Dr. Kira Radinsky: “Lady Globes” Woman Of 2016

By Hagit Bronsky
Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dr. Kira Radinsky, a computer scientist, sold her software company to ebay for a cool 40 million. She is now working on a new project, a prediction model to enable hospitals and health systems to calculate the probability that a patient will develop a given disease.
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No wonder this amazing woman was just named “Lady Globes 2016 woman of the year.”

Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel

Dr. Kira Radinsky, a brilliant computer scientist who has developed prediction software, has been selected by Lady Globes as 2016 woman of the year in its 50 Most Influential Women project.

Radinsky represents both scientific and business excellence, having achieved an impressive exit with the sale of her innovative development, SalesPredict, to eBay for $40 million. Lady Globes’ 50 Most Influential Women Rating lists the women who have achieved the highest positions in Israel and demonstrated the most breakthrough entrepreneurship.

Radinsky, 30, has an impressive resume of success. She was already studying at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology when she was 15, finished her doctorate at age 26, and developed an algorithm for predicting future events using artificial intelligence. She predicted the riots that broke out in Sudan and the US, the fall in electronics products prices following the tsunami in Japan, and the outbreak of cholera in Cuba.

“Founding a startup is like jumping off a cliff,” she told Lady Globes in an interview. “The most frightening thing is the first step. That’s the only thing I do as a manager — lower the internal barriers of fear of jumping into the water.”

Radinsky currently manages a program with hundreds of employees, and is taking steps to realize her next dream — devising a prediction model that will enable hospitals and health systems to calculate the probability that a patient will develop a given disease.

The 50 Most Influential Women rating for 2016 includes 19 managers appearing for the first time. The startup and high-tech industry, which until recently featured almost exclusively male management, this year produced a considerable number of inspiring success stories of women who achieved breakthroughs in technological entrepreneurship.

The special 50 Most Influential Women edition for the High Holy Days features interviews with the strongest women in Israel, in which they reveal 100 insights: the management secrets that propelled them to the top, the managerial practices important for getting ahead, their peak moments of the year, and effective habits in management and advice for young women in management. There are special interviews with Radinsky, MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union), Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI) CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Unilever Israel CEO Anat Gabriel, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, and television anchorwoman and investigative journalist Ilana Dayan-Orbach.

“What made me rise to the top? The difficulty

“At no point did we plan to sell my company,” Radinsky said in a Lady Globes interview. “It’s not something I thought about.

For me, the exit was a byproduct. I’m not in favor of selling too early, both for ideological reasons of retaining brains and in order to contribute to the country economically. The connection with eBay increased the number of our customers from several dozen to tens of millions, and for us, this was the realization of the company’s vision.”

“Globes”: Was that your vision as someone who could win computer games at age 5?

“No, not really. What I always wanted was to be a scientist. For me, being in a situation in which there’s a new discovery every day makes my life meaningful. The people I admire are scientists. As a girl, I admired Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci, people who loved research. Today, I admire smaller scientists.”

What motivated you in your ascent?

“Difficulty. I got that from my family. I grew up in Ukraine, where my parents knew that if they weren’t the best in the class, they wouldn’t get into university, so they had to do manual labor. The competition was very intense, because there were quotas for Jews, both for jobs and at the university. Only two Jews were accepted to Kiev University, and they had to fight for it. That’s what they taught me at home — that you have to fight. So for me, even if there are excellent researchers in the world, I have to be the best, and I’m pushing for it. It isn’t easy, because the competition is very intense, but everyone has to know what is special about him.”

What is special about you?

“To dream and to dare. I’ve often done things, even though they told me not to. There was even a risk in choosing a subject for my doctoral thesis, because I tried to find a way to predict things systematically, and I didn’t know if I would be able to publish the required number of articles. I told myself that as long as I’m doing research, even if I don’t succeed, I’ll at least know that I did something really big. When I was little, my mother told me Marie Curie had the same 24 hours a day that I did, and so there was no reason why I shouldn’t succeed like she did.”

