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What does it mean to be a Momtrepreneur?

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.

This article originally appeared on Geektime

Finding The Treasure – An Interview with Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal

If you are anything like me, then you probably assumed that Silicon Valley is the world mecca for early stage start-ups and investment opportunities. If you assumed this, you’d be wrong. In fact, the true world center for startups is Israel. This small country has produced the highest number of tech startups per capita and exits per startups in the world. Perhaps this is because there are so many immigrants in Israel, and statistics have proven that immigrants make for the best entrepreneurs for their ability to see opportunity everywhere as well as their capacity to build something from nothing. Some believe Israel’s mandatory military service grooms leaders, thereby feeding into the country’s high occurrences of entrepreneurism. Whatever the reason, today’s Israel is built upon a foundation of innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers, theorists, and business magnates with an innate ability to build startups from scratch and launch them into massive businesses.

At the crossroads of talent and innovation, there is opportunity. When companies like Waze, Viber, Wix, SanDisk, Checkpoint and tens of thousands of others execute their vision, there is an opportunity for massive wealth creation for savvy investors. Up until now, that wealth creation was for the select few, the insiders of Israel if you will, who knew what startup deals were percolating, long before the rest of the world even heard of the technologies. Israeli startups created $15 billion of investor value through exits and 17 IPOs in 2014 alone, making Israel the world’s most capital efficient startup ecosystem for early stage investors.

Israel is a chest of golden opportunity for investors, if only you can find the opportunities. If only you are one of the few insiders who know how to find and access the talent and innovation busily driving innovation behind closed doors in this tiny country. Well, for the first time ever, there’s a team who has created a treasure map. The company name is iAngels, founded by Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal, two Israeli women who formed a friendship many years ago in New York City, and armed with their MBAs, business acumen, and love for Israel, moved back to Tel Aviv to help finance the startups becoming the most impressive new firms in the world while simultaneously exposing Israel’s deeply rich talent to investors hungry to get behind the scenes on the highly profitable investment opportunities coming out of Israel.

I recently interviewed Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal to find out what it takes to create a treasure map of success like iAngels has done in Israel. Here are there four simple lessons for finding the X that marks the spot.

Respect Above All Else: The two women have been close like sisters since meeting in NYC six years ago. I asked if it is difficult working with someone whom you are so close with and the two said no. They said that, on the contrary, it’s easier to build a business with someone who you have respected and trusted for many years. In fact, they both acknowledge that the early success of iAngels has been based on their personal belief that their strong friendship must always come before the business. This approach transcends when it comes to their iAngels team and their customers who are both startup entrepreneurs and startup investors. Mor reiterated that when respect for the investor, entrepreneur, client, employee, or each other is the basis of the relationship, then all things related to building the business come easily.

It’s a Family Sport: Mor says that entrepreneurism is a family sport. Both Shelly and Mor have husbands and children, and both agree that the success of iAngels has been a byproduct of the support they receive at home. The duo are constantly meeting with entrepreneurs, evaluating startups, and communicating with the investors who seek out iAngels for access to technology and talent in Israel. They are constantly juggling home and work, depending deeply on the support of their families who give slack when needed and encouragement and praise for the success and growth of their business regularly.

A Partner Who Compliments You: Shelly and Mor believe that one of the reasons their partnership is so successful is that they are very different in their career backgrounds. Shelly has worked for high profile firms like UBS, where she tailored investment portfolios for over 100 high net worth individuals, and Goldman Sachs where she analyzed high profile M&As, IPOs, Private Equity and restructuring transactions. Mor’s background as a software engineer at SAP included R&D development and managing global development teams. At IBM in New York, Mor developed acquisition strategies while working for the Strategy and Transformation practice. Mor also worked for the Israeli Defense Force, for one of their elite intelligence units, where many of Israel’s most successful entrepreneurs serve. She was chosen from thousands of applicants to work as an analyst on secret technologies and intelligence. Both women are highly driven, successful, entrepreneurs, with their own very specific niches of expertise. Shelly believes that by finding a business partner with a different set of skills, forces you to think outside of your own comfort zone while retaining a safety net. The safety net is that the other partner is brilliant in her skill set, and when each works toward understanding the other, they both get stronger.

