We recently had a chat with Cutover Chief of Staff & VP Partners, Elad Cohen Toren, on his experience working in a high-growth startup and the evolving “Chief of Staff” position in tech.
- Can you describe your job here at Cutover?
Sure! As Chief of Staff, I get to work with our CEO Ky Nichol on a wide variety of strategic initiatives depending on what the business needs to evolve. This could mean working with different departments on specific key projects, working with our board and investors, or working closely with our senior leadership team with a strong emphasis on go-to-market and operations. I particularly enjoy when I have the opportunity to focus on leading a certain project that could have a lot of impact.
For example, when I first joined I was asked to build our product line teams and act as a general manager for our main product line for a few months.
In the last quarter, I was asked to step in to run our Partners team. This is a wonderful opportunity to work closely with AWS, Deloitte, PWC, and more. I am really enjoying it.
- What is your career background and how did you first get into your position at Cutover?
I started my career as an entrepreneur in Tel Aviv, Israel, where I built an entrepreneurship center which we later raised a seed fund for and I acted as the VP of business development there. I then got my MBA from INSEAD in both France and Singapore and started a career in B2B SaaS. After my MBA, I worked at two hyper-growth VC-backed startups before Cutover in roles spanning from Product Management to General Management. I then had my own startup in London for two years during Covid and when we decided to close shop, I got introduced to Ky by an investor I knew and have never looked back!
- How do you think the “Chief of Staff” position has evolved in the tech industry over the last five years?
It’s funny, I still get a lot of surprised looks when I talk about my role sometimes. Though it’s more common in tech these days, it’s still sometimes perceived as a job that only the White House should offer. However, beyond the title, I think that founders have found that it’s a great way to bring talent into the organization; talent that doesn’t necessarily fit into one box but can still add a lot of value. In startups, there are so many things to fix or pay attention to that I think naturally you get a lot of responsibility in this role. When I met a group of fellow Chiefs of Staff from the Index Ventures portfolio, they all shared similar experiences and seemed really pleased with their growth trajectory. I feel the same.
- What do you wish you knew about your role going into it?
To be honest, I didn’t know much about the role and I think that was a blessing in disguise for the most part. I was able to be myself and bring my own experience into the role. I wouldn’t change anything about that experience. One nuance that I had to learn on the job was that sometimes people don’t know if they are speaking to you or to the CEO (that you’re reporting to), so I’ve learned to say “this is coming from me” when needed. It leads to a more open and honest conversation. Sometimes you do have to share news directly from the CEO and in those conversations, you definitely pay close attention to the words you choose.
- What are the upsides of working for a startup as opposed to a larger corporation?
There are so many. First, you get to see the accelerated evolution of an organization. Second, you get to impact a lot of that growth trajectory, shape it, and learn from it. Third, the type of people that you are working with are go-getters that are smart and driven which is really inspirational. Beyond that, there are potential commercial and financial upsides to working for a startup but that comes with a certain level of risk. It’s not for everyone, though I personally enjoy it.
- What advice would you give someone exploring a Chief of Staff role?
Try to get as much experience as possible before if you can. The more you know, the more you can add value in your role. Look to work for someone you respect and appreciate that you can learn from but also complement in certain ways. The role is only as good as the remit your CEO gives you so that matters a lot, as does the trajectory of the company. In this role, you are serving the company’s best interests. As much as this is a cliché, it’s a mindset that one has to really live by.
- Where do you see your career journey progressing with Cutover in the future?
Earlier this year, I was asked by our CEO, Ky, to step in and run the Partners team at Cutover. This is a very exciting opportunity for me to learn and add value. I am naturally drawn to go-to-market-related activities and operations and the direction of partnerships and operations is definitely of interest to me. I don’t know what it means in terms of titles but that doesn’t matter to me as much. Among that, we have a great partnership with AWS that I really enjoy driving. I am really grateful for the opportunity to work at Cutover and be a part of that exciting journey.
Want to join the Cutover team? Take a look at our available roles across the UK and US.