Keeping Culture Alive During COVID-19: An Interview with Stav Aldaag, VP Product and Initiator of Hopa

Keren Halperin

Keren Halperin

November 25, 2020

As the COVID crisis unfolded and months of lockdown dragged on, Stav Aldaag, Namogoo’s VP Product, was struck with inspiration. She thought of a unique way to use her Product powers to give back to her community and support arts & culture workers. With the help of the Namogoo team, her idea — an events and experiences marketplace platform called Hopa — came to life. In this interview, she shares the story of Hopa’s genesis and why it could have only happened at Namogoo.

 

Hi Stav. Thanks for talking with me today. I’m excited to hear about Hopa, but before we get there, tell me about your role at Namogoo and how you got started at the company. 

I’m the VP Product at Namogoo, and I started at the company two years ago. At the time, there were two product managers, and now there are 10. I’ve seen a lot of growth at Namogoo, and I’ve grown a lot here, too. Before Namogoo, I led the Product division at VATBox, a B2B SaaS startup in the fintech space. And before that, I was at HP.

 

Let’s talk about Hopa. First of all, what is it?

Hopa is a marketplace platform that helps musicians, performers, trainers, chefs, and arts & culture practitioners of all kinds connect to audiences in our new COVID-19 reality. You can use it to buy tickets to a Zoom concert by your favorite singer, or you can even invite artists into your home to perform for a small, COVID-compliant group. The service providers, as we call them, can offer whatever kind of experience they like, as long as it fits within the current pandemic restrictions.

 

That is incredible. We’re all craving “normal” cultural experiences in these times, and Hopa helps make those happen. What was the inspiration behind it? 

It was May when I realized: COVID-19 is not going anywhere any time soon. The media in Israel was covering the harsh effects of the lockdowns on arts and culture. A huge amount of artists, entertainers, fitness trainers, lecturers, and other professionals who depended on audiences were left without work. And people like me who love to spend time at restaurants and shows—we were giving up so much that we loved, as well.

 

One night after I put my son to bed, I was watching the news and I realized: we have to find a way to help these people who are truly cultural service providers, so they don’t have to give up their careers. There must be a way to adapt live experiences to our new normal. We don’t have to erase these experiences, I thought. We can just shrink them. So, instead of playing music for thousands of people, musicians can now play private shows. Instead of cooking for a whole restaurant, a chef can serve a private dinner. It felt like a win-win situation for the service providers and also for us, the audience.

 

After this realization, how did you translate your ideas into action?

I called our CEO Chemi at 11pm, and I told him I had a great idea. Namogoo was the best place to make something like this happen. We are constantly solving complex, unprecedented problems in our work, and we have a real culture of helping each other. These two things together meant that I knew we could build something to help our community.

Chemi thought it was a great idea, and the next day, we had a strategy meeting. And in ten days, the platform was live.

 

It’s amazing how quickly Hopa came to life. What happened after the platform went live?

Within a month, there were over 300 service providers—musicians, chefs, lecturers, etc.—on the platform. It happened very fast. Our office manager Orr took the lead on the day-to-day execution of the platform, and she did an absolutely amazing job. Other employees started to lend their expertise in their free time, as well. We did proactive outreach to many artists and musicians, too. The idea immediately resonated, and we got a lot of traction that way.

We’ve also had the opportunity to partner with the municipality of Tel Aviv. With the support of the municipality, there are now advertisements for Hopa all over the city. They really believe in Hopa’s potential, and have invested to keep it alive for three years at least. In January, Tel Aviv will take over the operations of Hopa, as well.

 

What is your dream for Hopa in the future?

My dream is that Hopa will continue to be meaningful to people, even when we’re out of this pandemic. Having small, private shows is a great trend that can continue, even when COVID-19 is history.

 

Any final thoughts?

The big lesson in Hopa’s story is about adaptation. With Hopa, we provided a space where artists could reimagine their work and successfully adapt to new types of experiences. At Namogoo, we learned something about adaptation, too. We’re a startup that had never done something like this before, but we identified a way to help our community, and so we adapted our skill sets to make it happen. We’ve had a big impact, and it all came from our willingness to come together and adapt to new circumstances.