The inaugural InnOlympics was supposed to begin with the lighting of a ceremonial torch. But Zvika Netter, the co-founder and CEO of Innovid, forgot the torch at home. So he improvised.
Before a live crowd at the New York office and hundreds of remote employees tuning in via Zoom from places like Los Angeles, Chicago, Israel and China, he grabbed a box of tissues, hoisted it high, delicately pulled one so that it stood straight from the box, and lit it on fire.
Now, the games could begin.
The InnOlympics idea came from Leah Stewart’s team. The human resources associate thought they would be a fun way to involve Innovid’s global workforce in a collaborative, competitive and mandatory event that spanned three days and nearly 100 challenges. Teams were selected at random, and included everyone at the company, even C-suite execs.
One challenge involved creating an anthem about Innovid. Another was a penny-stacking contest. One was sourcing as many mini ketchup and mustard packets as possible in a one-hour span. VP of Product Marketing Laura Foster had to thread a string of uncooked spaghetti through five pieces of penne pasta — with her mouth.
“I think I got my team 1,000 points for that one,” Foster said.
Teams recorded videos of their achievements through an app where they could keep track of their points and their competition’s. In the end, Foster’s team won the grand prize, which included an Innovid-branded medal and a $100 gift card.
“But really, the whole company won, because an image of Zvika holding the flaming tissue box has become one of our most-used emojis,” Foster said.
Culture is a key factor as to why someone joins a company, and at Innovid, there is no shortage of it. The adtech company features a DEI task force, culture committee, wellness teams, mentorship programs, and yes, wacky events like the InnOlympics that create an inclusive and fun environment.
Want an inside glimpse as to what this culture looks like in action? Built In sat down with three team members to learn more.
WHAT THEY DO
What drew you to Innovid?
HR Associate Leah Stewart: I came from a very different background. I was working with the United Nations and knew nothing about adtech. But when I learned about Innovid, it seemed like a cool company. Then I fell in love with it when I walked into the office. The environment was just so vibrant. There was music playing and people chatting. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. I felt the warmth of the culture right away.
Technical Project Manager Roy Zhou: Funny enough, I actually interviewed at Innovid in 2019, and I was rejected. Then I was hired in 2021. Despite being rejected two years prior, I was still interested thanks to our HR team. The initial recruiter who recruited me back in 2019 is the same one who recruited me in 2021. She was so kind back in 2019, explaining that I may not be a great fit then, but that they wanted to keep me on record for the future. And she actually followed up with that!
VP, Product Marketing Laura Foster: I’ve been in the adtech space my whole career. At a previous job, I worked with a coworker for about three weeks, and then she left and went to Innovid. Years later, she asked me to join. I started the interview process and I was immediately treated like a human being. You’re not a number here. The emails were personal. The HR rep reached out to me and was like, “I just chatted with your friend for 45 minutes about you, and she’s obsessed with you. Let’s talk more and see if it makes sense, and if you like us, too.” The whole process just felt so different from a normal, very structured interview.
What do you brag to your friends about when it comes to Innovid?
Stewart: Swag! We have cool Nike sweaters, an Innovid hat, shirts, a backpack, pants and socks. The only thing we don’t have yet are shoes!
Zhou: Our happy hours. They are legendary across the industry. I’ll post pictures of them on my Instagram story, and all of my friends will be like, “What is this? Why wasn’t I invited? Can I come next time?” I even had a client say, “Hey, that looks really fun. I want to go do karaoke with everyone.” We may not see each other a lot since we work remotely. But when we do see each other, it’s fun and exciting.
Foster: The comfort of having tough conversations. At most companies I’ve worked for, you have to be positive in a room. My friends will frequently be like, “Ugh, we have this huge problem at work.” And my response is always, “Well, have you talked to your manager? Have you talked to leadership?” And they’re like, “I would never bring this up. I’ll just be seen as someone negative.” That does not happen at Innovid. In my experience, every single time I’ve discussed a problem with our CMO, CTO, CEO, I also come prepared with a solution, and they go “Great, do it.” I don’t feel strong layers of hierarchy here in terms of what I’m allowed to say or elevate.
What are some cultural events that bring your remote workforce together?
Zhou: I recently partnered with the global culture committee for Asian Pacific Islanders month to host a lunch and learn event about the history/how to make bubble tea. It’s the first time I’ve felt comfortable enough at a company to stand up and be that voice and teach my colleagues. The talk was in New York, but it was open to everyone on Zoom. If you weren’t in New York and you wanted to join, Innovid sent you a Grubhub gift card to get your own bubble tea. Nobody felt excluded. I’ll definitely do it again next year.
Foster: This isn’t a sanctioned event by HR, but there’s numerous employees at Innovid who have Pelotons, myself included. We created a global Slack channel called #InnoPeloton and every three to six months, we all join a class and cycle exclusively together via a unique code. We always say, “OK, we’re not going hard.” And then clearly some people start to go hard. I love our Peloton crew. It’s a different way to connect with people, and we can do it remotely.
Stewart: We have a wellness team and we’ve created a whole calendar of wellness events. For example, we’ll celebrate High Blood Pressure Education Month and provide information about that. Through our insurance provider Cigna, we’ll provide $25 gift cards to employees who get their annual physicals. We do yoga events and virtual seminars about health and wellness.
How does Innovid make DEI a priority?
Stewart: Our DEI initiatives are broken into three different categories. There’s a culture of inclusion committee, which I’m on. There is a community impact committee, which focuses on our mentorship program and internship program. And then there is a recruiting diverse talent committee. We all meet monthly to review what we’re doing in each of our groups.
Foster: I have been a mentor for the last two cycles of our mentorship program. It has honestly been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. Hearing my mentee say at the end of the program, “Thank you, this was really helpful,” made a strong impact on me. I think impostor syndrome comes for us all, and knowing that I was able to help someone definitely quiets those thoughts.
In March, Innovid acquired TVSquared, which added an additional 114 team members. How does an influx of people like that affect culture?
Zhou: Everyone who comes to Innovid has something to teach you. It’s also an excuse for ice cream. A group of us go into the NYC office every week and post pictures of our ice cream. There’s an ice cream shop by the office that I am a huge fan of called Café Panna. It’s become such a thing that one of our presidents likes to join along. Whenever someone makes a trip to the NYC office for the first time, we always make sure they come along too. It’s a must.
Foster: Everybody talks about preserving culture as you grow. I think the best way to preserve culture is to infuse new bits of culture into it because if it’s just us, always and forever, it’s not going to grow; it’s not going to continue. It’s going to get stagnant, dry and boring. I love that we now have a whole team in Edinburgh, Scotland. We have a team based in Tel Aviv, Israel. We really have such a fascinating and evolving culture.