By Talia Levin, Ziv Beilin, Bili Besserglick, Eilon Nofer
Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Top Israeli female entrepreneurs discuss how they founded and manage top technology ventures. The women were asked about mistakes they have made, the managerial advice that worked the best for them, and the effective management habits they have assumed.
Globes, Tel Aviv, Israel
Israeli women entrepreneurs were selected to take part in an innovative project and flew out to Silicon Valley in California.
The entrepreneurs were selected by a panel of judges in the We Act organization designed to promote entrepreneurship by women.
“Globes” gathered them into a group in order to hear their insights about founding and managing a technology venture. Among other things, the women were asked about mistakes they have made, the managerial advice that worked the best for them, and the effective management habits they have assumed. The following entrepreneurs have already raised millions of dollars.
Lital Leshem, cofounder and business development executive of Reporty Homeland Security, which has developed a rescue app based on video and pinpointing location in emergencies, has raised $6 million.
Orly Shoavi, founder and CEO of SafeDK, a mobile data management platform, has raised almost $6 million.
Hila Goldman-Aslan, founder and CEO of DiACardio, a innovative development for identifying cardiac events, has raised $5 million.
Smadar Landau, founder of Feelter, an app that collates information from the social networks about products before buying, has raised $4.5 million.
Iris Tsidon, cofounder and CEO of Okapi, a platform for improving organizational management, has raised $2.5 million.
Eynat Guez, cofounder and CEO of Papaya Global, a mobile global personnel placement app, has raised $1.5 million.
Sunbit cofounder and R&D manager Ornit Dweck-Maizel
The development: “A new payment method that allows people to devise their own personalized payment schedule.”
Record: “My entire career has revolved around the combination of technology and finances,” says Dweck-Maizel, 37. I started as a programmer, switched to development management positions at Intel, for example. As part of my jobs, I worked with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and investors. I was always responsible for large areas, and I knew that the next stage for me would be founding a company.”
She founded Sunbit, a startup, with three partners less than a year ago.
Effective management tools: “As a software development manager, I am a great believer in the Agile system, which stresses flexibility and quickness. This method has enabled us to come out with an initial product relatively quickly and post early profits, and the product is growing and developing. Once you define the set and work with it, and then listen to the needs in the market and adjust accordingly — that’s what enables you to make a good response quickly.”
An insight that changed my life: “It’s possible to balance entrepreneurship with family life. After my son was born, I stayed at home for a while, and I quickly realized that this wasn’t enough for me. I assumed that there must be a way between a demanding career and raising children, and I was determined to find it. Today, I know that it’s possible; you just have to build the right setup.”
Exit: “I’m not looking for it, and I don’t recommend that anyone look for a quick exit. The startup is our life for a good few years. If I don’t enjoy this road, we’ve done nothing. For me, the idea is to build a large company for the long term.”
To make a change: “One way to change the small number of women in the sector is to create a community, so that women feel comfortable, and have a place to seek advice and see that there are successes.”
Vala cofounder and CEO Tali Av-Zuk
The development: “We’re offering a ‘human ATM;’ we connect people who need cash with ‘cash agents’ — small businesses or private individuals who give money to people who need it, and we earn a commission from it.”
Self-discipline: at 6:30 AM, you will find Av-Zuk on a surfboard being carried along by the wind on the Tel Aviv beach. She battles the waves until 9, when she goes home and walks from there to her office on Rothschild Boulevard.
Record: Av-Zuk, 31, is an accountant with a BA in economics and accounting and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. Her career record includes a partnership in a startup that dealt with insurance for haulage companies in the US, a job as a financial analyst, being a manager responsible for emerging markets at Paypal, and working in the investment division of Barclays Bank.
She founded Vala a year ago with two partners: CTO Noam Nevo and COO/CFO Alon Zion.
Volume of activity: “We have the ability to reach anywhere in the world — even the most remote villages. We work mostly in India and places where everyone has a cellular device, but no access to financial services. It actually takes place through an app available in Google Store. A person in the US can send money to a person in India through our app. Even though he has no bank account, he can ‘withdraw’ the money from one of the agents in his neighborhood.”
