Developer Interference Culture at Soluto

Yesterday I sat with Tomer Dvir and Ishay Green, together the “senior management” of Soluto, and we discussed a certain subject of high urgency. In the middle of the heated discussion the door opened, and Ofer, one of our developers, stepped in. All doors at Soluto are made of transparent glass, so Ofer knew we were in the middle of a discussion. We all stopped talking. Ofer asked a question, Tomer answered, and Ofer walked out and closed the door behind himself.

We continued our discussion. 3 minutes later I stopped and said to Tomer and Ishay – “you know, what happened 3 minutes ago is very unique for Soluto”. They agreed. Let me explain.

Soluto is a developer-centric company. Tomer, Ishay and myself, despite the fact we all hold “senior” and “business-related” positions, are all developers before anything else. Our entire “marketing strategy” is based on building strong features that solve real pains for real people, releasing them, and telling about them to people who really care about what we’re trying to do.

Because of that, the critical path of Soluto’s “business” is always software development, and because of that, when a developer needs something – he or she come first. I find it interesting that I can’t imagine a “management discussion” that has a higher priority than enabling a single developer to keep on working when he or she’s stuck on a product question that said “management team” has an answer to. Even in cases where we have visitors (VCs, partners, etc), a developer can interfere.

So, our culture grew to allow developers to interfere management, but not the other way around. Granted, it may not be the best attitude for every company, but for Soluto it comes naturally. I love working in such an environment :)



PS the image is taken from a superb post by Jeff Atwood, one of the most influential programmers in the world, a personal idol of mine, and co-founder of StackOverflow.

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Embarrassed by an Answering Machine

Today I encountered a post by Moti Karmona about how Israelis and Americans perceive things differently, or rather how Israelis misinterpret American euphemisms to have a literal meaning. Funny and very true. It reminded me of a misinterpretation story from a long while ago, one of my most embarrassing moments.

I’ve already mentioned that in 1994 I participated in a high-school student-exchange program in the US, an experience which had a deep effect on me, and this story is yet another snippet of that experience.

About a month before the trip, my family received the name and number of the family that would host me in Phoenix, AZ. Being 14 and towards my first transatlantic trip, my parents and I were naturally anxious to know who are those people that would host me. So we called that international number. The phone rang a couple of time and then-

Here I need to break and give a bit of background. You all know those machines that capture the call in case there’s no answer, play a message and record the response (from the days before Comverse brought us voice-mail). They are called Answering Machines. Well, not in Israel. For some peculiar reason, the name chosen for these machines in Hebrew is (translated to) “Electronic Secretary”. This does make some sense, especially taking into account that these machines actually replaced secretaries in some businesses. Since “Electronic Secretary” is long to pronounce even in Hebrew, it has a shortened phrase: “The Secretary”. Just like in English one may say “I’ll let the Machine pick the call”, in Hebrew one may say “I’ll let the Secretary pick the call”. As you can imagine this may create ambiguity in case there’s an actual human secretary involved, but somehow we Israelis figure it out quite well.

-back to the story. So there was no answer, and we left a message on the answering machine (or “The Secretary”). On the next day we tried again, my mother and I, on speaker phone. And there was an answer this time. After the “Hello” from the other side, my mother said “Hi, I’m the mother of the Israeli boy you’re going to host soon. I called yesterday but The Secretary answered”. My mother speaks very good English, but as non-native speakers we constantly translate Hebrew terms in our minds to English. There was a moment of silence, and then the voice on the other side said, very very slowly, “I see. Well now that I answered, we can talk”, as if she was speaking to an infant. I figured out the mistake but there wasn’t much I could do. I could only imagine what was going on in her mind, thinking she’ll get a visit from the equivalent of hillbillies, only worse, even worse than those from Deliverance. I was so ashamed.

When I finally arrived in the US, one of the first things I was shown was the glorious Answering Machine, that “your mother thought was a real person, haha!”.

I was so mad with them. Peeing in their ice machine helped relieve the anger.


PS thanks Gal Green for sharing the Karmona post in the first place…

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Additions To My PC Collection (Or: Why Can’t I Stop Collecting Stuff?)

I’m a compulsive collector. I’ve been that way all my life. Never stamps, stamps are stupid, but almost anything else (I apologize to stamp collectors, but, like, seriously?)

