Idan Cohen on How Family Supports Creative Childhood Passions

In Chapter 9 of 19 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, Boxee co-founder and head of product Idan Cohen answers "Where Has Your Family Been Most Supportive in Your Career Development?"  Cohen notes a common challenge in present day that his family does not understand his entrepreneurial product work; however, he shares experiences from his formative years where his parents encouraged Cohen to learn to use tools and pursue his passion for building and making objects.  This is Idan Cohen's Year 1 CYF 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: Where has your family been most supportive in your career development?

Idan Cohen: That’s a good question ‘cause I don’t think they understand what I do.  Maybe when I was writing more code then they could understand, I don’t think they did really always understand what products that were, you know, the result of that code, these days, I think that they don’t even understand, you know, what’s my role and kind of like how do I make things happen, and it’s a little bit sad, actually that they don’t understand that, ‘cause a lot of—I think that for a lot of people, what they do has a lot to do with kind of getting appreciation and getting the pride from their family. It has a lot to do with that.

So I kind of—it makes me a little bit sad that they don’t understand that. But on the other hand, I think that my family always pushed me to be a creator and a maker. So when I wanted a computer, when I was 6, my mother sent me to a summer camp to learn programming, and I got the computer only after that—those 2 months of learning how to write code. ‘Cause for her, you know, you—sure, this is a tool, you need to first learn how to use a tool and then you can do something with it. When I was about 10, then I went—in the steps of my brother, I went to an aero-modeling club, which is a very geeky thing, and we built model airplanes out of like wood and then more and more actually advanced technologies.

And that was for me great, it was working with my hands, for me, the way that I work with like an exact-o knife or you know, with just a—my ability to work with a knife is parallel to just—it’s like the extension my hand, and I think it’s just because this muscle memory of for years, just working with a knife and cutting things. And it’s so important to just get kids I think to create things and learn how to use tools, as a 12-year-old or 14-year-old I think, I started using a lathe to create metal pieces and for 5 years I was working part-time with someone just as an apprentice to learn how to work with metals. And for me, that was so important because today I see anything and I can—just I can know how it was machined and I can imagine how I can create something like that or I can aspire to create something like that.

And I think that’s—that was very important, so my family maybe doesn’t understand what I’m doing now but they definitely had a huge part in getting me there by just all the time giving me these tools of, you know, learn how to make things. And then you’ll get there, you’ll be able to create products or—and it’s so much more important than just being an accountant I think. Just being able to create physical objects.