Investors: The leading investors in the company are Barclays Bank and TechStars. Vala operates in the Israel and Indian markets. The company already has 150,000 cash agents in India. “We’re currently in the middle of another financing round, and we’re entering the US market.”
Model for inspiration: “I grew up in the home of an entrepreneur who encourages women entrepreneurs. My father, Joseph Avzuk, is a serial entrepreneur who founded many businesses in his life. Among other things, he was one of the Russia’s Internet pioneers. That’s how I was exposed to entrepreneurship from a young age.”
Lital Leshem — cofounder and business development executive of Reporty Homeland Security
The development: Reporty’s goal is to create a new standard in the reporting business. Instead of dialing emergency numbers at times of distress, the company offers an applicative interface. Clicking on a button opens the cellular device’s camera and provides a live video broadcast simultaneously with the call, including the precise location within buildings. Instead of a call operator asking questions to get information, a picture of the situation on location is available within seconds, which completely changes how emergencies are dealt with.
The investor: Reporty made headlines in May 2015, when former Prime Minister Ehud Barak invested $1.5 million in the innovative venture focusing on personal security. “Barak is the company chairman, and is in touch with us on a daily basis. He is a senior strategic investor, and is more involved than we could ask for,” Leshem, 29, says.
The beginning: “Amir Elichai, who is now Reporty’s CEO, saw pictures from my XStream on Facebook, and scheduled a meeting with me to convince me to import wave surfing equipment with him. I never planned to leave my job, but then he told me about an event that happened to him on the beach, in which he was attacked by a band of Sudanese. He dialed 100 for the first time in his life, but the call operator couldn’t help him. One of the problems was making her understand where he was. When you order a pizza or a cab, they come to the exact place where you are, but when a person is in distress, you can’t find him.”
The entrepreneurship sector: “I didn’t come from the technology sector at all. Today, three years after I entered the entrepreneurship world, I have no technological orientation in the company. I deal mainly with marketing and business development.
“In any case, after 10 minutes, he called me again, and told me, ‘We don’t know each other well enough, but you seem to me a spontaneous enough girl and I’d be glad if you joined. I don’t know why, but I agreed. Then tech lead Alex Dizengof joined, and we became partners.”
Business: “We launched the system in Israel six months ago, and we have over 100,000 users in Israel. The local authorities are connected to us, and the firefighters, Israel Police, and the Home Front Command are moving towards coming in. We dominate the entire market here, and the goal is to expand overseas — we want to create a global buzz. If you fly to Vienna, for example, and you have no idea what the emergency number is there, we can connect you with the local police call center.” Two weeks ago, the company closed its first financing round, raising $6 million.
Mistakes I made: “There were quite a few groups and people we relied on at the company level, and when things became more business-like and became more concrete, the fact that we hadn’t signed legal agreements suddenly hurt us. Today, I know that there’s no innocence in the business world. I came from the army, and here I learned that in the business world, you’re swimming with sharks, and they’re always lurking around, even if it doesn’t seem like it.”
Management insights I accumulated: “Just like in a wedding, it’s important to choose good partners. The human material is what will determine the company’s success — definitely. Another thing — you have to put your heart into it, and not let anyone upset you, because a lot of people try to take the wind out of your sails along the way. A last insight: Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. That’s all right — there will always be someone to teach you.
Effective management tools: “We have a founders’ meeting every Sunday morning. It doesn’t matter how much management grows; this meeting will always take place in the partners’ forum: Amir, Alex, and I. We talk about important subjects, and then we go to small meetings with people in other management positions. We try to maintain transparency, so that everyone knows what’s going on, and everyone is synchronized with everyone else.”
Mentor: “I consult with my father about everything. He served in the army until he was 45. After being a division commander, he was CEO in many companies, and researched a lot of startups. He always gave me the feeling of extraordinary capability and a correct perspective on things.”