In my childhood I collected bugs (real life bugs), cigarette packs, types of sand, rocks, and even pressed flowers. Come to think about it, I have no basis for making fun of people collecting stamps.

As I grew older, I understood that my compulsive collectionism is something to hide and be ashamed of. But I couldn’t stop, so I tried to channel it to collections that appear somewhat intelligent, while still serving what I like. Most notably, I have a collection of old editions of my favorite book (The Count of Monte Cristo), many of them more than 100 years old. The worst thing about this dark age in my life was that I could not have any geeky collections.

My Current (Lame) PC Museum

But now, at Soluto, I can let my geek out. So I started an old PC collection in my office :)

Right now I just have 4 pieces: Commodore 16 (1984), Sharp PC-4600 (1988), Packard Bell Statesman (????) and Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1982). But I recently completed the purchase of 3 more machines, and I’ll pick them up next month from San Francisco when I go there for the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt (where Soluto will pass the cup to the next winner). All from eBay, all under 20$.

And now (drumroll….) here are my new acquisitions: Tandy 1400 HD (1988), Zenith “LunchBox” 171 (1985) and my first Apple laptop, the PowerBook 180 (1992):

Tandy 1400

Zenith LunchBox 171

Apple PowerBook 180

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Experiences From StartupSeeds (And Thanks To Marissa Mayer)

Marissa Mayer Speaking at Garage Geeks (photo by

Marissa Mayer Speaking at Garage Geeks (photo by

A couple of months ago Google’s Marissa Mayer arrived in the holy land, and among other places she visited the famous Garage, where she was hosted by Yossi Vardi. This was right after Soluto’s win at TechCrunch Disrupt where she was the key judge. It was my first time at the Garage, and frankly I came mostly to listen to what she had to say to the Israeli entrepreneur/geek community, considering she’s probably the coolest geek alive.

Roee Adler with Marissa Mayer Speaking at Garage Geeks (photo by

Marissa Mayer and I (Yes!) Speaking at Garage Geeks (photo by

One of the first things she spoke about was Soluto’s win at TechCrunch Disrupt, and surprisingly enough I was called on-stage to talk a bit about Soluto and the win.

That’s all cool, but the coolest outcome from this event was that Ami Ben-Bassat approached me after the event and introduced StartupSeeds (Hebrew website), an organization for techie kids. Ami told me about the upcoming “Like

Conference”, that is a start-up competition where kids are the judges.

StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

He suggested that we present Soluto as the closing event, after the votes have been cast, as a company that “did it”, i.e. that won the most exclusive competition in the world. We were happy to speak with the kids and tell them our story, but I must admit I never thought I would be so moved by the event. Seeing all those kids, seeing myself 15-20 years

ago, was an amazing experience.

Roee Adler and Ishay Green at StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

Ishay Green and I at StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

I started programming at around 10, with several friends around me (including mostly Soluto’s Ishay Green and Wix’s Roy Man).

All those kids, with their bright eyes and future, gave me a very good feeling. Seeing as old as I am, it’s very gratifying to know there’s a future :)

I’d like to quote Ishay’s closing remarks from this presentation to the kids:

Roee Adler and Ishay Green at StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

Ishay Green and I at StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

“Many old people will tell you that your generation is screwed up, and that in their time things were much better. They will talk about the loss of morals and human touch. But don’t believe them – your generation, together with our generation, will rock and make the world better”.


StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

StartupSeeds (photo by Segev Shilton)

StartupSeeds (Photo by Segev Shilton)

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Double Murder, Anti-Semitism in Phoenix, and Bayesian Inference

This is a true story about a double murder I took part in.

In November of 1994 I was a 15 year old Israeli Jewish 10th grader. Back then Israel was much more popular than today, however kids my age were nevertheless sent to the USA in order to give presentations about Israel in US high schools. To make a long story short, I was welcomed in Phoenix’s airport by a warm mother and daughter, all-American and all-blond. After mutual introductions, kisses and hugs, I was led to their car towards what was about to become my home for roughly two weeks.

After we started driving, following an uncomfortable silence of about 10 minutes, the mother said to me “You won’t believe what I saw today. I was walking in the street, and there was this guy who wore a shirt that said” – and here I need to make a short pause. The words she said right then were not clear to me. It sounded like “let the joos loos”.

Now in order to understand the context of the situation, you need to put yourselves in my shoes for a moment. Israeli kids abroad are constantly warned to remain alert about two things: kidnapping and anti-Semitism. Paranoia is the default state of mind.

