Meet the CEO who started out in Shai Agassi’s basement – and now manages a Unicorn
Udi Ziv, CEO of Earnix, grew up without a penny to his name in the wealthiest neighborhood in the world • This year he turned an insurance-technology company into a Unicorn • “The established insurance companies are panicking, they are desperate for change, and we are their key to achieve that”.
40 years ago, when he was 14 years old, Udi Ziv, a teenager from Haifa, found himself in Beverly Hills High, the most famous high school in the world that later served as an inspiration for the “Beverly Hills 90210” TV series. “The students were all loaded, with parents in show business and such, just like the type you’d see on the show,” recalls Ziv (54), CEO of Earnix, an insurance startup. “They had incredible mansions and private planes, and there I was, a penniless guy from a blue-collar city, living in a 650 sq ft. rented apartment with four other people.” Ziv’s father got a job in the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, and the family immigrated from Haifa. His parents wanted him to get a good education, so
they decided to settle in Beverly Hills. In reality, all they could afford was a tiny apartment in the neighborhood. This did not make life easy for young Ziv. In retrospect, he actually describes it as a defining experience. “I saw incredible success all around me and asked myself: why not me? There was a certain level of coping, and I was required to become a part of something that up until yesterday I did not belong to. It definitely helps you develop ambition.”
Ultimately, the move was deemed a success: “The first year was difficult, I learned English from TV over the course of it”, he recalls, “But then I started to feel more at home in school and had a wonderful couple of years. Fortunately,
there were a lot of Jewish students there, and since it was the early 80s being an Israeli was like being a hero, thanks to the Entebbe Operation.”