Being an entrepreneur: “I know a lot of people who have amazing ideas, but don’t have a chance to take something and turn it from nothing into an accomplished fact, because they’re scared of failure. Taking risks, or to put it more accurately, taking chances, is the most important advice I can give.”
Noa Ohayon Bab — founder of a career venture and manager of the Colu community
The development: a system for local economic management, like a digital wallet suitable for countries, neighborhoods, and cities. In developing countries, where people do not have credit cards, the wallet makes it possible to narrow the digital gap. In Barbados, for example, Colu launched its electronic wallet 18 months ago. “In effect, we are enabling various communities to develop payment systems based on open code,” explains Noa Ohayon Bab, 30.
Products: The company’s initial product includes a special local currency that works in Israel and the UK. Colu raised $2.5 million in its seed financing round, and $9.6 million last June. The company is now continuing to build a platform that can include the digital economy generation.
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “We live in a constantly changing business world. Dozens of popular jobs in 2014 were not in existence in 2004. You can’t know what the world will look like, so it’s important to accumulate as much knowledge, expertise, and qualifications and people in your network of connections as possible.”
Wizer Feedback VP research Shani Broner Barkan
An insight that changed my life:
The development: An automated platform that supports decision-making processes for businesses and companies using market research.
Record: Equipped with a BA in psychology from Tel Aviv University, Shani Broner Barkan, 37, became global research manager for SodaStream International Ltd. (Nasdaq: SODA). “I managed research in 45 countries, and encountered many outmoded tools and long, slow processes in the course of my work. I also found a need from the business aspect, meaning the CEO and senior executives, for quick decision-making based on data.
“Conducting surveys is expensive and takes a long time. The budget was limited, and I had to look for creative solutions. In time, I realized that there was an unanswered basic need.”
Entrepreneurship: Broner Barkan joined Wizer Feedback at the stage in which the company entered the Nielsen Innovate incubator. “I came from very dynamic companies, but there’s something exciting in entrepreneurship that is in your bones. It’s a dynamic world. Everything changes in a moment; nothing is really known. You wake up each morning to something new. Things happen.”
Effective management tools: “When I was very young, I liked swimming. It was then that I realized that the human body has the ability to stretch the boundaries and go farther than you think. In the last 20 meters, I always told myself not to give up and surrender, and there was another burst of energy that pushed me forward. Years later, I realized that I also had to believe in myself in life, and to aim high. Each time I decided to change jobs, I set an ambitious target that would be a significant step forward and demand from myself a greater effort in learning and striving.”
DiACardio founder and CEO Hila Goldman-Aslan
It is a little difficult to believe, but one out of every 50 people who arrives at the hospital with a cardiac event is misdiagnosed and sent home. Some people are horrified by this statistic, but Hila Goldman-Aslan, founder and CEO of the DiACardio startup, has done something about it. DiACardio offers innovative technology for processing medical images that dramatically changes the way a cardiac ultrasound is analyzed. The company has already obtained FDA and CE approval, and has customers in the US and China. “It’s great to invest all of yourself in a doctors that makes doctors say, ‘Wow,’ and to know that we can save lives,” Goldman-Aslan told “Globes.”
Founded in 2009, DiACardio has raised $5 million to date. Goldman-Aslan’s partners come from a varied background. One, for example, manages an echo cardiac department at Soroka Medical Center, and another is Ben Gurion University of the Negev professor specializing in image processing.
Motivation: “A limit for women is something I never heard of at home. When I was a small child, they called me a trader. I never took ‘no’ for an answer, and I still don’t. I break through walls when I have to.”
Record: She has BAs in law and business administration and an MA in commercial law. When she finished her studies, she was accepted at a law firm specializing in high tech and the capital market. “The main partner in the firm took me under his wing. I stayed next to him all day. I sat in on board meetings, meetings at the Israel Securities Authority, offerings, investment meetings, and the founding and sale of startups.
