eBay's Dr. Kira Radinsky: Israel's $6 million woman

Dr. Kira Radinsky Photo: Gal Hermoni
Dr. Kira Radinsky Photo: Gal Hermoni

The 30 year-old SalesPredict CTO and now eBay Israel chief scientist talks to "Globes" about her future plans.

She is only 30 years old and living in Zikhron Ya'akov with her startup entrepreneur husband Sagi Davidovich. Until yesterday she was CTO and cofounder of consumer behavior analytics company SalesPredict, which was acquired by eBay for a sum, which sources estimate to be about $40 million. She and cofounder CEO Yaron Zakai-Or each had a 15.7% stake in the company, meaning she is now worth 46.28 million. But she won't be retiring as she has been appointed eBay Israel chief scientist.

When we caught up to her early in the morning for a telephone conversation, she was on her way to the central region to be interviewed on morning television and radio programs. It is easy to see why - she is a young and very talented woman with an exit to her credit. Of course people want to interview her, even though the exit is not a particularly big one for the local high-tech market.

"Globes": In the past, you said you preferred not to sell the company. What changed? Why did you sell now?

Kira Radinsky: "I can't give you an answer about 'now,' because it’s a business process, and you can never predict 'now.' We're dealing with projected sales and things like that… When we founded the company, our dream was to change the way the economy worked. I always told SalesPredict's employees that a Nobel Prize winner in economics thinks about one economic hypothesis and examines it for a long time, and maybe if we try hard enough - develop a system that thinks about thousands of economic hypotheses a second - it would be really good. That's how we began, and now, through the sale to eBay, we can move up to a scale of millions. That's what we dreamed of! That's why we sold. It was just a stunning connection between us and eBay. That's what we wanted."

In that same "Globes" interview, you spoke out against the exits culture. Have you changed your opinion?

"I do think that just making exits, without making an attempt to build a large company, is not right for us as a society. Still, I've matured a lot in recent years, and the decision to sell doesn't depend only on the founders. The truth is that in retrospect, I'm sorry I was so outspoken. Now I think that every company does what it can, and should probably strive to become a big company, but at every stage, there is the most correct decision for a company, especially in a business company. If there is an option to make the company grow to very large proportions, you have to try. And yes, it makes me sad that that didn't become a bigger and more important company."

So you were more naive then?

"I don't know about naive… We wanted to build a big and important company, and we found a way to achieve this goal through the sale, but it's a shortcut. The scale we can reach through eBay is the goal, not the exit. I hope that even back then, it wasn't interpreted as if I was opposing the exits culture, but as encouraging people with the guts to build large companies."

Your first vision was to develop a method of predicting the future, such as outbreaks of disease, epidemics, violence, and even mortality rates. Isn't SalesPredict a long way from this vision?

"I don't distinguish between my personal vision and SalesPredict's vision. When I started dealing in predictive analytics, in other words, finding hypotheses that would change the world, I went deeply into quite a few aspects, and one of them was the medical aspect, in which I are dealing to this day. I'm still a guest scientist at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and as part of my work there, I work with health funds and hospitals. I haven't abandoned that dream. It's my personal dream. At the same time, when we founded SalesPredict, we went deeply into more economic forecasts."

You didn't abandon your personal dream?

"No, but it takes time to realize it. One stage at a time (laughs)… "

When the deal is closed, the SalesPerfect employees will join eBay's structured data division, and work in its development center. Zakai-Or will be the product and technology manager, and Radinsky will be a data science director and chief scientist of eBay Israel. The eBay structured data division's activity includes three main initiatives: data collection, data processing and enrichment, and creating product experiences. SalesPredict will contribute to the data processing and enrichment phase, especially to insights involving product inventory.

Where will you be on the day after eBay, after you fulfill your obligation to work at the company?

"I'll be a data science director now and chief scientist at eBay Israel. It's a super-challenging process for me and for the company. I want to make sure that the dream we spoke about, economic forecasts, comes true. We and eBay are going to become something big and promising together."

Have you got plans for afterwards?

"I can't even think about it. Right now, I'm very excited, and thinking only about how to make it happen."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 13, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

Dr. Kira Radinsky Photo: Gal Hermoni
Dr. Kira Radinsky Photo: Gal Hermoni
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