Q&A with Team8 alumnus Ben Borodach: from day job to startup founder
Our founders are doing amazing things in the startup world. It’s always exciting when someone who was part of the team then decides to chart their own entrepreneurial journey and become one of our portfolio company founders. Ben Borodach, previously our VP of Strategy and Operations is doing just that with his new fintech startup, April, purpose built to “make taxes less taxing.”
I sat down (virtually) with Ben, who is seven months into his latest startup journey, to get the behind-the-scenes take on what it’s like to transition from an investor to a Co-founder.
Q: What was your most challenging shift to make?
Ben: Probably the personal challenge of being quite an impatient person. The market and the opportunity are there, and we were able to launch our first product in three months, which is fast. But even so, it all takes time and you have to be patient and let things play out. It’s been about managing my own expectations and personality, as much as it has been about the market and the company.
Q: And the easiest?
Ben: The move into the startup space felt pretty natural for me. I’ve been a startup founder before and I witnessed and participated in the founding of 10 companies while I was at Team8. Thanks to this prior experience, it was a relatively seamless transition for me.
I’m proud to say we’ve enjoyed a very fruitful phase of recruitment, something that is typically quite difficult for early stage startups to get right. The best thing you can do as a founder is build a really good product, and the way you do that is by having excellent people on board. So, while it hasn’t been easy, my co-founder and April CTO, Daniel Marcous, and I have been very intentional about bringing on team members that reflect our value set and the culture we want to build. Daniel and I decided to build the organization we wish we had always been a part of, and so far, we’ve made a lot of great hires, and we’ve grown to a team of 15 people in a short period of time.
Q: How did your studies and/or career path prepare you, or not, for this shift?
Ben: I started working in sales when I was 18 years old. When I got to college I had the opportunity to take a class with Lawrence Lenihan . My team won his annual business product competition in which he invests his salary in a promising startup. On the back of that my co-founders and I started a marketing automation company and I basically parallel processed my business and economics degree at NYU while going to pitches and customer meetings. We had a team of 10 and we raised a few hundred thousand dollars, so that definitely wasn’t the typical college experience.
However, one of the things I realized from this was that I didn’t understand enterprise decision-making very well, so I joined Deloitte Consulting, where I ended up being the lead for fintech early on in my career. I got to work with firms like AIG, Citi, American Express and QBE and work alongside experienced decision-makers around the world, which gave me a comprehensive view of where we are, and where things are going.
I wanted to go back to a startup after a few years, but I wasn’t sure what exactly to do, which is around the time I met Nadav at Team8. What they were building was something that resonated deeply with me – it would have benefited me greatly as an entrepreneur starting out. At Team8 I got the opportunity to grow and learn with a lot of smart people.
Now, with April, I’m at the intersection of data, fintech and cybersecurity, and trying to put it all together and make a difference for people in their daily lives.
Q: What is your typical day like now? Is there such a thing?
Ben: There’s no typical day. Every day is different, which I like.
I now have way fewer meetings, which is intentional. We have a mantra at April: If it can be an email, don’t make it a meeting. If it can be a 30-minute meeting, don’t make it an hour. And don’t have recurring meetings. I keep my calendar very flexible so I can work on whatever is most important that day with real time to dig into something.
Q: What advice do you have for your past-self, and any other aspiring entrepreneurs thinking about making the leap?
Ben: Have more fun and be a little bit easier on yourself – which goes back to the patience thing. Success doesn’t come overnight and with a longer-term view, you can let yourself go a little bit on the journey. Put aside the expected milestones and just enjoy the opportunity to build the team and focus on building a great product.
Don’t cherry-pick from what has worked for other people – there’s no one right choice. Instead, follow your passion and that will lead you somewhere exciting. Be authentic, play to your strengths and be true to yourself. You’ll enjoy it more, you’ll learn more and your team will enjoy being around you because you’re real and not just virtue signaling on what someone else thinks you ought to be doing.
Q: What’s next for you and April?
Ben: We are focused on building out the tax engine and lining up more partners to be able to serve thousands of American taxpayers in 2023.