“I learned to express myself, and I understood how business works from a legal perspective. But then I realized that I was on the wrong side of the business, because I recognized myself on the entrepreneurs’ side, this burst of energy, the excitement. Sitting for hours in a closed office and writing contracts became torturous.
“I knew that I wanted to be on center stage, to found my own startup, but I had no experience, and the timing was terrible. The high-tech bubble burst and workers were being fired. I constantly thought, ‘There are a thousand just like you.’ It gave me a feeling of insecurity that I had never encountered.”
To find a direction: “I realized that depression wasn’t for me. I’m an achiever. I can’t sleep at night, because my head is working all the time. So I stopped pitying myself and started sending dozens of CVs. I eventually got a job working in a startup, and that restored my confidence.”
First startup: “When I was working at the startup, someone told me about a researcher at the Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center who was developing something genetic that could someday cure diseases like AIDS. I was immediately attracted to the idea, and we both soon left our jobs and made the bungee jump as partners. We worked for year without any pay. My partner, who became a young father at that time, distributed newspapers early in the morning. I was going through my first pregnancy. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that I was putting everything into it.” After three years came the 2008 crisis, and they had to close down the company. “We couldn’t raise the substantial amount of money that a pharmaceutical company in genetic healing needs.”
Second startup: Goldman-Aslan looked for her next venture through research institute technologies. “I found a great technology at Bar Ilan University. We were swept off our feet by the idea. We founded a new security company, but after less than a year, we reached the technology barrier and had to close down. This time, we at least managed to get the investors’ money back to them, and that felt good.”
Learning from failure: “I knew that only 4% of Israeli companies survive the first three years, and I decided to regard it as a challenge I had not yet overcome. This time, I could already see those who had succeeded, and I knew that I was no different than they were, and maybe even better than they were. We founded DiACardio seven years ago, and I’ve been living and breathing it ever since.”
Intuition versus logic: “I believe women have a strong intuition. They know when to listen, and when it’s nothing but white noise. I listen to my intuition, and share it with my partners, especially when important decisions are involved. When you analyze things, you discover that there’s also a logical basis for it.”
Good advice I received: “When you get what you wanted in a meeting, that’s the time to finish and leave. If you stay and keep talking, the agreement is liable to be reopened.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “First, you need a lot of courage. Sometimes you don’t get paid. You hear a lot of noes. You have to be able to fire employees. Secondly, it’s worthwhile going to a lot of meetings, conferences, and events, even those that are irrelevant, because you learn something from everything. Thirdly, hire employees who are smarter and more experienced than you are in every area, including an area you think you have a good grasp of.”
SafeDK founder and CEO Orly Shoavi
The development: A mobile data management platform that increases data security for apps and prevents quality risks.
Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship has always been a part of me. Almost all of my friends work in high tech and entrepreneurship, so it was always around me,” says Shoavi, 41, a veteran of IDF Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, who has a BS in computer science. “I knew the day would come when I would come up with some app or found a venture. Being surrounded day and night by entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, and high tech makes you eager to do it.”
In the summer of 2014, she met her partner, VP business development Ronnie Sternberg, and they founded SafeDK together. “There’s something amazing in it — in knowing that you’re responsible for an invention that changes the world for someone,” she says. They raised $2.25 million in the seed financing round, and recently complete the company’s $3.5 million A round.
Security: “Developing apps nowadays involves open code and data from a third party. Not only are there security problems, but they can also plant viruses on you, slow down the app, and steal information from the users. Our development is designed to provide a security layer that also shows you what’s happening with your app in real time, and also enables you to control it remotely.”
Mistakes I made: “In entrepreneurship, it’s worthwhile making mistakes. I could say that hiring someone who wanted a higher position, compromised and took the job I offered, and eventually left was a big mistake, but in retrospect, it wasn’t, because that person contributed to the company. I could say it was a mistake not to begin earlier with entrepreneurship, but only my last job, at Intel, taught me about product and business development, which contributed a lot to the venture.”
Effective management tools: I take care to have periodic individual talks in order to know what people are thinking and whether they’re satisfied. I think another effective management tool is making the team close and social activity. We have no time to organize activities, so we divided the team into pairs, held a lottery, and every month, a different paid organizes a low-budget half-day outing.”
