Magical - How to De-Risk the Process of Market Discovery

Raising Money One Way or Another

Fast facts:

In April, 2021 raised a $3.3 million dollar Seed round led by Resolute Ventures with additional backing from Ibex Investors, and Aviv Growth
Headquartered in Los Angeles, California
Currently has 8 full-time employees
Table of content

How Magical Began

Tommy Barav believes in time machines, but not the kind built out of a DeLorean that hops through decades. As an old hand productivity and software enthusiast, he values his time and constantly looks for ways to optimize that time. His interest began with gadgets and hardware tools, but it quickly evolved into seeking out software that helped users manage their time and tasks better. He became obsessed with tools that let him create workflows and automations around his day-to-day life, as he aimed to create an efficient framework for himself as an entrepreneur. “I started to get into the different pain points and problems that founders have,” said Tommy. “I felt that there are so many problems around how you actually safeguard your time and prioritize.” He looks at time management like a math problem, dividing a 24-hour day into a pie chart. Tommy protects his daily pie, seeing it as his only source of food for a given day. Whenever someone asks for a meeting, or for him to complete an assignment, that’s one slice gone. If he allows too many tasks or meetings to happen without proper prioritization, he sees it as stolen slices. Not a great outcome when you’re hungry.

Between methodologies like time blocks and inbox zero, Tommy learned several ways to navigate through the hurdles of a workday and avoid time drain. By 2014, he compiled various methodologies and software tools, which he nicknamed time machines. He gives an online calendar as an example of a tool, explaining that its user interface and features, if used well, have the power to teach anyone about their past routines in order to shape a better future. It’s about constantly improving the prioritization of tasks and swapping out the mentality of working hard with working smart.

After Tommy finished the Zell Program in 2013, he stayed close to many friends from his class. He describes them as an ambitious group, many of whom went on to start companies or live fairly busy lives. During gatherings and outings, his friends constantly expressed their frustrations over feeling like they never got enough done in a day. There and then, Tommy understood that he wasn’t alone in his quest to be more protective of his time. He started running small workshops with his friends out of their apartments. “Imagine seven or eight friends around a table, I just open my computer and I show them some stuff,” said Tommy. The “stuff” he shared came in the form of workflows and tips to reach an empty inbox and an efficient schedule.

At around the time Tommy started sharing his ideas with friends, he moved out to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and took paternity leave. With more time on his hands than he was used to, he decided to take his casual workshops a step further114. In the interest of sharing his tips on time management on a larger scale, he started a Facebook group. He called it Supertools, a spinoff of ‘superfoods’, a nutrition term trending at the time.115 After helping several friends, he speculated that there were likely a lot more people in Israel with similar concerns, so sharing his suggestions on a high traffic social media outlet like Facebook seemed obvious.

Community, a Buzzword Turned Business

For Tommy, technology is a game of opposition, either you use it, or it uses you. When using the likes of Facebook, he suggests to put layers of protection in place in order to avoid being sucked in. It has its major benefits, but as he sees it, when users put too much attention and time into it, that's when the tool starts using the users for monetary gains. When Tommy positioned the need for Supertools on Facebook, he laid out his mission: to provide his followers with solutions and digital workflow options so that they could gain back control over their time and reclaim their focus. He published posts on a myriad of topics from planning schedules effectively to reviewing software tools he tried himself and explaining how to optimize their features.

Within five days of going live, the Supertools Facebook group went from zero to a thousand followers. He originally viewed the group as less of a community, and more of a public space to manifest and share ideas, however, much to his surprise, it rapidly turned into the former. Followers started to share their ideas and problems, and used the group as a platform to ask for solutions, which led other followers to share their solutions, and on and on the group grew, both in content and in followers. Once the group surpassed a few thousand followers, Tommy changed the privacy settings to ‘invite only’ to slow down the growth. This bought him time to rethink how to scale the community with control.

Tommy spent several months creating relevant content for the Supertools Facebook group and managing the influx of followers. By 2019, only a year after starting the group, it reached tens of thousands of followers, and Tommy started getting approached by companies, both big and small, to lead time management sessions for their employees. He learned that the problem wasn’t a lack of technology solutions but rather a democratization problem. Some people have a hard time sifting through the abundance of technology options to find the right tool for them, while others are unaware of how to optimize the use of such tools to make their lives easier. “I started to do workshops and lectures really everywhere, every company that you can think of,” said Tommy. “At the beginning, it was just software or technology teams, but after a while, I got proposals from the executive team of Coca-Cola and other types of companies as well.” From lectures to workshops, his passion project turned into an income generating business.

