Today I have the pleasure to chat with Gil Eyal, Founder and CEO of Hypr Brands, the #1 rated 360° influencer marketing platform that automates and simplifies your brand’s campaigns for every part of your creator workflow.
Our conversation was predominantly focused on how he went about building the company and the people challenges that he faced as he grew the company from two Co-Founders to over 20 people over the past few years. Hypr Brands has raised over $13M from SilverTech Ventures, World Trade Ventures and Edgewater Equity.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m from Israel originally and came to the US around 10 years ago for business school at Northwestern University. Prior to coming to the US, I was a Partner at a law firm focused on International Transactions and Corporate Development. I really wanted to change careers so decided to come to business school and explore other options.
What made you want to start Hypr?
I’ve always come from an entrepreneurial background especially with my family and the Israeli network that I was part of. Once I was in the US for business school, I realized that I didn’t have a traditional background (e.g. consulting, banking etc) and as a non-US citizen / permanent resident, it was difficult to recruit for typical post-business school roles.
During the second year of business school, I was visiting Israel over the holidays and met up with my network again. Coincidentally, there was an investor who invested in a social network startup in New York and offered me an opportunity to work with them. I jumped at the chance after a few years ended up as the COO there. During my time with the startup, we activated a ton of influencers (they weren’t known as influencers back then) to drive user sign-up and engagement. One of the key insights that I saw was that micro-influencers drove higher engagement than well-known celebrities.
It was then I realized that there was still a huge opportunity in the influencer space and decided to try something on my own. One of the investors decided to take a chance on me and that’s how Hypr started.
What were some of the big learnings as a first time founder?
Growing up in a different culture, industry and to a certain extent, generation, I was always focused on delivering the work and then going home. We didn’t really get to really know our colleagues within the law industry and it didn’t really matter if you liked your colleague or not because the focus was the job and making a decent living out of it. The startup culture was more foreign to me at that time and it took me a few years to fully realize what it meant to build a startup.
When we first raised money for Hypr and started hiring new folks on the team, it wasn’t a huge priority for me to think about what it meant for the employees working there. I had thought that my motivation would be the same as theirs, which was to build a profitable business and working hard to get there was part of their responsibility.
It was only when a few folks started quitting that I realized that I was not on the same page as people I had hired. I wanted to learn more about why they quit and when chatting with them, they were pretty direct in telling me that it didn’t feel like a company. They didn’t really get to know their colleagues and the job was boring. They wanted to work in an environment where it was more fun, people were socializing and they wanted to feel proud working for Hypr.
It just wasn’t something I thought about especially since my previous work experience was working and then going home. Honestly though, looking back, I was pretty miserable doing that so it made sense to me why other people didn’t want that lifestyle.
What initiatives did you launch after that?
I hired a Director of Culture for Hypr after that. Nicole was responsible for many things in the company including human resources but the reality was she was the key person to build out the culture within the company.
At this time we were around 15 people in the team and she started implementing a variety of key initiatives, including office hours with myself where anyone can come have a chat, ask questions, provide feedback and more. We also created a proper budget for social activities and employees provided input on what they wanted to do. It was also then we started an anonymous employee engagement survey to really start hearing from the employees more formally.
Even now, during this pandemic, we started having a zoom lunch meeting every day. We gave everyone a seamless account to order lunch from. It is optional for employees to attend the zoom lunch and it’s extremely casual but it makes people still feel connected to the rest of the team which is really important.
It’s been a few years since Nicole joined us and we haven’t had a single turnover. People were happier and it made my job as the CEO much easier honestly. Recruiting people is incredibly difficult and costly, seeing employees more engaged also feels more fulfilling to me as well.
How did you try to build a unique culture at Hypr?
As a startup, it is difficult to compete against the big tech companies with millions of dollars in budget such as Google or Facebook so sometimes it’s challenging to do something really special.
We thought about leveraging what made Hypr unique which is influencers and seeing if we can do events around them but the reality is the team works with influencers every day and would rather do something different.
One unique initiative that we did implement was a rewards and recognition mechanism where the employees can donate to a charity of their choice once they’ve hit a certain number of recognition points. That was really popular and made everyone feel good.
Anything else you want to share with first time founders?
One of the key priorities that really made a difference for Hypr was diversity. We specifically made it a goal to create a diverse work environment and gender was definitely one of the goals. Social media is diverse and our work has to reflect that. 70% of influencers are women and when we first started the company it was a 75% male 25% female split. We put in a huge amount of effort recruiting for women in all positions and after a while, once people realized that the effort was genuine, we started getting more resumes that are women.
The women in the company were also performing better than men in sales. Partially because of the target audience and because we had a diverse workforce, it made our influencers feel much more comfortable working with us and it definitely made the company stronger. It was a challenge initially though, people needed to be educated on what was appropriate to say and what was not. Luckily the women felt comfortable enough to speak up and provide feedback and it made the company culture even better.
Thanks for your time Gil! If you’re interested in influencer marketing or connecting with Gil, feel free to ping him on Linkedin or Twitter.