Good advice I received: “After we got the initial investment, we didn’t hold any celebration, because we knew that we had a lot of work to do. We were under pressure and started to work like crazy, but we didn’t stop to recharge our batteries. In retrospect, we should have celebrated it.”
An insight that changed my life: “The realization that my decision is the one that matters changes how you look at life. In contrast to being an employee, there’s no such thing as delaying something to another time. Here, everything depends on you, and you’re responsible. I learned that there are also anxieties on the way, and they always motive you and make you reinvent yourself.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “I believe that you have to constantly move out of your comfort zone. If it frightens you to stand in front of a thousand people, or meet with the board of a large company and present your product, do it anyway. Standing in front of important investors from all over the world is scary the first time you do it, but not the third. If you don’t do it once, you’ll never do it at all.
“You have to try to map your wasted time. Many people will want to meet with you, and you can’t meet with all of them — it’s not effective. You have to make time for helping other entrepreneurs, but don’t meet with everyone who wants to meet with you; otherwise, you’ll never have time for your children in the evening.
“Finally, you mustn’t compromise. If you have found the perfect technician whose human relations or character doesn’t suit you, let him go.”
Inspirational model: “I’m one of a group of people that meets to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s important to have a support system. It’s hard to get investments, but if you don’t realize that it’s hard for everyone, it’s much harder.”
Wizer.Me founder and CEO Nira Mayorchik Sheleg
The development: A learning technology that offers an advanced environment devised by the teachers themselves. “We’re reinventing the worksheets, and enabling teachers to digitalize them easily, interactively, and smartly, and tailor them personally for each student,” explains Mayorchik Sheleg, 40. “In effect, we’re making accessible to teachers information analysis capabilities that up until now have been confined to publishers and large software firms.”
Wizer.Me was founded on the basis of a cognitive study of teachers carried out by Mayorchik Sheleg for the Ministry of Education chief scientist. In effect, she analyzed how teachers think. “We built a platform that adapts itself to the teacher and how he thinks, and it’s spreading like a fire in a thicket.”
Good advice I received: “My father always advised me to make my own decisions, regardless of what the other person does. The other person something does annoying things that can make you forget your goal. Even if you seem to be getting the short end of the stick, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is seeing where I want to go, not be dragged into things in the heat of an argument, and to keep my own council and not to hold a grudge.”
Evolita cofounder and CEO Katya Goldstein
The development: An automation tool for market research and analysis processes “in ordinary language,” explains Evolita cofounder and CEO Katya Goldstein, 46. “You can ask a question, and the machine leads you like Google, but you get a complete report with data gathered from many sources and a visual graph display.”
Effective management habits: “It all starts with managing yourself. If you don’t know how to manage yourself, you can’t manage other people. I use a detailed multi-year plan with targets in every area of my life, not just those related to business.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “When you begin meeting with people, don’t be afraid to tell them about the idea. Everyone is afraid that people will steal from him, and that someone will start doing it before him. The good news is that everyone has a lot of ideas, and no one is doing anything with them, so stealing someone else’s idea is nonsense.”
MXIMO founder and CEO Nurit Shevi
The development: A product that enables every designer to create his own apps by himself — like Wix.com for mobile. The product also accommodates a cellular shopping interface.
Record: For most of her career, Shevi, 43, has worked at international companies, and suffered every minute. She only found what she was looking for when she began studying philosophy. “That’s the moment when illumination began to arrive.
“After my studies, I discovered information systems and their connection to human development. I suddenly began to realize what a user experience was and what information architecture was. This sector was still only beginning, and there were no academic courses in it, so I stayed home and taught myself.”
