It’s not something many people say about their job: “If I won the lottery tomorrow, this is what I would do the day afterward.” But most people aren’t Tal Morgenstern.
After paying his dues as commander of a special ops team for the Israeli Defense Forces, Tal became cofounder and CEO of a test-preparation company, all while earning a BSc in biomedical engineering at Tel Aviv University. It was around then that he was introduced to venture capital.
“It was a revelation that venture existed,” he says. “It’s tons of smart people, talking about all kinds of curious things, helping founders build their companies. What’s not to love?”
After undergrad, he moved to the Bay Area to earn an MBA at Stanford, where he further cultivated his interest in entrepreneurship. It was the training he needed to run product teams at two Israeli startups: an e-learning company and a fintech company.
When the latter eventually sold, Tal made his way to Sequoia Capital’s Tel Aviv office, where for four years he helped lead the firm’s consumer investments in Israel. Lightspeed’s office happened to be adjacent to Sequoia’s, and soon Tal made acquaintances with Yoni Cheifetz and David Gussarsky.
He got along with Yoni and David so well, and respected Lightspeed’s increasingly bullish approach to the market, that when Sequoia phased out its Israeli investments in 2016, he joined Lightspeed full time.
Since then, he’s focused on consumer marketplaces, SaaS, and fintech companies throughout Israel. “I’m drawn to the scrappier, ‘hacky’ founders,” he says. “I almost always ignore CVs and pedigree when evaluating a team.”
Still, as a former founder and product guy, he relies heavily on his own background and pedigree to help other entrepreneurs navigate the company-building process. Even his time as commander in the Israeli Defense Forces informs his approach to venture.
“I worked with a small unit of 10 to 12 people,” he says, “so I learned a ton about managing bottom-up, managing small teams, keeping small teams together, and staying motivated. It’s very similar to a startup.”