Israeli app helps juggle work, kids and errands

Like many young parents, Liat Mordechay Hertanu felt overwhelmed by her hectic life, so she and her husband created an app that millions have downloaded.

By Hillel Fuld, Israel21c

We all know the phrase “Time is money.” In today’s day and age, with all of our noisy social-media feeds and the gig economy, that phrase has never been more accurate. We simply don’t have enough hours in the day.

The question I get asked more than any other is “How do you manage to get so much done?” My answer in two words is “time optimization.”

When it comes to making the most of your time, no app on our phone is more important than the calendar. That’s where we do all the time management.

A quick search of the word “calendar” on the App Store will yield a ton of results.

One Israeli company has taken a unique approach to the calendar app. That company is called 24me and I had the chance to sit down with the cofounder and CMO of 24me, Liat Mordechay Hertanu, to discuss her company, her journey and so much more.

Who is Liat Mordechay Hertanu?

Please give me your back story.

“I was born and raised in Israel, the oldest of four sisters, and the daughter of an engineer and a teacher. My sister and I got early exposure to tech and science, and fast forward a few years, three out of the four sisters are computer science graduates.

“I was a lieutenant in the Israeli Air Force, and soon after completing my service, I started my BA in computer science at the IDC Herzliya (now Reichman University).

“I was also part of the first Zell entrepreneurship program, an academic accelerator founded by Sam Zell.

“Entrepreneurship was always a part of my life. I enjoyed doing business as a young girl, and was always looking for untapped opportunities, and seeking ways to improve daily life.

“After I graduated, I joined several startup companies, completed my MBA in the United States, and started 24me together with Gilad, my partner in life, in 2012. We are proud parents of four children and have been working together for almost a decade.”

A real-life challenge

Talk about time management! I guess it makes sense that Liat and her husband started a company focused on productivity.

How and why did you start 24me?

“24me was born out of a real-life challenge — to be more organized with the little time we have. Like many young parents, we found ourselves overwhelmed by daily life management, juggling between work, household, errands and the kids.

“We looked for solutions that would help us keep on top of things, but nothing really worked. We were looking for a solution that will bring everything together: our calendars, tasks, notes and personal reminders. Back then, we couldn’t find such a solution, so we decided to build it ourselves: a smart personal assistant for busy individuals.”

The best way to build a startup is find a real-life problem and solve it! Take note of how and why Liat and Gilad started 24me.

Tell me about the evolution of the company from founding until now.

“We started as a bootstrap, and after several months of developing the first MVP [minimum viable product], we released 24me to the market on the App Store.

“Since the product was very revolutionary at that time — an automatic to-do list which lets you pay your bills and reminds you about your upcoming tasks and errands automatically — and as it also had a beautiful design, it got the attention of the editorial teams within Apple, who chose our first MVP to be one of the 10 essential productivity apps.

“We reached 100,000 users within less than two and a half weeks, and the response from the market was amazing. People loved 24me and its concept.

“We understood that we were on the right track and moved forward building 24me to what it is today: a complete solution to manage your schedule. One place for all your calendars, tasks, notes and personal reminders.

“We established partnerships that helped users automate tasks quickly, integrated with third party apps to make the assistant experience faster to our users, and put much effort to be the first to adopt new technologies.

“24me focused not only on providing your schedule, but also helping complete tasks and errands and providing advanced time management features. 24me helps millions of people all over the world. This is something I am very proud of.

“We recently released a new platform called GroupCal, which builds communities around calendars. I am very excited about this new platform, and I believe that in the next five years GroupCal will become the go-to platform for every business and group worldwide that wants to build their community around its events.”

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Another lesson: Never get comfortable with success. Keep building. Keep shipping.

How did COVID affect the business, if at all?

“We have a team located around the world, so working remotely was something we were used to even before COVID. Managing the growing family together with a growing business was more tricky for me, until I found the right balance, and eventually managed to make it all work. Bottom line — it was one of the most profitable years for our company.”

Fascinating to hear about businesses that gained traction during COVID. I guess with remote work, it makes sense that 24Me thrived during COVID.

What’s it like being a husband-and-wife team?

“This is a great question. I am sure for most people it’s not trivial. For me, working with Gilad was a dream come true. Gilad is one of the smartest people I know. He loves technology and is an outstanding product guy. We are very different, and have different approaches to every situation, which helps us learn a lot from each other. I always wanted to work with him, and when we got the opportunity to join forces, it was one of my happiest days.”

I feel like saying “Don’t try this at home” but I guess it depends on the couple.

Who are your biggest competitors and why are you better?

“There is a lot going on in the productivity space. From calendars to to-do list apps, other lists and reminder apps. In addition, mobile phones come with pre-installed productivity solutions.

“We believe that the way to have success is to have a super-app like 24me. One place that holds everything together, so that users don’t need to switch between multiple apps to get a sense of their schedule.

“Tasks with time in 24me appear on the calendar, as well as notes with action items and due date, and reminders for service provider payments. We believe that our time consists of all those separate things that we manage in different places, and that’s why we see 24me as a holistic solution that holds everything together.”

I’m not a fan of the “one stop shop” approach but it seems to have worked for 24me.

What advice would you give an entrepreneur starting a consumer tech company?

“I would suggest anyone who wants to start a business to think about this journey as a marathon. It’s a process which takes time and devotion. There are things that need to be carefully thought of: how to manage financially without income for several months, the things that you are going to give up on, such as less family time, less certainty and stability.

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“Being an entrepreneur is like being on a rollercoaster, and you need to have the right character for that.

“Specifically for consumer companies, I would suggest doing some intelligence and learning the industry well. Understand the market, how to do user acquisition. Learn the best practices from companies that did well, try to have a few mentors, and always surround yourself with friends–entrepreneurs who can give you good advice.”

In other words, research, research, research! Then research some more.

What has been your biggest growth engine?

“Our biggest growth engine is our product. We always adopt new technologies, first to incorporate the newest OS technologies of mobile platforms, and we cherish relationships with our partners. This paid off big time for us since we get great exposure on the stores which drive significant organic traffic to our products.”

Good products sell. Period.

What was your biggest mistake?

“I made many mistakes throughout the way. In the first few years, I was very devoted to my work, and didn’t do the right balance with my family. On the way to building a solution for people to better manage their time, I didn’t do a good job myself with allocating enough family time. This was something that I understood, and made better decisions afterwards, so that family will get the right attention.”

How’s that for irony?

What else do you want to share?

“I think that I am very fortunate to enjoy my work so much: create products that people really need and be surrounded by amazing family and friends. I love being a part of our outstanding tech community. I got to meet so many great people along the way, that are by now good friends. We always share thoughts and advice with each other.”

In a country smaller than New Jersey, it is not trivial at all to build a successful consumer app. I have watched this team hustle for a very long time, and the lesson here for entrepreneurs is, as Liat said, if you are not able to go in 100 percent, perhaps it’s better to get yourself a regular job.