“Feelings of absolute fear can prevent employees from coming to the … – CTech

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“As we have all witnessed, people are frightened and unsure as to what the future holds,” said Avi Aflalo, CEO at Simplex 3D. “Their sense of security, their safety, has been greatly damaged, broken, if you will. With that, they are uncertain about the future of the country, and they need constant support and reassurance.”

HR in War explores how companies in Israel are adapting in unusual times. CTech believes the world should know about the atrocities committed on 7/10 while also highlighting the continued resolve and resistance of the Israeli tech ecosystem.

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Avi Simplex

Avi Aflalo, CEO at Simplex

(Photo: Simplex Mapping)

“Feelings of absolute fear can prevent employees from coming to the office, for example, or cause them to lose focus on their daily tasks. In the first few weeks of the war, our employees had a really tough time focusing on their work. These are stressful times, to say the least,” he added.

Company name: Simplex 3D
Your name and title: Avi Aflalo, CEO
Names of founders and upper management: Avi Aflalo, Shahar Barnea, Ziv Shragai
Field of activity: GIS for urban planning and Proptech
Number of employees: 55
Office location: Herzliya, Israel

On a scale of 1-10, how much did the war disrupt operations at the company?

Eight. During the first days of the war, it was almost impossible for us to continue our regular day-to-day operations and I believe this was the situation for the majority of companies in Israel.

First and foremost, as many Simplex employees are recent veterans of the IDF’s technological and other key units, a significant number were already called up for duty during the first days of the war. Even today, almost seven weeks into the war, nearly 25% of our employees are under emergency Tsav 8, the call-up of reserves outside of the framework of regular reserve duty.

Simplex develops a SaaS-based 3D platform for urban planning and management. On regular days, Simplex serves both the municipal market and the private sector, focusing on real estate, in Israel and around the globe. This implies, that for all of our customers in Israel, the situation was also very challenging. The real estate market came to a full halt when the war began, and as anticipated, it also greatly affected our teams.

In addition, as part of our solutions offering, we combine aerial photography technology with automated algorithms to create 3D modeling of cities and towns. The first step in producing a 3D model of a city is done via aerial survey flights. We update our models regularly, and this means that we have a dedicated team that operates flights and photography equipment, as well as image processing engineers. Since the skies are currently closed by the Israeli Air Force, much of our work in Israel cannot be executed, which affects these teams’ ability to operate.

That said, we are also active worldwide, and we have numerous large-scale projects currently underway in the U.S., Ecuador, Italy, Portugal, and Japan. We have made tremendous efforts to continue supporting our global customers and partners during this challenging period.

What consequences have you experienced from these disruptions?

One commonly used application of our 3D models and platform is security, and many defense organizations use our platform for this purpose. Our platform enables security forces to explore the field, and skillfully plan its defense strategies. In the initial days of the war, we quickly understood that our platform could be a viable tool for all security teams. Over 1,000 new military security teams (“kitot konnenut”) were established in the last seven weeks, and we offer all of them access to our platform, free of charge. To date, we have supplied close to 200 hundred teams with full access to our platform, including detailed maps of their cities or neighborhoods. To better support these teams’ immediate needs, we even shifted our product development efforts toward security-related features. For example, this week, we are launching a new feature that enables every citizen to report an event, including their exact location, directly from their mobile phone to the emergency team in their city or town.

The effect on our business this last quarter goes even further. We experienced delays in delivering our products and projects due to a shortage of manpower, the inability to conduct aerial survey flights, and a decrease in new business from our Israeli customers, which are affected by the local real estate market.

What are the two major challenges you are coping with these days?

Our challenges are two-fold – business, and people. Businesswise, due to the current market situation, and our inability to conduct aerial survey flights, we are facing a significant reduction in revenues for Q4. What’s more, the uncertainty factor is still very much present, making it difficult to plan or expand our operations beyond 2023.

On the people side, as we have all witnessed, people are frightened, and unsure as to what the future holds. Their sense of security, their safety, has been greatly damaged, broken, if you will. With that, they are uncertain about the future of the country, and they need constant support and reassurance. Feelings of absolute fear can prevent employees from coming to the office, for example, or cause them to lose focus on their daily tasks. In the first few weeks of the war, our employees had a really tough time focusing on their work. These are stressful times, to say the least, both on a national scale, and personally as well, as many employees’ family and friends are in the military or in the reserves or were indirectly affected by friends and colleagues who were either killed or injured on October 7.

What support do you provide to employees?

We granted all our employees a two-week break right at the start of the war. Rather than forcing them to work, we enabled them to spend much-needed time with their families, volunteer, or do whatever they needed or wanted to do. I was proud to see that many employees chose to spend this time taking part in various community volunteer projects. We have employees who traveled to southern Israel to help survivors and their families, while others were active in logistics or explanatory social media initiatives.

Every week, we maintain clear and consistent communication with all of our employees on reserve duty. To show our heartfelt appreciation, greeting cards, and chocolates were sent to their families.

We also keep our employees informed about how we, as a company, are acting and reacting to the situation. We are fully transparent with our decisions, and explain our actions to each and every employee, so that there’s no uncertainty or fear about the company’s future. We also maintain a very flexible attitude towards all requests from employees affected by the war, and provide days off, vacations, and leaving early or coming in late – whenever and whatever they need.

Do you have employees with foreign citizenship who asked to work from another country? If so, has movement been requested/approved?

We have not yet received any such requests, however, if an employee’s work could be executed in a similar way, long distance, we will positively consider any and all requests to work remotely.

How do you communicate the situation to customers? Do you see hostility or support?

We have seen tremendous understanding and support from all of our global customers and partners. In Israel, we have government agencies as customers that understand the effects of the war on our business, and have agreed to transfer payments due earlier than initially planned.

We had global customers very concerned about the situation, especially in the first few weeks. For example, one of our partners in East Asia called me directly to ask if we are still going to be around, in other words still available, for a joint project planned for January 2024. Our customers’ questions resonated with very real fears that Israeli companies would not be able to deliver due to the war. We assured them that we could do the work as planned, including our actively joining the “Israeli hi-tech delivers, no matter what!” LinkedIn campaign. In a word, from that point on, our global customers and partners were extremely supportive and understanding and always expressed their unwavering support of Israel, and our company.

In the event employees feel they encounter hostility, how do you guide them to respond to the situation?

Under no uncertain terms will we tolerate any type of hostility to the situation by any of our customers. We will, however, make every effort to accommodate customers’ claims, and explain our point of view, and if hostility or antagonism remains, we will end the discussion then and there, even if they are a customer. Our sales and support teams were instructed not to accept any type of hostility, and report to management immediately if any such incident occurs.

Startups only: How do you communicate the situation to investors, and how are they reacting

Fortunately, our investors Fortissimo Capital are a private equity fund in Israel who are very supportive and understanding of the situation. From the first week following October 7, they initiated working groups within their portfolio companies to support employees’ families and encourage companies to assist communities that were affected by the war. Fortissimo CEO Yuval Cohen was directly involved in pushing this effort forward and was personally in touch with our management team to see what assistance they could provide us as a fund. This unprecedented outreach and support was especially reassuring and helpful during the first weeks of the war.

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