Imagine waking up 6 a.m., feeding and dressing yourself, your toddlers (and your husband), preparing lunch for everyone, and then speaking with investors from Asia and entrepreneurs from Israel in the car as your youngest child complains that her “powdered” chocolate milk “just doesn’t cut it” in the back seat. Entrepreneurship leaves little time for the tenets of a normal life such as family dinners, a social life, sleep or exercise, let alone the responsibilities of being a mother. Yet every day, we wake up and find a way to balance the scales.
Finding balance between running a business and running a family requires an honest appraisal of reality. Even in the most equality-driven households, the mother is still responsible for the bulk of household maintenance. Furthermore, in Israel, women face novel challenges, such as getting a later start in the corporate world due to military obligations as well as a culture that encourages corporate meetings in the evening – the worst possible time for a mom.
To address existing prejudices and often unreasonable expectations, momtrepreneurs develop a skill set that includes context switching, multitasking, minute-to-minute efficiency, hyper focus, and transparent communications. And of course, our ability to endure sleep deprivation! Granted, many men also embody these traits; but they do so out of discipline, not necessity. As momtrepreneurs, we have no choice; either embody these qualities or entrepreneurship is not an option.
In fact, while sitting on an investor panel, one of our colleagues admitted publicly that he expects more from female founders. Not only do we have a full-time job being a mom – caring for the kids, the house, the husband, the in-laws – but some investors also expect more from us than male founders. Personally, we do not think that a company has more or less risk depending on the founder’s gender. We believe that both men and women are equally capable of developing the skills and attributes necessary to build successful companies, and thus have a rigorous process in place to screen for the best entrepreneurs. Yet in the U.S., only 18% of all startups have a female co-founder, and 8% of Bay Area startups and 13% of New York startups that raised Series A rounds in 2015 had a woman on the founding team.
Although stats around female entrepreneurship have actually improved in the last five years, there remains much room for improvement. Both female founders and female investors are scarce: only 6% of VC partners are women and an even smaller percentage are moms. This industry is still very much a men’s club and we are set on changing that.
Our company, iAngels, employs a majority of women and we’ve invested more in women-led ventures than any other investor in Israel in the past two years. We also mentor women to inspire them hopefully to take on a similar path. But even within the platform we have built, we see the vast majority of investors are men. Despite the glass ceilings and institutional biases, women and moms are well equipped to create substantial value in technology companies.
How ‘partnership thinking’ could change the startup ecosystem
A key driver of this value creation will come from what we call “partnership thinking.” As women entrepreneurs, partnership thinking is something we believe that we do instinctively. We’re always thinking of “alignment of interests” rather than focusing negotiations on immediate short-term gains and trying get the upper hand.
We believe in an Israel that’s known not just as the opportunistic, deal-making, inventive Startup Nation, but also as the Partnership Nation. Partnership is one of three key principles that we are building into our company and into every deal that we back and bring forward to our network. We find entrepreneurs who aren’t just about “the next big thing in technology,” but who also know what it takes, or can learn what it takes, to build solid win/win partnerships.
Furthermore, we are happy to see the trend of hi-tech entrepreneurs focusing less on “build to exit” and more on “build to scale and stay.” This has a profoundly different impact on the economy: It’s not just “how do we create wealth for our investors and founders” who are the top 5% of society, but how we can create employment and opportunity for society as a whole. By taking the long-term approach to growth, and investing in entrepreneurial opportunities brought to us by women and other minorities, we’re growing a second family of sorts that can grow, prosper and carry these values forward to the next generation.
The kind of culture we promote as momtrepreneurs – finding balance between the frenetic pace of building a business and the nurturing yet complex challenges of building a family – is the kind of culture we want our children to accept as normal. Women, and moms in particular, can do anything they set their minds to, including being an entrepreneur, a tech expert, or an investor! We take pride in being part of the generation that finally cracks open the glass ceiling, and empowers women and mothers worldwide to flourish alongside their male counterparts.