A day in the tech life

‘Perpetual frustration is what drives entrepreneurs to change the world’

Nexar CEO Eran Shir, who developed software to protect drivers from crashes, speaks of ‘exciting times’ at his company

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Eran Shir, the CEO of Nexar, says entrepreneurs are in a constant state of frustration, and that is what drives them to change the world (Courtesy)
Eran Shir, the CEO of Nexar, says entrepreneurs are in a constant state of frustration, and that is what drives them to change the world (Courtesy)

Eran Shir, the CEO of Nexar, a startup that has developed software to protect drivers against car crashes and road casualties, is on a mission to completely eliminate road fatalities.

Shir and his co-founder Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz have created the world’s first vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) network to alert drivers about crashes and road hazards in real time, using smartphones, sensors and a dashboard camera, powered by artificial intelligence. Nexar’s network crowdsources data from its users and establishes a detailed map of road conditions at any given time.

Shir believes in tackling the hardest problems facing humanity and finding solutions that “will have the greatest impact on the world.” He is seeking to grow his company, and is not looking for a quick exit. Getting mad at things “is a waste of energy.”

His hobbies are spending time with the family, studying physics and playing the saxophone when no one is home. He and his wife take turns fixing sandwiches for the children and taking them to school.

Nexar’s network detects road event (Courtesy)

Nexar has thousands of drivers in 160 countries, who have already driven over 150 million miles with Nexar. At the moment Nexar drivers average more than 10 million miles a month and that number is climbing. The company says it has achieved a 30 percent drop in collisions in 2017 among its drivers in New York City. The startup just raised some $30 million in Series B funding and Shir says it is “a very exciting time to be a Nexarian.”

What are the challenges you see ahead for Nexar?

A growing number of drivers, insurance companies, and OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are starting to depend on Nexar, and as a result, we need to keep growing the Nexar platform to meet their needs, while at the same time, continuing to keep our drivers happy and increasing the safety capabilities we provide.

An additional challenge, or as I see it, the biggest opportunity facing us, is to improve our capabilities for predicting collisions based on our V2V network and then close the loop by preventing them ahead of time. We have had great success in this, but we always strive to be better as that is the only path to our ultimate goal — eliminating fatalities on the road.

What is your background? What brought you where you are today?

I was in the Atuda program (an IDF program that allows high school graduates to  attend university prior to their military service) and studied physics at the Technion before joining the Air Force. I had the good fortune of being part of the founding team of the Air Force’s Arrow missile defense unit, which you could say was my first ‘startup’ experience.

After the army, I went back to the academic world, finished a masters in theoretical physics, and then founded the DIMES research project at Tel Aviv University in 2003. DIMES was an internet research project that aimed to measure the structure of the internet through a crowdsourced network of computers from all over the world.

In late 2006 I founded Dapper with Jon Aizen. Dapper was a web 2.0 startup aimed at structuring all of the content on the web, which we sold to Yahoo in 2010. I then spent three years at Yahoo, most recently running Yahoo’s R&D center in Israel. In late 2013 I left Yahoo and joined the VC fund Aleph until the end of 2014, when I started Nexar with a former boss of mine from Yahoo, Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz.

Why Nexar?

Bruno and I wanted to tackle one of the big problems facing modern society — that more than 1.2 million people are killed every year on our roads from car accidents. I am a big believer in what I call “moon-shooting,” looking for solutions to the hardest problems facing humanity and those that would have a massive impact on the world around us. Today, we are getting closer to a reality in which we can prevent car accidents with Nexar.

“In 2017 we achieved a 30% reduction in collisions among our drivers in NYC. We also just raised a $30M Series B, so it’s a very exciting time to be a Nexarian.

What exit do you envisage for Nexar, and why?

Our decision to start Nexar was based on a vision, and that vision is what motivates our entire team every day, not thoughts of an exit.  We are committed to making our vision a reality and grow Nexar to be a global company, centered in Tel Aviv.

What makes you happy at work?

We are fortunate at Nexar to get to experience the impact we create daily. When I watch a video showcasing a collision we prevented, or hear the testimony of an Uber driver we helped in a tough spot — for example, being able to prove that a collision was not his fault — that’s the definition of joy for me.

What makes you mad?

Very few things make me mad — in general, I believe that getting mad is a waste of energy. But I do get frustrated managing the gap between where in my mind we need to be, and where we actually are. I think entrepreneurs are constantly in a state of frustration, and that’s what drives them to go out and change the world.

What does your day look like?

I wake up around 6:30 a.m. My wife and I take turns waking up my eldest daughter and fixing her sandwiches for school, and later waking up my twins, and taking them to school. Then, I get to the office. At work, I typically start the day with product reviews and meetings and also try to find time to quietly work and write. In general, I prioritize meetings based on how my time can best support my team. I think of my role as a leader as being in the service economy. My goal is to serve the team so that they can move forward with as little friction as possible and definitely not wait for me.

How do you chill?

My preferred way of chilling is spending times with my kids, whether playing or studying with them. I also like to play the guitar from time to time, and the saxophone, if there’s no one at home. But when I really need to chill, I go back and watch old episodes of the [American political TV drama series] “West Wing.”

What are your hobbies?

Playing music and cooking are my biggest hobbies. I’m particularly partial to smoking foods in my Big Green Egg [a ceramic charcoal barbecue cooker]. Studying physics has also been demoted from a profession to a hobby ever since I left the academic world.

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