“Don’t Meet Investors When You Are Pregnant”

Tel Aviv The corona crisis and the associated trend towards video conferencing also had positive sides for Eynat Guez. The founder and boss of the unicorn Papaya Global was able to hide the fact that she was pregnant during the discussions on the screen. This was an advantage during the third round of financing, as Guez knew from experience: Investors do not trust an expectant mother to be able to run a company.

Your advice to women expecting a child is therefore clear: You should avoid meeting potential investors during pregnancy. It is sad, she admits, but “it’s reality”. You couldn’t overlook it.

Guez is the most successful entrepreneur in the Israeli start-up scene. Five years ago she founded Papaya Global, a company that automates payrolls for companies with a global presence, taking into account social benefits and bonus payments in different countries.

Today, Guez’s start-up soon employs 300 people and generates sales of 50 million euros in 40 countries, including Germany. She is currently also planning branches in Germany and Great Britain. These two markets in particular are becoming increasingly important for Papaya Global.

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She has only been able to cope with the dual role of mother and entrepreneur because she is supported by her husband, she says. The former military pilot, who later flew airliners, takes care of the children and the household. “Without his full-time support, I would not be able to run the company or expand it further,” says the 41-year-old mother of three young children and says: “We have to be honest and not pretend that the dual role can be mastered without help.”

Israel’s flagship entrepreneur has raised $ 190 million in capital

Guez is considered a model entrepreneur because she managed to raise $ 190 million in capital from investors in three rounds despite her three pregnancies. She is the only Israeli to run a unicorn, a growth company valued at more than a billion dollars that she plans to expand further. Your company, with employees from many nations, processes pay slips worth three billion dollars. But Guez is an exception in Israel too.

Series: Women Entrepreneurs Worldwide

According to figures from the non-governmental organization Start-up Nation Central (SNC), 85 percent of all start-ups are founded by men, four percent were founded by women, and eleven percent were founded by mixed teams. In a comparison of the OECD countries, Israel is above the average of 9.2 female founders. Ten years ago it was just seven percent.

For Lital Kiperman Vaknin, who takes care of innovations and partnerships with business at the Peres Center for Peace, one thing is clear: “For women there is still a long way to go before they can catch up with the male founders.” , she says. SNC innovation consultant Anat Greemland has specific advice: “Women should acquire more computer knowledge and be interested in the natural sciences.” They are grossly underrepresented there.

That is exactly what Talia Cohen Solal did. The trained neuroscientist uses biological, medical and genetic data to personalize depression treatment with her start-up “Genetika +”. She hopes her product will be on the market by 2023 at the latest – five years after she founded her start-up. She is currently working with eight other scientists, a total of six women and three men.

If successful, all 70 antidepressants and antidepressant combinations should be able to be tested on the basis of a blood sample, based on the genetics of the patients, their medical history and individual neurological biomarkers. Cohen Solal is convinced that this will enable individual drug therapy. The method has the advantage that a lower dosage is possible with fewer side effects.

Because Cohen Solal, a native of Britain, has only been living in Israel for four years, she says she lacks the network that long-established Israelis can count on. On the other hand, Israel is small, the high-tech community is manageable and the people are open, so that even newcomers can quickly make contacts.

The Israeli state uses positive discrimination

Numerous studies show that women are more risk averse and fear failure than men. That is why the Israeli state uses positive discrimination. When setting up a start-up, women can count on more government aid than men. “We want to reduce the gender gap in the high-tech sector,” says Hagit Sela-Lidor from the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), the government agency responsible for promoting research and development in Israel.

For research and development projects, young female entrepreneurs can be supported by the IIA with up to 75 percent of the initial investment in the first year, men can only count on 50 percent.

The “Women Founders Forum” (WFF) also helps the founders. “We offer a network that gives women entrepreneurs access to venture capital funds, but also helps with problems such as marketing strategy or financing,” says Irit Kahan, who runs the venture capital fund as a partner at DTCP (Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners) in Israel.

As in Germany, Kahan also advocates that more schoolgirls should be interested in the classic MINT subjects, mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology. The change must start in school and continue later in universities, where women are underrepresented. There are also too few women in the military. This is especially true in the army’s tech units, which for many men are a stepping stone into the start-up scene, says Kahan: “That is why men have better connections.”

The WFF network currently includes over 50 female founders who can rely on the support of more than 100 active mentors and can also count on recognition and support from funds and the largest companies.
Eynat Guez, who heads the first unicorn founded by a woman, also benefited from the WFF when she was founded because she was able to exchange ideas with her mentors. Now she can give advice herself.

Her company Papaya Global, says the mother of three, is like a fourth child for her. You have to find the “right balance” between everyone. Her advice: “Distance yourself from the ‘role of mother’ – but also from the claim to be a superwoman who can handle everything herself.”

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