At home, did they expect such achievements from you?

“They told me that it was important to get the maximum out of myself. I believe that it’s important to set a higher target than you think you can achieve, and to try to reach it. That’s better than aiming low, even if you know for sure you can achieve it.”

Did you encounter a glass ceiling at some point?

“Since I grew up in a family with only women, with my mother and my aunt (her parents divorced before she was born, and she never had a connection with her father, H.B.), I never thought there was such a thing as a glass ceiling or discrimination, and I certainly never felt it.”

So why are there so few women entrpreneurs?

“Because of the most basic thing of relations between the sexes. Women are educated to take fewer risks, and aren’t pushed in technological directions. It’s as if it’s unfeminine. I look at all the researchers examining mathematical abilities, and the results of women are much higher, but they suffer from lack of self-confidence, and they don’t want to seem aggressive.

“My recommendation to young women scientists is to go for it. There’s no real risk in founding a startup, and the failure of a startup is not a failure you can’t recover from. On the contrary, many venture capital funds prefer people who have accumulated experience, even if that experience was unsuccessful. I always say that I didn’t fail; I merely discovered a lot of ways that didn’t work.”

When you were young, did you do the same things as the others? Did you travel to South America after the army and spend a lot of time finding out who you were?

“I have a lot of fun in my life. Maybe I wasn’t a barmaid after the army, but I was a student, and I lived overseas as part of my work. I don’t think of my life as a race, but as a dream that I want to realize, and everything that happens on the way is simply a result of the road I’ve chosen. I have a lot of hobbies involving sports. I run, and my husband and I travel.”

The atmosphere around you sounds less casual and hip, and more like Ira Vigdozchik’s rhythmic gymnastics team.

“I believe in aspiring to excellence, and I hire people according to that. We should all have some vision and the same idea about how to work. With us, it’s the atmosphere of a commando unit. It’s something I also experienced in the army, when my commander would say, ‘First get results, then worry about how you got them.’ It’s the same with us — first achieve the target, with hard work and whatever it takes. You have to do that, because a startup has a short lifespan, and money is in short supply.”

Doesn’t that detract from the atmosphere in the company?

“Some startups are more casual, and some are more inflexible. It depends on the entrepreneurs. In any case, there has to be a good culture, even if the atmosphere is stricter, because a startup that doesn’t manage to produce a good culture won’t get far. It’s a basic character trait that’s necessary for success. I believe that the way to create it, among other things, is to take people who believe that anything is possible. If someone believes otherwise, it’s tough to change it.

“I do a lot of pushing my employees to take calculated risks. I urge them to be more than they think they can be. I like people who take risks. Founding a startup is like jumping off a cliff. The most frightening thing is the first step. That’s the only thing I do as a manager — lower the internal barriers of fear of jumping into the water.”

How do you do that?

“Everyone has a different fear. Some are afraid of failure, others are scared of shame or disappointment. I explain that we’re jumping off this cliff together.”

What does being rich do to you emotionally?

“I’m not a materialist, and I can’t even imagine that I’m able to do something now that I couldn’t do before. There are small things I really wanted, such as my family moving near me, for example.”

“Still, you grew up in poverty. Don’t you feel like making up for it?

“It’s true that my family came to Israel with nothing, and my mother had to work as a cleaner here at the beginning, but I never felt that I didn’t have enough toys, and my biggest happiness was playing computer games. I do remember really wanting Bamba when there wasn’t enough money to buy it. That’s one of my first memories. Now, ironically, I don’t even like Bamba.
“The nicest thing that ever happened to me was when I was six years old, and one of the neighboring girls gave me her old toys. When the leading family in Nesher, where I grew up, got cable TV, everyone on the street came to watch Channel 6. Back then, happiness and good experiences consisted much more of the interactions between children and people, not what you had.”

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