Abigail Klein Leichman
February 7

Alignment Labs was only a three-man business to begin with: cofounder and CEO Yehuda Neeman, cofounder and CPO Alon Blum and CTO Peter Tsuprun.

The war has reduced their ranks by two-thirds, as both cofounders were called up to active duty after the Hamas attacks of October 7.

Alignment Labs cofounder Alon Blum serving in the reserves during the Gaza war. Photo courtesy of Alignment Labs
Alignment Labs cofounder Alon Blum serving in the reserves during the Gaza war. Photo courtesy of Alignment Labs

Blum is currently serving in Gaza, as is Tsuprun’s son. Neeman was also in the reserves but is now home recovering after donating a kidney to a woman he didn’t know before. 

And yet the two-year-old Alignment Labs continues serving clients such as maritime intelligence company Windward, fertility tech company Fairtility and sports tech company Lumen

What’s the secret? Well, in addition to support from their customers, partners and investors, the cofounders are relying on their own product, a virtual “chief alignment officer” called Goni, which provides data-based management insights.

“Goni is like another employee, asking us several questions each day and verifying that all of us are 100 percent aligned all the time,” Neeman tells ISRAEL21c. 

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He explains that alignment among employees, especially in tech R&D departments, is often out of whack. 

“We see that 40% of employees don’t understand, or misunderstand, priorities. If the manager says the most important initiative right now is to achieve customer satisfaction for client X, and another employee or group leader thinks it’s to improve performance for customer Y, you can see how many employees are working in the wrong direction.”

That can result in missed deadlines and the loss of clients or good employees. The problem has only gotten worse as more people are working remotely.

“Instead of monitoring people all the time, Goni monitors what people understand. It learns the company culture and talks with employees to verify their alignment, using any messaging application the team already uses, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp,” says Neeman.

“After Goni understands what the company wants to achieve, it asks what is the most important initiative in the company right now and for the next four weeks. The software generates several possible answers and only one is right,” says Neeman. 

Goni also shares data on how managers in similar companies are dealing with similar challenges. 

In the challenging situation in which Alignment Labs finds itself now, Neeman says interacting with Goni keeps the three of them on the same page even when their schedules don’t align to talk among themselves as usual.

How could you not be supportive?

Jumpspeed Ventures – a micro-VC fund investing in early-stage startups originating in Jerusalem – counts Alignment Labs among its portfolio companies.

Managing Partner Ben Wiener says that Neeman and Blum have an unusual combination of “incredible drive and perseverance and an incredible ability to be resilient. It takes exceptional people like them to get through something like this.”

Two years ago, when he was first considering investing in Alignment Labs, Wiener heard an interview in which Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was asked what’s still missing in the world of internal corporate communications. 

“Butterfield said the next frontier is fixing misalignments between employers and employees on key issues in accomplishment of tasks. He said when employees and managers are out of alignment, employees do things we didn’t want or expect them to do,” says Wiener. 

“And I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m looking at a company intending to solve this exact problem.”

How can a startup function when its founders go to war? 
Ben Wiener of Jumpspeed Ventures. Photo courtesy of Made in JLM

Wiener was wowed by results from Alignment Labs’ first customer, a 20-person company. When Goni queried everyone about their priorities, all 19 staffers answered differently than the CEO. 

“The CEO had blindly thought everyone was aligned with his vision for the company. So he turned to Alignment Labs and said, ‘You saved my company.’ He called a meeting and got his employees back on the rails. It could have been fatal to a small company. But there is also plenty of misalignment in a large company,” says Wiener.

“Alignment Labs found that the greatest uptake of their product was in R&D departments, and that playing field is just limitless,” he adds. 

“If this product succeeds and makes the corporate internal communications world a better place, that’s an honorable goal. How could you not be supportive of guys like that?” 

Setting priorities

Neeman says he and Blum are grateful to Wiener and to angel investor Alon Arvatz for supporting them in this uncertain time and for supporting his decision to further complicate matters by donating a kidney two weeks before his 40th birthday on January 1.

Alignment Labs cofounder Yehuda Neeman, seen here with his kids, donated a kidney to a stranger in December 2023. Photo courtesy of Neeman family
Alignment Labs cofounder Yehuda Neeman, seen here with his kids, donated a kidney to a stranger in December 2023. Photo courtesy of Neeman family

The cofounders first began contemplating business alignment issues when they were working for the same company as VP R&D and VP Product, respectively.

They contacted a global expert in this field, Prof. Jonathan Trevor from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Trevor encouraged them to pursue their idea for solving this problem via a virtual chief alignment officer.

“We were very naïve, thinking it would be simple, and step by step we started to build it and brought on Peter as our CTO,” he says.

Alignment Labs now has “many hundreds of users,” Neeman reports, and is “going hard and strong to bring on more US customers. We will soon start our next funding round that was postponed from the fall.”

The last two years have been tough in the Israeli startup environment, he acknowledges, and now it’s even tougher.

“If you want to put Israel as your top priority it’s a challenge,” he says, “but this is the way we chose.”

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