For many years, women’s empowerment was an inseparable part of my work, an inherent part of who I am.
I began earning money, even just pocket money, at age 6, when after school, I picked up a baby from the daycare near the house and took her home. The years passed and my business thinking evolved, involving cleaning the building, babysitting for my neighbor’s children and even selling my paintings in various festivals.
I started my first real business in New York at the age of 21, and I have since understood the power of independence, along with the difficulties and obstacles that are encountered along the way. I realized the hunger for success is often the most powerful impetus to drive my adrenaline, and I have since learned I have no other way of living my life bar waking up every morning like a hungry animal for the new day and devouring it as much as possible.
In parallel to the businesses and initiatives I founded and was involved in, in later years, I always liked to research entrepreneurial fields and get to know people in the field – but mostly, learn about strong women who did, who do, and who cope with the familiar difficulties, never giving up on themselves, even if they get countless “no’s” along the way.
I met Darya about a year ago.
A staunch activist who moved to Palo Alto and founded WEACT, which makes Silicon Valley accessible to women entrepreneurs from Israel, facilitating meetings with key investors and key figures living in the United States. And so began my fascinating journey with 12 pioneering women entrepreneurs, each enthralling in their own field and in their own venture.
Women Entrepreneurs Visit The Land Of Endless Possibilities – The Journey
On the first day, the entrepreneurs gathered and introduced themselves and shared their ventures – their fields of activity and their funding stages. I discovered women who were tremendously powerful, each in her own way and in her own actions, and I immediately felt connected to all of them. This almost never happens with me.
The next day opened at the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), where the bank’s managing director, Efrat Turgeman, presented us with an overview of the bank’s activities.
The bank’s uniqueness lies in its facilitation of loans to early-stage, which go unsupported by most banks.
Today, when a company goes to a bank seeking a loan, it must present at least two years of cash flow or other assets. Startups generally don’t exist, nor are there tangible assets, just an idea they present in the hope of receiving funding. Therefore, the bank inherently aims to serve the technology community – from two guys with a presentation and an established idea, to a product owner or a slightly larger company.
At the same time, private investors and venture capitalists operating in the technology world can work with SVB in a variety of ways. This provides the bank a wide network of services which other banks don’t have. The group also includes simple commercial banking with everything a company needs (credit card accounts and more).
Next, we heard a fascinating panel comprising three charming local entrepreneurs who had made it big. The charisma, insights and inspiration that were being projected were another adrenaline shot for the rest of us.
Tilli Kalisky spoke about the significant processes she’d undergone on the way to establishing her successful company at-bay, which deals in cyber insurance.
Assaf Wand shared how he became successful from creating something from scratch and today holds the insurance company “myhippo.com“, which provides insurance in a few simple clicks via a dedicated app that serves to greatly simplify existing processes.
Eyal Lifshitz, founder and partner of Blue Vine, delivered some tips and amazed us with the success story of a child who, until the age of 21, never touched a computer, and is now a partner and founder of Fintech, which specializes in online small business loans in the US, and recently raised $130 million.
Several Tips For Meetings With Investors
According to the entrepreneurs, it is important to identify which funds deal with the entrepreneur’s market. Investors invest based on two parameters: 1) Logic (product, team, competitors, timing, etc.) 2) Passion for the field. The more advanced the stage, the more logic plays a role because there’s more proof – there’s traction, you can already understand whether the venture is going well or not.
The next stage requires the entrepreneur to understand whether the investor wants to invest in their company or not. And what does “want” mean? – Do they want the entrepreneur as a business partner? Part of this stems from identification – do they identify with the entrepreneur?
An Israeli who comes to the US and meets with an investor – the investor doesn’t see their younger self in the entrepreneur and doesn’t identify with them. Therefore, connecting with them is harder. This issue is further emphasized for women entrepreneurs.
