Pioneer Of Humanability: Ran Harnevo

Pioneer Of Humanability: Ran Harnevo
Technology

In an interview with PSFK, working in collaboration with Verizon, Ran Harnevo discusses how he is using technology for good with his work for Homeis

PSFK
  • 1 august 2018

In a special series brought to you with the help of our partner Verizon, The Pioneers of Humanability is directing the spotlight onto the people, organizations, and companies who are using technology to do more new and do more good in the world.

Living abroad can feel like having two homes. It can be a challenge to embrace the place where you live while also honoring the place where you came from. Ran Harnevo, Founder and CEO of Homeis and one of the Pioneers of Humanability, is using technology to create a digital community where foreign-born people can connect with other locals who share the same homeland. In this interview, Ran describes how Homeis lets people connect with nearby friends to celebrate their culture and discover their new cities.

PSFK: How does the work that you do strengthen or positively impact communities?

Ran Harnevo:  Basically, what I think we’re trying to do is to help immigrant communities that are pretty below the radar. We want to help what we call “unvisible” groups to become visible communities. In most cities in the world, there’s a lot of local immigrant communities that are strong, help each other, support each other, help the integration into the society in the best way possible. That’s our focus. We’re helping these communities.

PSFK: What inspired or motivated you to do more new and do more good?

Ran:  I came here 10 years ago with my first startup, a video startup that got acquired by AOL for $65 million. I lived here for 10 years. I look at myself as a privileged immigrant. Still, I think that there are so many difficulties and shared experiences that communities have. I just saw my own community, which is the Israelis in New York, and many other communities of friends. After being successful with my first startup, it was super important to me, when creating a second one, to do something that is meaningful. I want to help my people, and when I say “my people,” it’s foreign-born people. I feel I understand them profoundly well.

PSFK: You talk about culture networks. What sets Homeis apart from other apps or networks that connect local people?

Ran:  We are not connecting local people. We are connecting the local people that share the same culture they bring from home. It’s very different. We’re not gathering around a neighborhood or around an interest. When you move to a new country, you first of all want to assimilate, and you want to give back. You want to find what’s in common between you and your place. But you also, in our day and age, are not going to delete your past in order to integrate. I think that’s over.

When we say culture, there’s a lot of shared context behind me and another Israeli. We grew up in the same education system, around the same TV shows, the same books and the same culture that we want our kids to have as well. I actually think that there is no second Homeis out there, trying to connect people that literally grew up in the same culture, and want to preserve it one shape or form.

PSFK: What user needs or behaviors drove the particular features of Homeis?

Ran:  I think that what we are trying to do is organize information through our social activities—meaning that when you look at foreign-born people, what they really do offline all the time is recommend. It’s really a network of recommendation and trust. “This is the lawyer you should work with. I worked with him. He understands us. He understands our mentality. He speaks our language,” etc., etc. In a way, I think that these communities and their ability to consume knowledge in an organized way is extremely difficult today.

As much as digital is flourishing, we are still seeing people calling each other to get a recommendation. The crowd wisdom or the crowdsourcing has never existed before. I think that drove the products. The product is about helping together and sharing useful information that would improve their day-to-day life in a place people are not totally familiar with.

PSFK: What are some of the surprising or inspirational stories members have shared about their experience?

Ran:  First of all, I feel that people feel comfortable. There is something about being foreign born where saying, “I miss home. I miss this, I miss that,” is not something you can share on a Facebook page. It’s just a very personal experience. On Homeis, people are literally sharing a lot of their journey, and a lot of their difficulties. They feel that it’s a shared experience in the context of the product. That’s one rich thing.

The second one I would say is there is a lot of small businesses that are only directed towards a certain group. If I’m an immigration lawyer, and I speak Hebrew, most of my customers are Israelis. If I’m a gynecologist and I speak Portuguese, most of my customers will be Brazilians. Today, these guys have no way to let the world know that they exist. What was surprising for us was how many of them joined us to be able to tell their story about a small business they’ve built. It’s business, but it’s very inspiring. We can actually help extremely small businesses that are not even indexed in Google to be able to talk to their audience in a very effective way.

PSFK: What are the unmet needs you’re trying to address?

Ran:  I think it’s very simple. We want to be the go-to product for every foreign-born person around the world. If you are not one of them, you don’t understand how deep and personal their needs are. The use case here is very clear to us.

We have a group of people who have done a brave thing. They left their comfort zone. They live in a new place, with new rules, with new systems. Their needs are pretty obvious, it’s just that no one has ever created a product for that.

PSFK: How do you see Homeis evolving in the future?

Ran:  We’re only in New York right now with two communities, Israelis and French. We will grow both of them globally in the next year. It will be open to more French communities and more Israeli communities.

Then, we just want to take one country at a time, and adapt the product to the language, hire the right people and just go at it. Indians, Mexicans, Koreans, everybody. The idea, again, is to be the main place where foreign-born people are going to.

Building strong digital communities for foreign-born people  is possible with technology platforms like the one Homeis has built. For more about how innovators like Ran are using technology to serve progressive goals and better the community for all, see the Pioneers of Humanability, brought to you by PSFK with Verizon.

Verizon’s Pioneers of Humanability list honors the people, organizations and companies that are using technological innovations to bring about good things for the world. These are the pioneers, keeping food safe and water clean, cutting pollution, saving energy and enabling doctors to treat patients a county or a country away. They’ve stopped asking “What if?” or “Why isn’t?” and started doing and leading. These are the people, organizations and companies you need to know about now—because they’re building the future.

In a special series brought to you with the help of our partner Verizon, The Pioneers of Humanability is directing the spotlight onto the people, organizations, and companies who are using technology to do more new and do more good in the world.

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