The digital sector: The next stage in Shevi’s career was in the US at ZWP, a large advertising firm. “My job was to take any marketing strategy and give it a digital solution and product. I really liked it, but when I returned to Israel, I discovered that I had traveled 10 years back in time. What had happened in the US simply didn’t exist in Israel
“It was the beginning of smartphone penetration in Israel, and I realized that there was an opportunity here. I took a little money from the side and developed the product together with a group of people and programmers I gathered around me. I hired code writers, but I did most of the work myself, including specification, design, and e-mails.”
Raising capital: After retail companies, such as Renuar and Castro Model Ltd. (TASE: CAST), discovered the potential, Shevi embarked on a $500,000 financing round. “That’s what enabled us to develop a new product with commercial marketing capabilities — stores that are actually apps. Today, almost all the retail chains in Israel have apps on our product.”
Effective management habits: “I do so much by myself, wear so many different hats, that I don’t even know what to plan. I work more by intuition; I’m not a woman of order, planning, and timetables, and I know that goes against the accepted method. I also suffered from this work culture in the US. I was always much better as a one woman show, especially when I followed my intuition and heart. I guess that’s what I was meant for, so it works.”
Managerial insight: “Although I like doing things by myself, it’s very important to create a supporting group of people for yourself that comes to a management meeting once a week and helps devise the right plan or the goals. For me, being alone is bad if it leaves you with question marks and doubts.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “Are you entering the startup industry? Learn the jargon by heart, and always be in command of the numbers.
“Support is always important. I got very warm support from a group of women who were former company CEOs, women with a record in high tech and money, who started a group of women angels that adopted the mission of supporting women entrepreneurs.”
SAM Seamless Networks cofounder and co-CEO Sivan Rauscher
The development: Protection of smart products in the Internet of Things (IoT)
Record: Rauscher, 31, served seven years in various positions in the IDF 8200 Intelligence Corps unit, including cyber operations manager and technological products development manager. From there, her move to consultancy and information security firm Comsec was natural. She dealt with product management for two years, mainly in London and Amsterdam. “I worked with customers in Europe, and learned a lot about the industry and business processes. They let me do everything, including major deals, and that gave me a big push towards startups. I left my job in August 2015. With my partners Shmuel and Nati, I raised $3 million and started SAM (Security and Management) Seamless Networks.”
Uncertainty: “I have 10 years of experience in cyber, and this uncertainty and telling about the product you’re thinking of is still not easy for me. Some days I feel on top of the world, and other days I feel like I’ve been thrown down the stairs.”
The smart home: The products surrounding us today are very cognitive. A US home has an average of 16 appliances connected to the home network, while the average in Israel is nine. One the one hand, our lives are becoming much more comfortable, while on the other hand, break-ins and invasions of privacy are becoming more and more common. They’re invading your private space and watching you.
“Predictions say that we’ll have 500 appliances connected to the home network by 2020. Our lives will be much easier logistically, but the big problem is that these products, however smart they are, are basically unprotected. My vision is to bring a product that will be the strong point in the home and protect all the products there.”
Mistakes I have made: “It’s important not to sit on the fence too much and not to talk too much. If you believe you have an idea, go and do it; the clock is ticking. That’s the mistake I made: I delayed in founding the company. Maybe I got stuck with the idea that I was accumulating experience and enlarging my collection of tools in the industry before beginning the journey, but in actuality, despite the great friction with the industry, the learning curve in a startup is exponential, and the process that company founders go through is nothing like anything you learn as an employee.”
Good advice I received: “How to choose partners — partners are like spouses — a wedding with commitment. I spend more time with Shmuel and Nati than I do with my husband, Eran, and that’s very significant. In my opinion, it’s preferable to choose partners who aren’t like you, and who are not necessarily your friends. They have to be committed, so that they won’t leave in the crunch, and will provide support when it’s needed.”
Management insights I have accumulated: “My unit commander always told me that you have to enjoy what you’re doing, not just aim at the target. I never understood this, even though they said it to me again and again. I finally realized that if I’m doing something, I don’t have to confine myself to charging the target. It does me good to finish the day satisfied with myself, not merely checking off the targets I’ve achieved.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “The key is to talk about ideas. Don’t be scared of failing. Talk about failures, and regard yourself as a developing organism — you try, fall, get up, and learn all the time. Learning is one of the most important things in entrepreneurship. You can’t be static; you have to develop while you’re in motion.”