The context in which I heard “let the joos loos” was: 1) I was in a new country, afraid of anti-Semitism; 2) I assumed, like most kids do, that adults around me know exactly what bothers me; 3) the adult sitting next to me just told me with dismay about something she saw today that related to “joos” and “loos”.

So, it was perfectly clear to me that the mother had some speech impediment, and that this guy’s shirt said “Let the Jews Lose”. I thought it was very disturbing that such anti-Semitism exists in Phoenix, but I was glad the mother showed dismay against it. In addition, although I wasn’t a great English speaker at the time, I thought the phrasing chose for the shirt was very strange: “Let the Jews Lose”? That’s a silly way to convey a Jew-hating message… Lose what? But then again, I thought maybe there’s some trial going on where Jewish people are involved. So although I felt relatively safe at their home, I was afraid for my life on the streets of Phoenix.

Many years have passed, I have been to the US many many times since, and have never encountered anti-Semitism. Still, I knew that in Phoenix people are anti-Semite, and was concerned about the next time I’ll have to go there.

Many years later I saw a documentary about OJ Simpson‘s double murder trial. I was exposed to the fact he was nicknamed “The Juice”, and in that movie they actually showed a guy wearing a shirt saying “Let the Juice Loose”. I was astonished, and ran to Wikipedia to check the dates of the double murder versus the dates of my arrival to Phoenix. It made perfect sense.

To summarize the story, many years ago I heard someone say “let the joos loos” in a certain context. There were two possible explanations.

The first explanation required all of the below to exist concurrently:

  1. The saying was actually “Let the Jews Lose”
  2. The person who told me about it had a speech impediment, that’s why it sounded like “Let the joos loos”.
  3. There was some trial going on against Jews or some other case where it’s relevant to wish that “Jews Lose”

The second option was that the person saying “let the joos loos” was saying something else. For example, the word “Juice” sounds phonetically exactly like “joos”, and the word “Loose” sounds phonetically exactly like “loos”. But, “Let the Juice Loose” doesn’t make any sense (for a kid who doesn’t know there’s someone called “The Juice” that’s on trial).

And here’s the kicker, pay close attention:

From my perspective, the probability that all 3 conditions yielding “Let the Jews Lose” co-exist, was much higher than the probability of that woman said something like “Let the Juice Loose”, which made no sense at the time.

The above is a clear example of Bayesian Inference at play. Bayesian Inference takes place when we encounter an event (e.g. hearing “let the joos loose”), and try to find a theory that would explain that event (e.g. the mother said “let the Jews lose” and had a speech impediment). Bayesian Inference states that (following is a brutal simplification):

The probability that a theory explains an event equals to the probability of the event resulting from the theory, multiplied by the probability of the event.

This fancy-shmancy definition boils down to the following. When you encounter something, you try to figure out what it is, sometimes considering different explanations in your head. You see a shiny spark on the pavement. Is it a coin? Is it a diamond? Did you imagine it? Is it the feces of an alien life form?

When considering each explanation, your answer is a combination of:

  1. Had this been the real explanation, would the result look like that? Both a coin and a diamond will result in the same spark.
  2. What are the odds of this explanation occurring in reality? Coin: high, diamond: low.

Bayesian inference happens naturally in our brain, we’re wired to infer automatically. And sometimes we get it wrong. It plays a major part in our day-to-day lives, and I’ll revisit it in the future.

Read more about Bayesian Inference here.

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Starting Up…

Last month I met with Chris Dixon, one of our angel investors, in NYC. Chris told me about his belief that everyone should have a personal blog. I didn’t take that too seriously, seeing as I’m a working man (sorry, working person, don’t wanna be sexist or anything), with very little time on my hands. And the little time I do have, well, I’d rather spend with my wife than spend it online.

But that conversation stuck with me, and kept itching the back of my brain (which I hate). Despite my fear of not having time to really spill value into this blog, the decision has been made. In the words of Homer Simpson: “That’s It! You people have stood in my way long enough, I’m going to clown college!”. Where in my case, Clown College is this blog. I have the need to explain jokes, especially the not-funny ones. I know it may be annoying, I have other problems too.

I lead a very interesting life at Soluto and have plenty of insights to share about how we do stuff. I hope I can keep it interesting. And if not – at least I made one investor slightly happier :)

Stay tuned…



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