January 17, 2022
Zeev Farbman
Founder & CEO | Lightricks

For several years now Lightricks has been leading the creator economy category with one of the most comprehensive, creativity-first product suites. How do you remain ahead of the pack in such a fast-moving, trend-driven environment? 

Our passion has always been to continually strive to bring creators the most advanced technology and help them find new ways to express themselves. Nowadays, everyone understands that creators are the key engagement drivers of social media platforms. When we first started creating tools, we quickly realized that the only way to provide the best content creation tools is to learn from our users – what works for them and what doesn’t – these creators are, in a sense, our most valuable assets.

To remain ahead of the curve we always relied on a combination of things: our advanced research department, which has been pushing the limits of technology in image processing and video editing for the past 9 years; the great pool of talented people graduating Hebrew University and the Bezalel Academy; and dedicated employees who are eager to grow with the company. In an ever-changing industry, we continue to embrace change and aim to take innovative approaches to create technology that feels invisible and seamless for anyone who wants to bring their ideas to life.

You have been known to speak about democratizing the creator economy. What role do you see Artificial Intelligence having in this revolution?

Lightricks is all about using AI and machine learning to make content production easier and more enjoyable. AI and machine learning enable us to continue to simplify difficult tools, automate time-consuming chores, and, eventually, boost human creativity with tools that are more powerful than we have ever had. Specifically for Lightricks, it enables both professionals and non-professionals to become creators. When we talk about democratizing the creative economy, we aim to focus on giving the creator more power. The role of AI in this is the limitless capacity to enable users to use the most professional editing tools while benefiting from what our apps can accomplish on their own.

Lightricks is unique in the local Israeli landscape being one of the few tech unicorns that are based in Jerusalem (and not Tel-Aviv). How has this shaped your culture and contributed to your success?

It really comes down to the fact that Lightricks was started here in Jerusalem, and we are proud to be part of the landscape. My co-founders and I were doctoral students in Jerusalem and decided to turn theory into practice. We enjoy the Jerusalemite ecosystem and we think it has a lot to offer both in its talent and resources.  A large part of our work is retaining talent in Jerusalem, but a key component to our success is the proximity to untapped talent at both Hebrew U and Bezalel – Israel’s leading design academy – designers, computer science majors, and engineers are just a few doors down and already know our company and its successes and want to be a part of that. We’ve established ourselves as a creative community within the city, and our employees come from all backgrounds, which broadens our viewpoints on how we perceive things.

What was the Inflection Point in the Lightricks’ history?

Lightricks has evolved over the years: our first stage was when we released Facetune as a paid app, thinking it would buy us time to build bigger and better things. We were happily surprised by its success and started to understand that there was greater potential. This led us to the second stage – becoming a subscription app. Today it might sound funny, but this model didn’t exist on the app store back then, and we needed to convince Apple that the market was ready and wanted such a model. Now, we are moving into our third stage – a company that goes beyond the tools and puts the creator in the center. In some ways, it’s like going back to the drawing board, but with much more experience. To this day, I’m always happy to sit down and chat with entrepreneurs looking at working in a bootstrapped model – it’s doable, and if you do it right it can be life-changing.

What do you miss most in an early-stage company?

Being small means a sense of intimacy that is impossible to recreate. At the beginning of Lightricks, I knew every employee, and had a real relationship with everyone in the company, as we all worked shoulder to shoulder to make magic happen. That changed once we started exceeding our goals and grew at an exponential rate; a company of five employees is not comparable to one of five hundred.

The toughest choice you had to make as a CEO?

This goes back to the previous question. I think my hardest decision is an ongoing one, every time I choose to remain the CEO. Managing your best friends on a daily basis is always tough, my passion is in the work we do, not always the day-to-day running of the company.

Gut instinct and cold Data, which do you follow?

My upbringing and my academic background definitely pushed me to more grounded, data-driven decisions. However, with time I learned to appreciate intuition and understand that it has its place; when Lightricks started, all we had was our gut feelings and beliefs. Today, we have the data to show we were right.

Where do you invest most of your time? 

We invest in people. When you look at a company, you need to realize the human capital that is necessary to keep growing. We put a lot of effort into getting the right people. That being said, the process doesn’t stop at hiring. Once you have the right people, you need to put effort into keeping them. At Lightricks we put a big emphasis on employee experience. When people ask me why they should come work at Lightricks, I tell them because it’s fun – we don’t see work here as a chore, work shouldn’t be something seen as “I have to do”. We do all we can to invest in the professional development of employees, their happiness at work, as well as personal growth – when they’re happy – when they feel fulfilled – that’s when Lightricks is at its best.

What characterizes your executive team?

We’re best friends who co-founded a company together. What more could you want? But if I had to choose two words –  initiative and determination. When we started our journey together there were many naysayers, people told us it couldn’t be done, but we were determined to create a photo editor for the mobile generation. Years later, we still have that same drive, and continually think of ways to better ourselves as a company and provide our creators with what they need.

How do you see your personal growth alongside the company? 

I’ll start off with an example. I began taking courses in business administration in order to further my understanding of what it takes to manage a company. Being the CEO of what eventually became a large company has allowed me to grow and understand new elements of the business world, while learning a lot about myself and the abilities I have, beyond my understanding of computer science and the development of algorithms. I have enjoyed branching out and learning new things – it has been fun and exciting. Being the CEO of 5 people is different than being the CEO of 50, 200, or 500 – so one could say my role has evolved and changed with the growth of the company.

The best tip you got?

Focus on what you are passionate about. When we were in the early stages, before Lightricks had even been created, one of our co-founders, Yaron, and I, had thought about pursuing both our academic and professional careers. One of our professors at the time joined the discussion and told us about the “shower method”. You come home after a day’s work and take a shower. Whilst in the shower, there is this thread or element of your research that is interesting enough that you will continue to think about it even in the shower. That is basically what happened. I couldn’t stop thinking about the practical implications of our research and realized we needed to pursue the ideas that eventually became Lightricks.

One thing people don’t know about you…

Though my day job is the CEO of a cutting-edge high-tech company, my pastimes include two hobbies that aren’t really related: I practice Brazillian Ju-Jitsu, and I enjoy philosophy – reading, talking, and thinking about our fundamental beliefs and thoughts our world and lives are built upon.

 

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