Despite women making up 1/5th of the human capital in Israeli high-tech, there is a major gender gap when it comes to founders and entrepreneurs, who are mostly men. But the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and this past week’s barrage of startup funding announcements have put the spotlight on a few companies led by female entrepreneurs and CEOs. Though, this begs the question: Is this a one-time thing or is a trend picking up?
Hundreds of millions of dollars in a week
Israeli fintech startup Sunbit, which develops a system that provides users an instant line of credit for purchasing essentials, scored $130 million led by Dovi Frances’s Group11. The mega round skyrocketed the company into the Unicorn club. Sunbit uses its proprietary AI algorithm to analyze a customer’s credit history in real-time and create a payment program for a specific purchase. According to Frances, the company can climb to Decacorn status (hitting $10B valuation) within the next five years.
Sunbit CTO and co-founder, Ornit Dweck-Maizel, thinks that this is not just a stroke of luck, but rather the beginning of trend: “This past week was no fluke, but the initial spark of female tech entrepreneurs aligning success with the rest of the market. There’s more awareness now, and more and more female business leaders can be used as positive examples, meaning the success is not relinquished to startups in a niche sector. Nowadays, many leading women hold key executive positions in startups, across different industries: cybersecurity, Fintech, Blockchain, AI, and more.”
According to Maizel, in order for the trend to grow, awareness becomes a crucial factor: “From my perspective, the key is to stop the discourse around it, and rather create more awareness. Even if gender was a “non-issue” for me during my professional career. Encouraging women to take on more executive roles at tech companies is a mission for all of us. We need to take action in our communities, at our schools. We should create programs with a technological orientation that encourage and empower young females. I’ve participated in these types of programs throughout my entire career, and I’m extremely proud of our team at Sunbit, which increased female headcount throughout the company, and more notably at the Israeli R&D center.”
Another female led startup that announced funding this past week was Hello Heart, headed by CEO and co-founder Maayan Cohen and CTO and CISO Michal Gutman. The startup wants to help monitor blood pressure and other vital signs of people with heart disease, and last week secured $45 million from JVP, who has invested in some of the tech games most household names, such as Netflix, Slack, Twitter, GitHub, and many others.
“I think many women have taken the wheel, and built amazing companies that are now primed and ready for meaningful investment after years of hard work,” tells us Hello Heart CEO, Maayan Cohen. She says that venture capital funds have started to be more conscious of the advantages of investing in women. According to Cohen, the funds are more open than ever to the opportunities of investing in female led companies, and they're trying to balance their portfolios and Board of Directors accordingly. Or as Cohen puts it, “great news for everyone.”
Snappy, an AI-powered digital gifting platform led by CEO Hani Goldstein, also announced funding last week. The company raised $70 million alongside an impressive list of customers, including Microsoft, Adobe, and Uber, next to over 1000 other companies which used the platform to send more than a million gifts to their employees over the last six months.
Just like Cohen and Maizel, Goldstein also believes that the process takes time: “It’s hard to ignore the fact that the market is showing stronger signs of diversity and progressiveness, and it’s clearly more open to investing in female led ventures than in the past.”
One industry with a significant gender gap can be found in cybersecurity. Israeli startup SAM, a IoT cybersecurity firm, has managed to attract some interesting investors to its door. This was highlighted recently during the company’s $20 million Series B funding round from Intel, Verizon, and BlackBerry, among others. SAM was founded by 3 entrepreneurs, led by CEO Sivan Rauscher.
Another representative from the cyber world is Parametrix, which monitors global IT services, and provides insurance policies in case of cloud downtime. Parametrix, like the others, also has a couple female tech leaders positioned at the top, with CTO Neta Rozy and COO Ori Cohen. Rozy came to Israel as a lone soldier, and attests to her interest in programming already from a young age. The two met during the ZELL entrepreneurship program, and together with CEO Yonatan Hatzor joined forces with Tamir Carmel, the entrepreneur behind Israeli food delivery platform - 10bis. Last week, the company announced the closing of a $17.5 million Series A funding round. The investment was led by a first timer in the Israeli ecosystem, FirstMark, which previously invested in companies like Shopify, Airbnb, Discord, and others.
According to Ori Cohen, companies with strong female representation at the executive level “are accepted better”, but like many others, Cohen calls to change the discourse around women in tech: “In my opinion, women should be talked about because of their professionalism and expertise, each in their own sector, and not just because they’re women.” Cohen also claims that the more women take hold of key positions, upper management, and venture into the entrepreneurial world “it pushes more and more women towards personal development and sparks their ingenuity to build their own companies.”
Laguna Health, just recently emerged from stealth and announced a $6.6 million investment from Pitango and LionBird. The company also operates in the world of insurance, offering a platform for patients who were hospitalized, customizing a recovery protocol for them to help prevent additional costly hospitalization.
The company was founded last year by CEO Yoni Shtein and CPO Yael Peled Adam, with the latter a former founder at Vim and CPO at Bond. Peled Adam also previously held executive positions at Microsoft and Amazon.
Sunbit CTO, Ornit Maizel, concludes with words of hope - which is shared by all of us - “I hope for the day that the discourse around women in high-tech is no longer a topic for an article.”