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What I Learned From Blending My Personal And Professional Passions

What I Learned From Blending My Personal And Professional Passions

A seasoned start-up CEO, Frigate Commander and Naval Academy instructor in the Israeli Navy, Amit is currently the CEO of Ahoy!

At the age of 18, I joined the Israeli Navy, in which I served for six years as both an officer in numerous posts at sea as well as an instructor in the naval academy. I joined to serve, and I was lucky to finish my service with something greater than I could have imagined—a lifelong passion for boating and a circle of trusted friends.

When my service ended, I assumed my time as a professional at sea would as well. I shifted toward the nonmaritime skills that I sharpened in the navy—leadership, teamwork, communication and tact under pressure—and kept my love for boating afloat on the side. This path led me into a successful 20-year career as an entrepreneur and executive in the tech field in both established global companies and startups.

Although I was proud to make my mark in multiple industries from transportation to energy to telecommunications, and I consider myself passionate about entrepreneurship as well, I always felt that something was missing. It wasn’t enough to just treat a lifelong obsession like a hobby. So, I charted a new course for a soul-searching voyage, endeavoring to steer my knowledge and experience of business and innovation into conversation with my love of boating.

Ahoy!, the recreational boating digital insurance company that I started a little over a year ago, is the answer I was looking for. Here are five lessons that not only helped me build a career in tech but also allowed me to use my profession as an outlet for my passion.

1. The crew makes the ship.

In the navy, I learned firsthand the importance of the ability to rely on my shipmates unequivocally—a ship is only as effective as its crew, and a crew is only as effective as the trust and communication between them. Recreating the navy’s near-telepathic synergy in the startup world wasn’t easy, but my high standards for a cohesive team pushed me to be uncompromising not only about the quality of those joining my crew but also in turning the talented individuals into the ideal team.

2. Success is built on external cooperation.

In the navy, coordination with fellow soldiers on other ships or on shore—sometimes, even in different branches of the military—is as crucial as communication within the same boat. I took this lesson to heart while serving as head of strategic alliances for an electric vehicle (EV) network provider, where I established core partnerships in the name of technological, operational and brand enhancement. I came to understand that, like in the navy, a tight internal team is only part of success. In entrepreneurship, success is built on the relationships forged with your outside support—business partners, investors, other leaders in the industry and even friends and family.

3. You need to hoist the messaging flag.

Between being charged with forging new strategic alliances and as the founder and CEO of Merchantz, a B2B e-commerce platform, I learned the importance of strong messaging and marketing in driving any venture. B2B e-commerce is a complex, noisy space that calls for careful positioning and branding for companies to stand out, and B2C is even more so.

Creating an image catered to your niche is the stabilizing ballast of the company. For example, anyone in the “boater community” should know that we at Ahoy! are ourselves passionate boaters, always working with our fellow mariners in mind. The frustration I once felt about the lack of specialized insurance offerings for my own passion is a feeling that I know our customers—current and future—share. Our success depends on people knowing that we understand their passion and care for their seafaring assets as if they were our own. So, make sure your potential and current customers know that you’re in the same boat as them.

4. Find your steady wind before scaling up.

While working as a venture advisor, I consulted with ambitious startups looking to move up fast in competitive markets. My advice to these companies was always that you can’t raise your spinnaker without a steady wind at your back. In other words, establish a strong go-to-market approach and business model by perfecting best practices first, and only then focus on scaling up.

When launching Ahoy!, we started by embracing the time-tested tenets of insurers that came before us. Only by building a strong insurance foundation and keenly understanding the best practices that have made insurance such a longstanding, successful global industry could we truly grow into our niche.

5. Tech is a feature of a company, not the whole company.

In my experience in the tech field, I’ve seen that companies that rely entirely on their technology don’t go far—especially in a world where any company can be a tech company. Every organization must have something beyond its tech to make it great.

For Ahoy!, I knew we had to harness the power of technology to support our goal. But I understood that the goal itself—to make boating safer and provide our customer base with peace of mind—was more important than whatever tech we used to achieve it.

Anchors Aweigh!

There’s a saying that goes, “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust the sail.” This rings true for all of us at Ahoy! and it can for you, too. The winds of life blew me away from one passion toward another. To bring the two together, I simply had to adjust the sails of my entrepreneurship.


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