How to Apply Corporate Work Experience in an Entrepreneur Job Role

In Chapter 16 of 19 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, Boxee co-founder and head of product Idan Cohen answers "What Skills Did You Learn Working in a Corporation That You Have Applied Building Your Own Company?"  Cohen finds the corporate experience especially useful after his startup grows to nearly 50 employees.  He learns about what motivates different employees who come in at different stages of the company's growth. 

This is Idan Cohen's Year 1 Capture Your Flag interview.  Cohen is co-founder and head of product at Boxee Inc, an online video software company.  Previous to Boxee, Cohen held telecom software innovation and developer roles at Comverse.  He was a Captain in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and graduated from Tel Aviv University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Geophysics and Art.


Erik Michielsen: What skills did you learn working in a corporation that you’ve applied building your own company?

Idan Cohen: Mainly when you’re coming out of a corporation, you’re aware of the things that you don’t wanna apply to your own company. So at the beginning it’s all, you know, it’s all roses and it’s a very small team, you’re all working together but as it grows a little bit bigger, you know, not everyone is as committed as you are to the company, not everyone is working 14 hours a day or 12 hours a day, and it’s under—you know, it’s totally understood and that’s kind of the things that you see in corporate. So I think that coming out, you’re very burned by people not really moving and no one really wanting or having any real interest in changing things, and so you’re very excited about how a small company at start up—can move very fast and be so much more interesting and dynamic.

But then I think at least you understand how—what to expect of people, and what not to be disappointed about, and how you can motivate them the right way, because it’s still a smaller company, I don’t know how to build a thousand—you know, actually I haven’t built 100-person company, and I definitely don’t know how to build 1000 one—1000-person company. I’m sure that there’s other challenges and I’m sure there’s a lot of things you need to kind of digest and understand about the dynamics of that ‘cause then it actually becomes a corporate, I don’t know, look at Google, look at Microsoft, or look at Apple and look at Zynga, I’m sure that at the end of the day, there’s a thousand people there, it is somewhat of a corporate, there’s a lot people who are not doing that much, there’s people who can live in these islands where, you know, they—no one knows exactly what’s happening there, it’s just that’s the dynamic of a workplace.

And for me, that’s the things that I’m afraid of, and still so, you know, we’re now about 50 and you can still have kind of a grasp about what everyone is doing, and have your attention, you know, to what people are feeling and how you can help them maneuver out of it. And I’m very afraid of building a bigger company where I start losing that touch with the day-to-day of people. So that’s something that I’m kind of worried about, ‘cause I think that that’s what corporate really fail with, is just once you go over a number of—a certain number of people, you start losing touch.