a meeting, researcher whoever is sitting in the room, the entire chain of command, what they do, what they like, what they dislike, who they are, etc. Whoever stays in their own small world will eventually get stuck in it.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Sometimes your mentor is not the one to tell you some catchy punch line, but the one you watch in order to learn from what you can and cannot do. Such was my direct superior who headed the Antitrust Authority in Israel in the late 1990s. I worked with him as a division manager at the beginning of my career and marvelled at his natural personality traits — a phenomenal political ability and a genius in media management. I then realized that these two tools, which are essential to have in your arsenal when heading a large organization, simply do not exist in me and probably never will. Just like painting, dancing or singing — you might be able to learn a little, you might gain a foundation, but few possess such innate talents. This is the most important mentoring lesson I received, a lesson which outlined my path later: I had to set up my own organizations, not navigate my way to the head of a political pyramid.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
A simple answer to an important question: as long as I expand the return curve, as long as I have not reached the glass ceiling and the company can still grow — then disruption is a good thing. When disruption occurs only for the purpose of distributional change within the market, it is not only less interesting, it is also devoid of social value.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Patience — if you have none, go somewhere else where there is an immediate result to your efforts. In high-tech entrepreneurship, you can work for years until you see results, and that too rarely happens. The other side of the equation is the realization that sometimes years of work culminate into a single, bright moment, when everything happens and when something like that happens, in many cases it happens all at once. But until that moment arrives, there is no choice but to have patience.
People — This is the heart of the matter. Without good people by your side who are committed, who love their job, who dream of it at night, people you can really trust — you have no company, no staff, and no way of moving forward. Good people are the ones who make the company; there might be a manager or an owner, and they might have a vision or a strategy, but if there is no commando unit behind them — they will not get very far.
Battles = Choose your battles carefully — this is true to every field, and also to ours. The level of energy invested in the struggle will determine your conduct outside the struggle. At Extricom, the previous company I founded with Eran Schpak, a patent was stolen from us. We sued, entered an expensive legal procedure, and won millions of dollars. We could have gone further with the lawsuit and win more money, but we decided to let it go. This is because the level of energy we have is limited. One can fight endless wars of the past, but then there is not enough fuel left to move forward. You need to know how to fight, but also when to stop fighting to save enough energy for the next move.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
I would say it is a combination of focus and flexibility. Focus, because without a sharp insight into the client’s needs, there is no client. Focus, because the same client can have different needs, and those needs may be scattered among different people in the same company. One person may be interested in saving money, the other in increasing sales — the trick is to always be able to respond to different needs in the same organization. When creating the product, you must be accurate and understand who your client is, but also who makes the decisions and what is important to them. One needs to understand what the problem is in order to tailor the solution specifically to the problem, because people like being seen and having their needs understood. This is true in business and by the way — even at home.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Not only are we not done, we haven’t even begun — and the beginning is always exciting. We are certain that the need for accurate location technology is real and common to many industries, and that Deeyook’s ubiquitous and precise technology will provide immediate solutions to both service providers and end users. The next step for us is to assimilate Deeyook’s technology in multiple vertical markets.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Eric Hobsbawm, the British Historian, in his trilogy on the long 19th century raises a claim which I find to be universal and therefore incredibly human: people tend to fight the previous war, the one that has already ended, instead of looking ahead and understanding future challenges. This is human nature, as the default mode is to draw conclusions based on the past and to believe they are applicable to the future, even though the future is bound to be different. I try, not always successfully, to be the one who prepares for future challenges with the appropriate set of tools. As usual, clichés are the most accurate: history always repeats itself, but it never repeats itself the same way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Sometimes the best advice comes early in life. In high school, I had a wonderful history teacher, Nava. She is one of the reasons why I chose to study history at university years later. One time during a break between classes she said to me, “Gideon, I see you really like history and it is clear to me that you can be a great historian, but you have to ask yourself one question: do you prefer to research and write about what other people have done, or do things yourself?”
Decades later, this line stayed with me at some significant junctions in life — I keep choosing Nava’s advice over and over again.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In technology, as in any other industry, work by the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!