February 14, 2020
Yuval Kaminka
Founder & CEO | JoyTunes

JoyTunes is one of the fastest growing B2C companies in Israel. What do you think are the main drivers of its impressive growth?
While our journey felt quite chaotic most of the time, in retrospect our recipe has been relatively simple: Assemble a team of super talented people who build excellent and accessible products that bring real value to millions of people around the world. We’ve outlined a mission to bring music to every single household, which resonates with many many people around the world. These are the foundations on top of which we made several key decisions that have differentiated us from others, specifically regarding company culture and decision-making processes.

JoyTunes revenues are already in the tens of millions of dollars, yet It’s still operated by a relatively small team. What makes the company’s operations so efficient?
We have an amazing team that works closely together towards our musical goal. Our entire way of thinking (and supporting structure) revolves around fighting off  “diminishing returns”, or when a company’s output decreases as it grows. When we first started to grow in size we noticed that we became slower. This often happens to companies when they add management layers that weigh down the decision-making process and dilute ownership. As I am personally terrified of losing the agility and effectiveness that we’ve had as a small startup, we made a conscious choice at JoyTunes to keep the small team mentality and work in what we call “Pods”. Pods are like mini-startups in the company that are small and light enough to run fast for long distances, they have one clear goal and the freedom to decide how to achieve it. For example, I am the CEO but I am also an equal member of the Scale Pod which focuses on company growth. All our Pods are “loosely coupled, highly aligned” to maintain that light and agile work culture as we all progress side by side toward the company-wide goals.

JoyTunes employees are fortunate to enjoy amazing facilities for “Jamming”. Do you find that these creative sessions contribute to your productivity on top of fun?
One of the reasons we created a music learning product was because we believe that music enriches life and playing music builds character, gives meaning and is super fun. Jamming rooms aren’t a perk at JoyTunes, playing music is part of the job.

What was the inflection point in JoyTunes history?
There were several inflection points along the way, but there were two substantial moments that changed the course of the company. The first was when we decided to build a subscription musical companion for every household, and the second was the construction of our organizational DNA. After a couple of years of working on gamified products and tools for music teachers, we created a self-learning musical companion to make music education accessible to all. That’s when we started to take off. Simply Piano started out as an app for piano beginners and we’ve since expanded and added many levels to meet multiple playing skills, and this year we plan to launch several new products and instruments.

What do you miss most in an early stage company?
While I sometimes miss the intimacy that comes with being a very small team, I’m actually (happily) surprised that I’m having way more fun now than I’ve ever had at JT.

Toughest choice you had to make as a CEO
Parting ways with people is by far the most difficult for me, even more so if it’s someone I genuinely admire but is not the right fit for the team.

Gut instinct and cold Data, which do you follow?
It’s always a dialogue between the two. Data shows you where to focus and if you’ve made the right decisions, but it can’t provide you with solutions. Whenever there’s a leap of faith, gut feelings kick in. At JoyTunes, we actively train people to use data in a smart way and train their gut feelings.

Where do you invest most of your time?
For me it’s people. Our team is a crucial part of our strategy, a core advantage that differentiates us from many others.

What characterizes your executive team?
We actually don’t have a formal executive team. We have leaders with different scopes of context that lead decisions and impact. They are mentors to others in the team, who will become leaders in time themselves.

How do you see your personal growth alongside the company’s?
I’m challenged every day by my changing role. Every new person who joins breaks the record of how many people I’ve led. I’m brutally aware of my shortcomings and actively working to become the CEO that I believe our team deserves.

Best tip you have gotten in your career
There is such a thing as too much money. One of our investors told me that too much money early on can ruin a startup’s productivity, kill hunger for success and devastate company culture. Heeding his advice made it clear that we do our best work when we aren’t too comfortable – when the cliff’s edge is in sight. Of course, we don’t intend to work with an oppressive fear of falling, but to have constant reminders that falling is a possibility. It’s better to have enough money in the bank, than more money than you need.

Tip you wish you had gotten
I think that in the early days I underestimated the benefit of clearing up more leadership bandwidth. It’s actually a tip I got, but I truly understood it only when it was already painful.

One thing people don’t know about you
Well, most people don’t know that my passion for culture and building teams originates from my mom, who is the CEO of the Israeli Association for Human Resources. Also, I used to have 3 pet chickens 🙂

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