Many say they are multitaskers, but few can claim they’ve balanced three profitable businesses at once. Israel-based founder Eliezer Steinbock can’t help but build new startups and created his talent marketplace, Skilled, so others could do the same. Now he makes over $15,000 a month in revenue on top of his other two ventures that he maintains at the same time.
Eliezer’s success story shows how an honest and critical eye for profits can create sustainable, money-making businesses even with small teams. Here’s how this young entrepreneur raised in the UK went from IDF soldier to founder of three profitable projects in just a few short years.
From the UK to the IDF
“I just kind of fell into startup life,” says Eliezer.
Eliezer was raised in a traditional Jewish family in the UK, well-removed from the global tech scene. As a child, he excelled at mathematics and intended to make the field his career. However, his life took a major pivot when, like many traditionally-raised Jewish children, he went over to Israel at 18 to study his Jewish heritage. But unlike many of his peers, he stayed in the country.
“Lots of Jewish people were moving to Israel at the time to get a fresh start. I had opportunities back home too, but my parents were moving there so I thought I’d stay,” he says.
When Eliezer went to college in Israel, he abandoned mathematics as there weren’t many positions available in the country. Instead, he studied programming.
“Compared to many coders I started relatively late at age 21, but I ended up enjoying it a lot and was pretty good at it,” he says.
Once he graduated, Eliezer embraced his new life as an Israeli citizen by completing the three years of military service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) required of all Israeli men and women. While in the military he worked as a tank programmer. It was here his life as a developer and a founder truly began.
Eliezer started his first business in 2014 during his time in the military. It was a fantasy soccer app (or “football” as they call it across the pond) called Draft Fantasy.
“I played a lot of fantasy sports growing up. In England people play “salary cap” fantasy football instead of drafting like in the States,” says Eliezer. “I created the first draft-based fantasy football apps for the UK and began working on it as I finished my time in the military.”
It was slow going at first. A few dollars in revenue here and there, but it started to add up. And through building a profitable app Eliezer quickly acquired a taste for the entrepreneurial lifestyle despite the late nights and long hours.
“Being an employee just didn’t seem appealing after that,” he says. “I liked the full creative control of being a founder and that great feeling you get when you interact with customers to build something people like and enjoy using. The upside is great. Higher risk, higher reward.”
After bootstrapping Draft Fantasy with a freemium model to over 70,000 customers, he obtained seed capital in the US and went through a growth accelerator in Hawaii. While he says the platform was tough to monetize properly, it is doing fairly well today in the notoriously difficult fantasy sports industry with over 10,000 weekly and 220,000 registered customers. However, after investing the first few years of his post-military life into Draft Fantasy, Eliezer was ready to move on to a new challenge.
“I still maintain Draft Fantasy to this day but it’s seven years old and it’s difficult to grow it beyond where it is right now,” he says. “The amount of time I’ve put into it amounts to less than an hour a week. It all more or less just runs itself.”
A glance through Eliezer’s LinkedIn since 2016 shows his fingers in over five different projects since then. After Draft Fantasy, he started a crypto project in 2018 called Crypto Fighters.
“I saw with CryptoKitties people were spending $10 million on these cats and I wanted to try it out. My friends and I built CryptoFighters with our own take on the game where you earn fighters by defeating others,” he says. “That’s the story of how I was one of the first founders of an NFT project.”
But at the time, the crypto industry was stagnant, and CryptoFighters was shelved as one of Eliezer’s many side projects he operated passively. He then spent the majority of his time before 2019 working as a freelance developer in Israel and maintaining his old projects.
“I was running my own side projects on some days and freelancing on others during a normal week,” says Eliezer. “Being a freelancer is pretty good in terms of pay and flexibility. The only challenge is filling up your hours with paying jobs.”
Being an active member of the Israeli tech scene, Eliezer built up a sizable network of freelance developers. These developers faced a similar challenge filling their hours with paying work. That was what spurred him on to make his most recent business, Skilled.
The concept of Skilled is nothing new although in 2019 there were significantly fewer platforms of its type. It is a talent matching platform specializing in the Israeli market. Their prime selling point is a great selection of Israeli freelance developers.
“There aren’t a lot of freelance developers in Israel,” says Eliezer. “On the other hand, there are lots of Israeli startups today and a lot of funding out there right now for them, but they want local talent and it’s difficult to find it. Through my work, I’m connected to the ecosystem here and found myself in a perfect position to connect things.”
As with most talent marketplaces, Skilled is made for clients that want to scale their teams or products quickly without taking months to vet their development team’s skills.
“Generally, companies hire our developers for quick periods of employment, about six months at a time,” Eliezer says.
Eliezer describes the developers on his platform as entrepreneurial types like himself who want to fill up their free hours doing quality, well-paid work. Besides selecting from an Israeli developer base, Skilled specializes in providing developers who know the popular React frontend language as well as Node.js backend developers and full-stack stack developers. Recently he says they’ve been servicing a high volume of blockchain and NFT clients too.
“For vetting devs on Skilled, a lot of it is a circle of trust and, of course, I check if they are actually good at what they do,” says Eliezer. “We sometimes ask them to do a project and make sure they are good. We want to make sure we maintain our good reputation.”
Eliezer has experimented with expanding his internal team with mixed results. Right now he is keeping his team to just himself while deciding the best way to expand his business.
“We’ve made some hires, but they didn’t end up working out,” he says. “It’s somewhat challenging to outsource parts of the business. I’ve paid people on a part-time basis but right now things work very efficiently in terms of the clients that do come in.”
Today, it’s a solo project operating with hundreds of freelancers in its network. Last year, they did over $1 million in projects.
Chasing Profits at All Costs
As someone who’s been VC-funded before, Eliezer believes that funding would have little effect on a project like Skilled. However, he sees where it can benefit a business.
“Other companies I have made have received offers,” he says. “However, you need to be 110 percent committed to a business if you get funded. Some businesses grow quickly and everything is great but others do not and then that’s a real problem.”
For other founders working on similar projects, Eliezer’s advice is to always lean into profits.
Focus on making money before anything else
“My advice depends on the type of business, but I say focus on making money before anything else,” he says. “ Snapchat and Facebook didn’t make money for years but they’re the exception. Draft Fantasy was something people liked but it was pretty hard to monetize. Fantasy sports companies aren’t really making money. Ninety-six percent aren’t. If you are working on something really valuable to people then you should be monetized from day one. Otherwise, you’re in for a tough journey.”
Speaking of leaning into profits, Eliezer has recently pivoted back to his NFT project released back in 2018 now that NFTs have seen a breakthrough. And who could blame him?
“Now that the NFT space is going off, CryptoFighters recently had a few million dollars of transaction volume on OpenSea. So a lot of my time in the last month or two has been focused on that,” he says. “I think right now I’m going to expand Skilled slowly while I spend some more time over there in the NFT space right now.”
When we talk about startups today, we often think that one project should consume every ounce of a founder’s free time or it’s doomed to fail. But the truth is there are many founders like Eliezer hedging their bets and waiting to see what pans out while enjoying their lives and steady profits. And as long as you’re learning and profiting, aren’t you winning?
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