Emerald Medical Applications CEO Adi Zamir
The development: A technology for early detection of skin cancer. “Our product, which is being marketed to doctors in the US and Israel, enables the doctor to obtain a dynamic list of moles in which changes have taken place,” Zamir, 41, explains.
“When you monitor the body for a long time, the doctor can’t remember what the change is. As soon as you post a general body x-ray, our algorithm processes the images and reports the change to the doctor. This can indicate the development of skin cancer, because the initial signs are visual. It’s a revolution.”
Record: From Zamir’s academic choices, it would be hard to predict her direction: a BA in teaching science and Mas in cognation sciences and law give no indication of a career in technology. Nevertheless, Zamir served for 11 years as VP business development at Ness Technologies, after which she became CEO of Emerald.
Awakening: “After working for years in a senior position in a large organization with thousands of employees, I had an insight. I suddenly realized that I was spending a lot of time sitting and promoting many important projects for organizations, but I wasn’t creating something that could really make a change.
“It’s frightening to leave for something unfamiliar, but it was clear to me that I would also develop from it. I like the butterflies, and it motivates me. That’s stronger than being in a normal place.”
Time management: “I’m a very efficient woman. One of my hobbies is self-management and time management. I do a lot of things, compared to an ordinary person, so I carefully plan the day, the week, and the weekend. 95% of the time is managed and organized. I only have to deal with the other difficult 5%. You can also give things up — I watch almost no television, and that’s something I’ve done for years.”
Thinking” “My brain works on a format of cubicles and contexts. In order to understand the best way to do things, or to enjoy them, I put all the incoming information in order — personal, professional, or marital — into cubicles in my head. Then I take them apart and put them back together again, so that they are interdependent.”
Mistakes I have made: “In a startup, it’s important to hire people with managerial capability, but who will be hands on. That’s a mistake I made along the way. I took people who were not hands on, who were unable to do things like writing code. When the team is very small, every pair of hands is very critical. Having a person who couldn’t take part and provide reinforcement when necessary created a lack. I certainly won’t do that again.”
The most important advice I ever received: “To be able to manage feelings. Emotions sometimes occupy a very important place, and exhaust us, and we can be very upset. Managing feelings means to taking in the situation and the person in front of you, being attentive, inclusive and assertive, and being flexible in my management in order to create the most successful and effective situation for both parties.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “To find a partner that will be a go-getter, someone who will complement you, because you can’t be everything. It’s very important to be able to handle money, pricing, and profit. If they don’t know, find someone who does, because when you boil it down, the money you’re raising doesn’t belong to you, and you have to handle it properly. It’s also important to do quality networking — not just getting acquainted with people, but developing and preserving connections through the social networks, for example.”
CrossBorder founder Karen Shlimovich
The development: A platform for international real estate investment
Record: If an entrepreneur needs courage, Shlimovich, 37, has proved that she has had it from a very young age. As a child, she grew up in an almost anti-Semitic Ukrainian neighborhood, with parents who always dreamed of immigrating to Israel. She was the one who took the initiative and moved to Israel when she was only 15. “It wasn’t easy for my parents, especially because I was so young and an only child. But I wanted to be in a country to which I belonged.”
The first startup: “I wanted to contribute something to the world, and I developed a language-teaching platform using virtual reality” She sold the company within a short time, and went her way.
The current startup: “I worked for a year in Michigan as VP marketing of a real estate company. I looked for ways to cut costs, and I thought it would be possible to market real estate online. That’s how I got the idea for my startup. We specialize in overseas properties, right now in India.”
An insight that changed my life: “The moment I decided to use my mental abilities, and to study industrial engineering and management at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, instead of being a celebrity (Shlimovich won a beauty contest). It was much more fun for me to solve a problem in mathematics or computers than going to another audition.”