Everything is Backed By Research: I raised the question as to whether Shelly and Mor get into arguments about the direction that the company should move in. They admit that they don’t agree on everything. However, they said that the best businesses are built upon massive amounts of research. When the two have differing opinions, both sides present the research they have gathered so that together they can come to a logical conclusion. The entire company is research driven. This applies to decision making in the company as well as to their rigorous due diligence process they conduct when evaluating an investment decision. Data speaks the truth and as analysts at heart, they strive to bring forth a data driven approach to investing, where investors need not only rely on intuition or personal opinion but rather a structured, analytical approach to evaluate and make a decision.

Shelly and Mor are more than just entrepreneurs, they too are innovators just like the ones they call clients. They have founded their own niche vertical of creating a bridge between innovation and capital in a land that unassumingly built the biggest hub of startup innovation in the world while almost nobody was looking. In fact, someone was looking. Shelly and Mor were paying close attention all along, and by doing so, the most savvy investors in the world no longer need to because iAngels is doing it for them.

 

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blog

What To Look For in Entreprenuers

Recently, iAngels’ Founding Partners, Shelly Hod Moyal and Mor Assia, hosted a webinar for our investor community.  The topic of the webinar was: “What Investors Should Look For in Entrepreneurs”.

The following is a rundown of the key points highlighted during the talk, and you can find a video summary of the webinar below.

The following is a list of ten key points, not in order of importance, outlining what investors should be looking for in entrepreneurs when considering an investment. People talk about team team team all that time, but what are we really looking for?

1. Commitment:

It is critical that the the founder is fully committed to the venture. Bootstrapping or having skin in the game goes to show that the founder is putting his money where is mouth is and is willing to take that personal risk in order to ensure company growth.

2. Research:

It is important to see that the founder has thought this through. The founder needs to show that he has done the market research, looked into the competitive landscape,  and created an ambitious but achievable business plan that is not detached from market standards and expectation. If you can think of a question at an initial meeting that the founder does not know how to answer, the research wasn’t thorough enough.

3. Resilience

Founders need to be exemplars of resilience in order for them to be able to overcome challenges and work well together for many years.

4. Ego

When founders avoid becoming political and are not ego driven, you know that they are focusing on the business and not on their own agenda. It is important to understand the dynamic of the founding team.

5. Vertical Expertise

It is expected that a founder has decided to uproot his life and leave his previous job stability because there is something he is so passionate about, that he cannot live another day without making it a reality. This usually (but not always) means that the founder knows a thing or two about the space he wishes to enter.

Expertise is very important and must be ingrained in the founding team. Working in the specific sector for several years before starting the business, usually shows that the founder has identified a challenge in the space that he is now about to tackle.

6. Track Record

Starting a company is hard, but selling a company or taking a company public is even harder. Out of the global pool of entrepreneurs, there are not too many people who have already succeeded in doing so, and even if they did it is important to realize what returns their previous investors actually saw.

A serial entrepreneur is someone who is able to perform consistently, learns from his previous experience, and is now looking to do things bigger and better. Experienced entrepreneurs bring a lot of know-how into the business and have the ability to see another company through.

7. Diversified Skill Set

When constructing a founding team, there needs to be several pillars in place. Some angels favor companies that have a marketing expert, a technology expert, and a business development expert on board in order to succeed. Having a complimentary skill set in the founding team eliminates ensures the scalability of the company.

8. Fundraising Abilities

The founders need to be able to tell a story.  Young companies are constantly raising money. Inability to communicate the vision, the mission statement, the story and the technology in a way that is audience focused to investors, is a major issue. Execution and meeting KPIs should be what the CEOs are focusing on and as founders are able to conduct successful rounds they are able to get back to business.

9. Personality

Traits such as flexibility and agility will help founders overcome obstacles. Over achievers by nature are relentless and cannot seetle for mediocrity.  Being responsive and respectful of other people’s time shows that the founder is humble and understands the fact that there are many smart people in the world who can help.

10. Visionary

Startup investing is risky. If the vision is not big enough, it might not be worth attempting. Many founders have a good product, but what is going to happen with this product in a year or two from now. Founders not only need to have a product to sell, but they need to understand how to build a company around it. If the founder cannot convince you to buy into his vision, how will he build a successful company around it?

 

How iAngels Broke Into A Closed Industry

Being an entrepreneur, solopreneur, or small business owner is hard enough. Now imagine being a woman launching your company in a male-dominated industry that is completely closed to outsiders.

That is exactly what Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal did when they launched iAngels, an equity crowdfunding platform that connects investors with startups in Israel.

 

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