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From vocational school to the CEO’s chair

Interview

From vocational school to the CEO’s chair

Eternity-IT CEO Asaf Bar’s journey to build his IT company included many twists and turns. Along the way, he burned a computer, worked from his basement, and created an app to find missing people

Maayan Manela  | 12:24  27.06.2021
When Asaf Bar, Eternity-IT CEO, was 8-years-old he received his first IBM computer, and on the very same day, burned it. "I wanted to see how it works. I opened it to learn about its chips and burned it after two minutes when I touched some contacts. We replaced it, but this computer was my gateway into the world of development. I bought books and started learning software languages," Bar said.

Although he was interested in computers from an early age, his journey to a technological career and founding an IT company was anything but routine. After not being accepted to a good high school in his hometown of Bat Yam, Bar was forced to go to a vocational school in Tel Aviv. "At that point, I realized that if I didn't put the effort into my studies I would have a problem later in life. I enrolled in accounting class and I graduated successfully and with full matriculation, a very rare thing in itself in that school," he explained. During his military service, Bar served as a Border Patrol fighter and two years later, due to injury, moved to the Communications Corps. "I insisted on going into something that deals with software and very quickly I found myself writing code in the Communications Corps. Everyone there thought some clerk had arrived, but I came in with capabilities." During his service, he also started studying accounting, but then, advice from his partner's father changed the course of his life.

Eternity-IT CEO Asaf Bar Photo: Courtesy Eternity-IT CEO Asaf Bar Photo: Courtesy Eternity-IT CEO Asaf Bar Photo: Courtesy

"From the age of 16 I was not living at home, I lived at my girlfriends’ because as a child of divorced parents I was looking for a home that had both a father and a mother. During my military service, I made a living repairing computers. It was the beginning of the internet age and I was more interested in the dark parts of the net - mainly hacking. My girlfriend’s father saw my abilities with computers and urged me to leave the accounting studies, luckily he really insisted and even helped me pay for my studies. I switched to studying computer science at Tel Aviv University. It was one of the best decisions of my life and very quickly, while still in the military, I found myself joining a startup and working in a company with people who are within the software world. That was the first time in my life that someone had given me a chance," Bar said.

After completing his military service, Bar was hired as a database supporter and trainee at S.R.L for NIS 4,000 (about $1,200) a month - and thus began his career in the IT field. "I would work and study 300 hours a month. Something inside me told me that the more I know and get involved the more I will learn. The desire to prove myself made me work crazy hours. It was important for me to know a lot about an array of topics, and then to dive into specific ones when needed. Any gaps I had I covered through dozens of hours and nights. There was no technological question that came across my desk that was left unanswered." During this period Bar also met his wife and had a baby girl. And with such changes in his personal life, he decided to move on to a new job.

The turning point

Bar’s second opportunity did not come easy. It was when he started his job at Opisoft, "I came in demanding to be a CTO, which was not well accepted with only four years of experience in the field. I came to an interview, but they wanted me to be a senior developer. When I left the room, the CEO said ‘we do not have a CTO role at the moment, but we had a deal that went wrong. It involves a technology that no one here knows. If you go to a meeting and succeed in bringing us the project, the job is yours.' It was JAVA-based technology. I picked up a book and read it. I went to a meeting and it ended with us getting the project - and me getting the job. I was at Opisoft for five years, and that is where I was introduced to the BI field, in which I work today."

After five years, when he felt he had reached his glass ceiling at Opisoft, Bar set his eyes on his next goal, leading the BI field at the business level. He moved to Bynet Software Systems and founded its BI department. "The opportunity for me there was to set up the BI field and lead its activity with both hands, even though the salary was relatively low. I was there for two-and-a-half years and the team grew to 50 people, the success was rapid and I felt things could be done differently. I had already been with two companies, and created a field of ​​activity for one of them." Bar left Bynet in 2008 to found Eternity-IT, which he heads to this day.

Bar launched the company from the basement of his home, and already on the first day had a system for reporting hours, internal corporate emails, and even a phone switchboard. "Everyone laughed at me for being a one-person company with a phone switchboard. As a person who always thinks big, I remember imagining where I want to go in detail and I strongly believe that the universe listens. When you want something and strive for it, and of course, do not lose hope and desire to achieve it - you will get there," Bar said.

The lowest point

Six months after Bar founded Eternity came the 2008 economic crisis. "No phone calls or faxes came in. We were a very small company, 10 employees and I had no work to give them. That was the big crisis point in my career. I embarked on a new path with high self-confidence, I was responsible for families that depended on me for a living, and was under pressure that there were no calls or faxes. Every night I would stare and think ‘what can I do differently? How can I reinvent the company?’ And throughout this period, our competitors were gloating and waiting for our fall," Bar explained.

Bar describes that period as one long, continuous day, in which he realized that he must innovate, change work methodologies, turn to different markets and continue to fight. "That was the time where I found out what it means to be a fighting entrepreneur. An ordinary entrepreneur who has dreams and he wants to make them come true will move between things - he will see that something is not going well and will move on. For me the option of not being there did not exist," he said. After about a year and a half, the company grew by 30 employees and its reputation grew in the market. "Every person who sets up a business should start from the premise that no one will be there during the difficult moments. That his tools are creativity and perseverance. Even though I have a lot of friends in the industry, at the end of the day, everyone is committed to his own organization and not to his friend."

During 2015, what Bar defines as the company’s “hottest period,” his father was injured in a car accident. "I found myself caring for my father while working every day and after two months he passed away." That was the point where he decided to make another change and sold part of the Eternity to Aman group for tens of millions of shekels. "I got divorced and set out on a new and better path for myself. I decided I wanted to take some load off myself and sold to Aman group. Sometimes you have to neutralize your ego in order to grow. It was one of the most significant decisions because in joining forces with Aman, Eternity moved up to the major leagues. We were 250 employees and in four years we became 500. Number two in the Israeli market in terms of data," he said

Hazilu

A 2018 missing person case greatly affected Bar and led him to take action. 34-year-old Noga Yitzhak from Tel Aviv was last seen in Ramat Gan before disappearing two days before her birthday. Bar embarked on creating Hazilu (a cry for help in Hebrew), an app that helps parents of children with disabilities and children of seniors with dementia to protect their families and locate them when necessary. "I went to meet Noga Yitzhak's father, Ron and asked him what we as a technology community can do. He said he gets hundreds of pictures from people who say they saw Noga and he can't really identify her. I realized it was solvable and that's where the venture came from," Bar said.

To date, the app, which uses facial recognition technology, has helped locate hundreds of people and reconnect them with their family. "In a two-year process we have reached dozens of local authorities and harnessed them to the project. We have 450,000 registered users and I am very proud of this venture. It is free and it is for a good cause."

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