A s’more may not be the most ideal meal for international transportation, but as a company, well, that’s a whole different story. Smore, an Israeli-based firm that enables users to develop newsletters, flyers and other marketing material, recently opened its American office in Spaces, a Bakery Square site frequented by creatives, entrepreneurs and startups.
While scouring the United States for a potential home, Emily Willner, a former Youngstown, Ohio, resident, visited Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Miami. Ultimately, however, Smore’s head of customer success selected Pittsburgh as the company’s second post.
“I felt like there was something already established that we could springboard off of,” she said.
As a hub of higher education and technology, Pittsburgh presented a viable option. More importantly though, picking Pittsburgh was prudent.
“Our investors are really happy with our choice. A lot of time, Israeli startups don’t know where to go in the U.S.; they only know New York and San Francisco, so they’ll go there, the most expensive places in the country and they’ll get stuck there, and then they realize it doesn’t make sense for my business,” explained Willner. Investors “respected the fact that we were so practical in our choice, that we could sustain ourselves here.”
Five months into the move, Willner’s appreciation of the area has grown.
“I like that you can talk to anybody and everybody is open to talk to you,” she said. “It’s a very community feeling.”
Such accessibility is critical as Willner seeks to expand the brand throughout the region.
While Smore has built a following in Texas, New York and California, “we are hoping to be able to get to know people here, let them know that we are here, that we can solve this problem for them, because I’m positive that it’s a problem.”
What Willner is referring to is the difficulty encountered in easily disseminating information. Whether the digital user is a school, corporation or youth group, there is an inherent need to transmit material clearly and attractively. That’s where Smore, “an interactive online newsletter,” comes in, she explained.
“Anybody can use us, there is very little onboarding,” she said. “You just sign up and open up a template.”
From there, users can input information, videos, links, PDF files “and everything,” she added. Smore then sends the completed template out via email or social media. Apart from being “easy to use,” they are “really beautiful newsletters.”
Aiding any aesthetic appeal is Smorinio, the company’s logo. Typically sandwiched between two graham cracker crusts, the sweet symbol has also appeared with a graduation cap above his head.
“We’re really big in the education market,” said Willner. She also noted that “60 percent [of the firm] is women.” She frequently boasts about the figure, “because there are not a lot of women in tech, and our company is very inclusive and has a lot of women in leadership positions.”
Smore opened for business in 2011. While the Tel Aviv-based firm was able to create a customer base thousands of miles abroad, managing those relationships from afar “became a problem,” said Willner. Issues including time zone differential, shipping, billing and other logistics necessitated a domestic presence in the United States.
“We needed somebody to be here to be on the same time zone and manage some of the tasks that come along,” said the Ohio University graduate who moved to Israel in 2012.
Although Willner and a recently hired staff person are now in Pittsburgh, there is no thought to relocate the small business’ remaining employees.
“We are still a very Israeli company,” she said. “And there’s still access to a lot of tech there that is better than here…Israel is known as the startup nation and they have some of the best developers, I think, in the world. It’s a different way of thinking so you would never take away that access to talent that’s there.”
Even so, Willner does plan on parading Pittsburgh to her leadership team when they visit this summer.
“People really value family here, and they really value face to face conversation, and that comes with the friendliness,” she explained. “There is a very family oriented feeling about Pittsburgh. I think that’s why people are so nice…It’s a very down to earth city.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.