An important lesson that Eyal learned and shared was that some of the funds he first approached were funds that had previously invested in the field, and had been burned as a result. The investors most interested were those who’d had good experiences in the field, or no experience and were interested in the field and wanted to experiment with it. It’s hard to change an investor’s opinion who is not interested in the field and it’s always better to meet with an investor who sounds interested.
Assaf added, that when starting an investment round, he recommends doing it back-to-back, meet with investors one after the other, in order create an environment of pressure vis-à-vis a decision, that they’re not the only ones who want you.
Tilli noted that being confident is important. There is a very important psychological element in meeting an investor – if you’re confident with an investor, he’ll derive that you’ll be confident in the market, in the work itself etc. In addition, she noted that at least one “yes”, even one term sheet, makes it easier to negotiate in an investment round, and can make all the difference.
Another tip suggested by the entrepreneurs was to create a long list of potential investors, meet with as many as possible, and remember that even the largest companies in the world had to run their own marathon to bring investors; this is not something that happens easily or quickly. You can have 20 “no’s” at the beginning, it’s important not to give up on yourself and keep trying.
Ultimately, every investor sees hundreds of companies and we’ll never know why they didn’t want to invest in our venture. It’s important not to take a ‘no’ personally.
And another important point that surfaced – it’s better to “practice” on smaller investors at first. Don’t go directly to the large investors, but learn from the mistakes and questions raised by smaller investors and apply them to the leading funds.
Building The Perfect Pitch For Investors
Donna Griffith, a fascinating Corporate Story-Teller, taught us the basics of creating the perfect, fast pitch. She began by saying there is no chance the venture’s background and details can be put into a 5-minute presentation and therefore our goal in a short pitch is not closing a deal, but opening the door for further work and communication with the investor.
She highlighted the importance of giving the ‘why’ and not the ‘how’ – get them excited without bogging them down in too many details. Show the narrative structure as simply as possible: we do X for Y on Z basis.
She recommended emphasizing the venture’s uniqueness and to engage the investor on an emotional level, to ensure they remember us.
It’s also a good idea to pre-prepare a pitch and come ready for the questions that will surface. At the end of her lecture, she worked with every entrepreneur on their pitch and gave directions for improving it. The workshop was infinitely fascinating.
Our next destination was Draper University; Bill Draper was the first investor in Silicon Valley during the middle of the last century. His sons and grandchildren inherited his passion for the investment world and his son Tim, an early investor in Tesla for example, established the university to train young entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs presented their pitches to potential investors from a variety of important funds and also to the university students.
A Visit to Google, Founders Fund, Pinterest, and 500 Startups
During our visit to the Google Launchpad Startup Space, we heard a fascinating lecture by Dan Peled, who summarized the business and technological significance of the term “cloud computing” and also discussed advanced topics such as AI, artificial intelligence and what Google offers in its cloud services.
The lecture combined the profound meaning of these technologies beyond their technical sense and the possible impact on product design, sales strategy and customer experience.
The entrepreneurs then split up for personal meetings with a group of leading mentors with expertise in an array of fields such as product strategy, product design, advanced mobile technologies, sales and business development in the American market, and more.
Next, I joined a meeting with the product managers at the local Pinterest offices and two other entrepreneurs from the delegation (details about the fascinating meeting have been stored on the platform!). We then went back to the meeting with the founder of Founders Fund Kevin Hartz, where we listened to Hartz’s inspiring story, a talented, serial entrepreneur who invests and sees about 950 startups a year, who want his investment or advice.
Kevin shared how he started out as a product manager in the company and thus learned the world, and understood how to work with product managers from different fields, realizing he simply had to jump in and establish a venture. But – he stayed in the game and was one of the first investors in Facebook. He collaborated with Peter Thiel from PayPal. He invested in AirBNB. He said that at one point he considered investing in YouTube, but ultimately, didn’t. Kevin also founded EVENTBRITE with his wife, Julia, who now serves as its chairperson. The company deals with online events and ticket sales, and has raised $332 million to date, and has a valuation of $8 billion.
