For the last 3 weeks, NextDor has been running its New York Accelerator Program for the best and brightest social entrepreneurs. Some have organizations in their early stages while others are running well established organizations they want to take to even greater heights.
One of the most widely recognized organizations participating in the NextDor Accelerator is TorahAnytime. If you’re reading this newsletter, it’s likely that you have watched a TorahAnytime video or listened to a TorahAnytime audio. We’re thrilled to have such an acclaimed Jewish non-profit participating in our Accelerator, demonstrating that there is always room for growth whatever stage of development you’re at.
A Little History
TorahAnytime was founded in 2006 by Shimon and Rubin Kolyakov, two brothers from Queens, New York who saw a need for their friends and family to be able to watch lectures given in their community at their own convenience and in the comfort and privacy of their homes.
Today, TorahAnytime is an organization that records Torah lectures given around the world and uploads the footage to their website for the whole world to watch, free of charge. From the sick and elderly, to busy mothers and working professionals, to Jews living in countries where limited live shiurim are available, TorahAnytime bridges the gap making quality lecturers from renowned speakers accessible at the click of a button.
A Growing Impact
TorahAnytime currently has 20,000+ Torah videos of over 400 different speakers. Recording as many as 220 new lectures per week, the site receives close to 100,000 monthly visits from over 120 countries. TorahAnytime has cameras on every continent except Antarctica. Remarkably, more than 6 million hours of Torah is being learned every year through TorahAnytime.com!
One on One with TorahAnytime
We sat down with Yosef Davis, Executive Director, to learn more about TorahAnytime, its growth and what motivated the team to get involved with NextDor.
What is your background and how did you come to join the TorahAnytime team?
I come from a finance background, working in the private sector. I was also a short range sniper and combat soldier in the Israeli army. On a trip to visit family in the US, I met Shimon at a Chabura. He was behind a video camera taping a shiur being delivered by R’ Noach Isaac Oelbaum. I spoke with Shimon about what he was doing.
At this point, Shimon and Rubin had been running TorahAnytime as a side project to help friends and family get access to Torah lectures more easily and conveniently. He was so passionate and energetic about this side project that it intrigued me. I got involved almost immediately to help scale the operation and set up satellite locations.
What are your responsibilities as Executive Director?
I played a key role in setting up the board and getting TorahAnytime incorporated. Everyone on our team wears many hats and juggles a myriad of responsibilities. I’m primarily responsible for all non-tech related responsibilities and domains, including marketing, PR, finance, advertising, customer service, metrics and campaign management.
What would you say are some of TorahAnytime’s greatest accomplishments to date?
Launching our new and improved site in July 2013 was a great milestone as was debuting our new mobile app. We recently joined forces with our now Co-Chair of the Board, Chesky Kauftheil, whose vision, experience and guidance stemming from his love for klal Yisrael have been so helpful in growing our organization. Our team is also proud to put out a weekly publication called TorahAnyTimes sharing the best stories, anecdotes and ideas from our speakers.
What are some of the challenges your team faced as TorahAnytime evolved?
Transitioning TorahAnytime from a side project to a full-fledged non-profit organization was a journey with many obstacles. Incorporating was a new challenge that required a lot of paperwork and support. B”H, over the years we have had to expand our infrastructure to keep up with growth. We’ve had to learn to communicate effectively with and meet the diverse needs of our users, speakers, donors and partners. Of course, like all organizations, we have also had to learn the importance of effective fundraising and the challenges that come with it. Through every challenge – and in the face of new demands as we evolve – we strive stay focused and remain true to our core mission.
How did you hear about NextDor?
Chanan, the founder of NextDor, and Shimon, the co-founder of TorahAnytime, happen to live in the same community. Chanan reached out to Shimon and shared about the upcoming Accelerator program. TorahAnytime was keen to participate because although we have achieved success, we are firm believers in continued learning and growth. This is true not only in Torah learning but in our desire to build a stronger, more sustainable organization.
What do you hope to gain out of the program?
TorahAnytime is and will always be a growth oriented organization and we want to fine tune it to continue our momentum. NextDor is the ideal environment for that. There’s an All Star team of mentors with a proven track record at your disposal and the opportunity to review key fundamentals that may seem basic, but are critical to sustainable growth and success.
Looking back, what skill or lesson do you wish you had known in TorahAnytime’s infancy?
We’re a tech-based organization and rely on the most advanced technology to provide a quality experience to our users. Learning the ins and outs of the best technologies for our use was a big learning curve. Over the years we have learned the importance of due diligence in the hiring process to ensure you’re getting the best players for your team. B”H we have learned both from mentors and from our mistakes.
What advice would you give to aspiring Jewish leaders just starting out with a new concept, initiative or young organization?
Don’t strive for perfection, strive for quality. Your organization will evolve and you will perfect and change it as you grow. A certain quote has been very helpful to us: “Don’t let the perfect spoil the good.” Many of us naturally have a tendency to pursue perfection, which isn’t always conducive to steady growth.
Another piece of advice would be to reach out to as many mentors as you can. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because no one person will have all the answers.
Last but definitely not least, constantly work on your emunah. Obstacles and difficulties are par de course. Some days you’ll feel like you’re scaling a 90 degree wall — and that’s ok as long as you’re making progress.
Who do you think would benefit from NextDor?
Any entrepreneurial-minded, passionate aspiring Jewish leader who has a dream they want to achieve for altruistic purposes would benefit from getting involved with NextDor. The Accelerator program offers a tremendous opportunity for social entrepreneurs to learn how to more effectively make a difference.
Are you an aspiring Jewish leader with an concept, initiative or non-profit organization? Do you want to learn the entrepreneurial tools that will help you achieve long-term success? Stay tuned about upcoming Accelerator programs, hopefully in a city near you!