A mistake I made: “In a startup, you have to constantly step outside and ask potential customers their opinion about the platform. In my first startup, we worked for seven months, and only then met the first potential customer. We immediately realized that this was a mistake — we were exposed to so many problems with the platform, and it was a pity that we didn’t meet with him before in order to put things right at an earlier stage.”
Effective management tools: “It’s important for your team to be people you enjoy being with most of the day, who will lift you up and work well with you, just like in a marriage. That’s why I’m in favor of a pilot for employees — a trial period of a month or two to see whether you can work together.”
Vidivit CEO Liat Hadar Sharvit
The development: Distribution of digital art through screens. The company actually applies cloud computing to art.
A revolution: “Just like Netflix revolutionized television series, we’re revolutionizing digital art,” says Sharvit, 41.
“Artists today are afraid to expose their works. They need mechanisms to protect their art, just like art depends on museums and galleries. Our invention is the security element — we guard the artist.
“I don’t regard us as art curators. We work hard to find artists, most of whom don’t put their works online. Of those who contact us, we select only 5%, because we’re a commercial website looking for art that is enjoyable. We aren’t trying to be like a museum; we won’t make provocative selections.”
Activity: “The platform is displayed in hotels and restaurants, and we discovered that there’s demand in the private market, too. They select works of current artists from the website, and they can change the display frequently. You keep close track of current trends, in contrast to art that hangs in the home for years — the eye gets use to it, and it’s boring.”
The business model: “We get money from people leasing and buying artworks, and the artists get 50% of the deal. A customer who buys the artwork can sell it later if the artist becomes famous and his artworks go up in price, exactly like with collectors of physical art.”
Mutual inspiration: “There are codes in this world that you have to learn quickly, so I went to the SLP program, which accepts only 20 people a year, and they taught me tools. Beyond the content, the program’s thinking is mutual inspiration. Right now, for example, I’m dealing with the question of advertising on apps, so I consulted people who were with me in the program. This inspiration is critical for avoiding mistakes.”
An insight that changed my life: “It’s important to meet and enlarge the network. I meet with a lot of people, who make time for me despite the limited time they have available, and help me connect with people. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten what I have achieved, and I want to pass it on, so it’s important for me to help and advise.”
Advice to a beginning entrepreneur: “It’s important to do things before the launch. Don’t wait until there is a finished product, and market it only afterwards. Development takes a long time, so it’s worthwhile attracting potential customers or investors while development is still going on.”
“You have to talk about the idea as much as possible, expose it to direct sunlight, and create as much visibility as possible — appear on the stage and talk with people. Standing out is critical, because there are a lot of startups fighting over the same money. If you can’t do that, get a partner who can.”
Inspirational model: “My father worked in information systems until he was 42, when he founded a gold enterprise. I saw his courage leaving a safe place in a leading government ministry and starting a private business. That’s a real turnabout, and maybe that’s what pushed me into doing what I did.”
Okapi founder and CEO Iris Tsidon
The development: A platform for enterprises that recommends business indices. “The enterprise puts in a number of indices, and the platform uses them to tell him on which indices to focus (because that’s what similar successful enterprises do) and what the target value for each index should be,” explains Tsidon, 50. “When it is used regularly, the system is able to issue alerts to the enterprise — whether it is deviating and whether what it wants to be is happening — and helps it focus on the important things.”
Activity: Tsidon founded the startup four years ago with Maya Gal. They developed the product together, and the product, which was born two years ago, is already being marketed to 40 customers in Israel and the US. They have raised $2.5 million to date, and are now taking their first steps towards setting up offices in the US.
Entrepreneurship: “I managed the business division at Ness Technologies for many years, and was COO at Gilon Business Insight. I installed all the enterprise measurement at these companies using the old method, and I realized that small enterprises need enterprise focus and measurement platforms no less than large ones, but not everyone can spend the time and money that the large ones do. So we decided to take all the business know-how we had accumulated and make this tool accessible in the form of SAAS platforms, but with a much more innovative approach that shortens the time and lowers the price.”