Podcast – Interview with Tom Livne, Founder and CEO of Verbit
Part of our special series of episodes of the csuite podcast that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and their own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Tom Livne, CEO and Founder of Verbit.
Part of our special series of episodes of the csuite podcast that we’re recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and their own Without Borders podcast, Russell Goldsmith and co-host, Tyto’s Senior Partner, Holly Justice were joined online from Tel Aviv, by Tom Livne, CEO and Founder of Verbit.
Verbit employs the largest professional captioner workforce in the world and has emerged as the leader in the $30 billion transcription industry. Founded in 2017 Verbit reached unicorn status in June 2021 after securing $157m in Series D funding and now has a valuation of over $2bn.
For many of us, the pandemic was associated with remote working, and Verbit, specialising in education, legal and media sectors, found solace in helping companies comply with the shift in demand for accessibility.
Prior to having his way with words, Tom started his career as a lawyer, where he found transcriptions to be problematic, and from being the frustrated customer to eagerly wanting to solve the problem, he found a solution, Verbit.
He explained that he wanted to find a technology that would revolutionise the market, as it was manual, outdated, and lacked efficiency, which is where the drive for using AI was established.
He said that being an entrepreneur means there’s always a problem to solve, just like Uber did for the taxi industry. Before Uber, you’d have to call a taxi, go down, wait in the rain, and then tell it where to go, and it would be a miracle if it made it to the right place, but today with the click of a button, you could go anywhere you wanted.
When it comes down to “the pitch”, it looks different for each of their customers, with there being a variety of specific interest in the price, timescale, accuracy, capacity, and practicality of their technology.
Their tech uses AI for 90% of the work, and humans for the other 10%, and once training it for the use case, the accuracy and consistency improves.
He explained that people seem to fear AI, because they think it’ll replace them, leaving them without a job, but this isn’t the case, at Verbit they’re trying to think about how AI can make the human more productive, because at the end of the day there isn’t any AI that can reach 100% accuracy on its own.
Being the largest in the industry, Verbit has more than 600 employees and 35,000 freelancers that work for them across 120 countries. He said that he receives emails from employees that have said: “because of Verbit, we have the ability to feed our family, and take care of our kids”, which he finds heart-warming yet motivational to continue what they’re doing.
He said they also put accessibility at the forefront of what they do, for example their software enables anyone with a hearing impairment to be able to access a podcast the way other listeners do.
When Tom was deliberating the name for Verbit, he said he’d been thinking about the concept that when you want to know something, you google it, but if there’s something you want to do that relating to verbal information, then you could just verb it, which was his aha moment.
Culture vs Communication
Noting that it’s been a constant effort to keep company culture alive whilst they’re all spaced out geographically, he said that it trickles down from the top, and his ethic and behaviour has been crucial in creating the energy and dynamics across what he calls his “baby”.
Being the CEO, founder, and face of the company means that all eyes are focused on him, expecting him to be a visionary leader who knows how to articulate their story well.
He thinks it all comes down to storytelling, and if you don’t know how to tell your story well, understand who your audience is, then people won’t invest in you. The key to being good at doing so involves a lot of practice, he thinks he’s done it more than a thousand times, and still enjoys telling their story to this day.
Pointing out that patience might not be his strongest characteristic when communicating, he said that impulsive responses and decisions could be delt with by not saying whatever you have in mind.
He said he’s not perfect, but he’s grown, where before he lacked patience whilst getting things done, he now feels much more relaxed and balanced.
He added that eventually communication is one of the key factors that effects the performance of the business, it’s necessary to sometimes overcommunicate, and make sure the message is concise, and if you communicate clearly, and make sure everyone understands their role and how to do it, the rest is easy.