Kevin invests 80% of his funds in US-based ventures but in response to our question about possibilities in Israel – he explained that everything is possible, it all depends on the entrepreneurs and the value of the product or idea. Uniqueness is the name of the game says Kevin. Like other funds, they are seeking exceptional entrepreneurs, the teams that will stay alive and achieve, even if the product needs to be adjusted to the market unexpectedly. He said he is looking for unique thinking and achievement that is higher than what’s possible at a very young age.
We arrived at 500 Startups in the evening, where the girls presented their projects to other potential investors. And again, it was an invaluable evening – lots of doors opened, many ties knotted and the entrepreneurs took another step toward their goals.
Visit To The Facebook Amusement City And The NVIDIA Offices
The Facebook offices in Palo Alto look like a theme park. Indeed, Frank Gehry who designed them was also involved in the design of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. And this is evident at every corner – from the design of small shops and colorful streets that take you back to strolling in a small European town, the small streets that look like colorful alleyways, to the spacious and vibrant architecture within the buildings themselves. Not to mention the seating areas, bike facilities and surprises in the form of statues, signs and other things scattered throughout the small city, creating a sense of community and tremendous cooperation.
The company’s offices look like one room with a very large space, which has about 2800 employees. Zuckerberg did this to allow all employees to work together and feel a sense of community, he says, according to his vision to connect the whole world. Workers can paint and stick stickers on the walls of the offices, and even scribble on a large board in one of the corridors. The center of the offices hosts a coffee zone with only the best, open to the employees of course, comfortable sofas scattered throughout the office, a laundry room, a huge dining room that offers all the best dishes and desserts during lunchtime and in general – Zuckerberg created a workplace that would be as pleasant and as comfortable as possible for employees during their work on various projects, and so they’d stay there as long as possible.
The charming Malvina Golfeld greeted us at the entrance. In charge of the development of Community Partnerships at Facebook, she took us on a tour and at the end told us about Facebook’s growing world of communities. She was followed by Ryan Sean, VP of Business Partnerships, who talked about the virtual worlds that Facebook is increasingly emphasizing, gamification and its future plans for end users. When asked about virtual currencies, Ryan responded the platform is not currently entering the field, but is open to exploring the subject and that he is currently investigating it (did I already mention that I’d be happy to be a fly on the wall during these brainstorming sessions?).
After walking through the offices, we enjoyed lunch in the huge dining room, which offered a varied menu of food, and dessert in the Facebook Ice Creamery (because we must!) and continued on to our next destination.
As a company focused on creating video cards, platforms and robotic and gamification technologies, the huge Nvidia. offices and the massive white spaces and high ceiling, left us speechless.
After meeting in one of the building’s many meeting rooms, we heard fascinating lectures on the various technologies that NVIDIA provides, its collaborations and even entered the dedicated rooms that demonstrated the infinite possibilities the company offers: such as the personification of an image to the smallest of details via a computer only, the future of robotics as a substitute for humanity , the creation of phantoms through computerization, the use of artificial intelligence in agriculture and medical imaging, and even the creation of aggregation situations and scenarios that appear to be entirely real but are produced by coding and computers. NVIDIA has established the INCEPTION platform, a type of virtual accelerator for AI projects. Today, it has 2,000 companies, 70 of them being Israeli. The company also has a number of impressive and successful Israeli acquisitions. One of the delegation member’s logo also appeared in the company presentation.
Summary of our Journey
My journey alongside 12 inspirational entrepreneurs reinforced what I’ve always believed. A woman is an entire world in herself – complex, fascinating, sensitive, and our world needs more career-oriented and leading women in various fields.
The city of Palo Alto, or Silicon Valley, offers almost unlimited possibilities for hi-tech professionals and entrepreneurs, and my visit made me realize that this is just the beginning of a wonderful friendship; I’ll be back. And I’m sure, among the other entrepreneurs, I won’t be the only one.
Thanks goes out to Darya Henig Shaked who invited me to join the delegation and allowed to get to know, experience and learn so much in a single week.