Expanding Community Channels

Tommy lives in Israel, so naturally when he started the Supertools group as a hobby, he mostly posted his content and suggestions in his native language, Hebrew. As the group grew in popularity, more and more followers from outside of Israel started to request access. In order to supply content for the many followers across the globe, without damaging his connection with his original followers, he started to cultivate other channels and sub-communities who were creating content in English. Tommy launched a podcast and started writing in technology publications like GeekTime, quickly raising awareness and interest in the Supertools subject. In fact, he started seeing many people using Supertools in their business jargon.116 

By the spring of 2020, the COVID–9 pandemic began to impact Israel, causing a series of long lockdowns across the country. Offices from every industry shut down and forced their employees to work remotely from their homes. This intense adjustment wreaked havoc on productivity levels, which was noticeable by managers in most companies. While most industries struggled tremendously during this period, Tommy and Supertools reached an all-time high. People and businesses alike were looking for new tools to help streamline communication and organization between teams now that in person meetings became a luxury that most of the world could not support. “All the stuff that I'm talking about, like how to get your focus back, and how to manage your time more carefully, and how to put systems in place around you in order to be more productive was so relevant” said Tommy. “It was painful because by then everyone had started working solo and they needed these systems, and of course, managers needed to regain control.” 

Tommy and Supertools were a kind of salvation during this time of panic, as businesses looked for resources to help employees adapt to the new normal of working from home. Without any marketing budget or promotion, people from the global community reached out with requests for workshops and lectures on how to optimize their company's collective workflow. CEOs and key decision-makers of companies also sought out Tommy’s consulting services, for which he expressed a keen interest. It was a profitable quarantine period for him to say the least.

However, it wasn’t until Tommy received offers to deep dive into companies and establish an entire Supertools process that he saw a missing key to any business’s success. Organizations were missing a position he labeled Chief Productivity Officer, or someone who optimizes the business as well as the people in order to work more efficiently. He added this takeaway to the Supertools curriculum.

When Community Inspires Magic

By 2020, the Supertools community had a lot of different content channels among which they could bounce around. Tommy had one of the most popular podcasts in Israel, as well as blog posts, articles in magazines, and active social media channels.117 The Supertools brand became quite successful and Tommy felt more than comfortable. “I had an awesome work-life balance. I worked from home, and I was a solo founder without any investors. In a year, I did more than one million dollars in revenue, and for a solo founder, this is great, but there was a limit,” said Tommy. Even though he had successfully positioned himself as a productivity expert, on most days, he found himself thinking that it just wasn’t enough.

For Tommy, it came down to a scalability issue. For the last few years, he had been going business by business, providing training. He tried hiring trainers to help him expand his reach, but they lacked the passion that most businesses found compelling from Tommy. “I really tried to bring trainers to go to the companies, and they said, ‘Look, we want Tommy, he built this community. We want him to help our team,’ said Tommy. Instead, his schedule was slammed, running three to four workshops for businesses a day, an unsustainable long-term plan.

He pondered over how to use software to really democratize productivity beyond the companies that could afford paying him. He wasn’t looking to change a few million people’s work methodologies but rather billions of people’s overall productivity levels, so they could make more time for the things that matter most to them. Changing the game became his personal mission, and he knew just what to do. Tommy began to build a software solution of his own. 

He had already done the market research, studied most of the productivity softwares out there, and knew what they did well versus where they fell short. He couldn’t name even one software solution that was solving all of the productivity issues in the right way, and that frustrated him. Knowing the gaps, he set out to build software that could solve all of the problems often expressed by the Super Tools community. “We had 30,000 people that care about this problem. This is heaven for an entrepreneur who wants to get into this problem. It’s a gold mine,” said Tommy. 118

This is how Tommy and his co-founder, Tal Peretz, began to build their time machine. In defining their take on a perfect productivity software, the pair went straight to the drawing board. If their goal was to protect people’s time, they knew they had to drill down to the source – the calendar. Considering that a lot of the Supertools community started implementing time blocking methodologies and frameworks to optimize their day, they knew the digital calendar needed a serious revamp. 

Their first goal was to build features that would encourage users to focus on meaningful work. Tommy expressed his frustration with calendars like the Googles and Outlooks of the world, as they lack the features to motivate users to plan a hyper-focused day. Instead, they encourage users to jump from one meeting to another. “It’s time theft in slow increments... minute by minute and ultimately irreplaceable.” Tommy adds “Traditional calendars have not undergone significant innovation in probably the last two decades. I understood that if we wanted to change the game, we needed to make the calendar a time management hub, not a meeting scheduling platform. Right now, it's just a place where you put time slots,” said Tommy. They built such a software, which they named Magical, with the intention of protecting people's time, taking it a step further than managing schedules. Tommy and Tal are now well on their way to building a collaborative calendar that meets the needs of a 21st century modern work culture. Tommy’s out for time because his growing community can use more of it. Let’s sit tight and watch this skilled magician at work.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did Tommy initially “validate” the need for time management techniques, tools, and advice? Were there any advantages or disadvantages to these approaches?
  2. How did the COVID-19 Pandemic help Tommy in terms of the timing of his business? Do you think there is a risk of it being a COVID trend rather than a long-term need / problem?
  3. What major challenge did Tommy run into with his consulting business?
    Was this unique to his situation, or merely an aspect of the type of business / business model?
  4. What prompted Tommy to pursue Magical, and how did he go about it? What are some of the major risks that he might face with this approach?
  5. How did strong & clever marketing / branding help Tommy throughout the journey? How did it hurt him?