Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and required to constantly be at peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”

“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”

Ep. #49 - With Mor Assia & Shelly Hod Moyal - Founding Partners & Co-CEOs of iAngels

In light of International Women's Day, I chose to share my conversation with two inspiring women.

Shelly and Mor have been close friends since they lived in New York many years ago. They often discussed the challenges that they saw with investing in Israel until they decided to do something about it. From their point of view of working at a big organization at the time, where there's a lot of discipline and many practices, the ecosystem seemed to them like a jungle. Mor was working for Amdocs, and Shelly was working at Goldman Sachs. They both loved it; being able to accomplish such big things while having corporate security. But on the other hand, Mor felt that her job was too narrow - she wanted to do more and grow.

She started dreaming about building something from scratch and bringing an innovative approach to investing. So instead of taking her maternity leave - she took a risk.

It took a lot of discipline to make time for their work as young mothers to young babies. It was a true test of their commitment, and they passed it successfully, armed by a new confidence in what they can bring to the table.

Shelly always wanted to do something of her own. After her first child, she knew she couldn’t delay it any longer, she wanted a change.

She was thinking about connecting investors and founders and creating a professional way to invest. Her background in finance and investments allowed her to experience the finance system from many different angles.

Together, with their complementary skill set, Shelly knew that she and Mor would make a great team.

They met in a meeting of young Israeli professionals in New York. Shelly was very impressed by Mor and went up to her. They became friends. Then partners. Now they’re family.

The superpowers that were the base for their partnership: trust and open communication

Shelly shared with us her take on Mor’s talents - her strong sense of self, optimism, original yet logical way of thinking, analytic skills, dialogue that sharpens her thinking, her ability to teach. Mostly, she felt that their relationship has created a lot of personal and mutual growth for both of them.

As for Shelly’s abilities, Mor shares that Shelly is very smart and has a crazy work ethic that pushed her to work at Goldman Sachs for 22-hour workdays. “She is my superpower”. Their different backgrounds were complementary yet allowed for them not to step on each other’s toes.

“I totally respect the fact that Shelly can have her own opinion, and I won't share it, but we have so much mutual respect, admiration, love, and shared values that allow us to engage together in anything. We can talk about things openly; we can decide to disagree and still love each other.” Their early employees were shocked by their chemistry; one of them told Mor and Shelly that their communication was on a completely different wavelength, so much so that they didn’t even have to talk to one another to know what the other was thinking. Another employee was floored at seeing them completely disagree about something in a meeting where they were seemingly very upset, and then grab lunch together as if nothing happened.

Their baseline of communication is trust– knowing the other person has your best interest at heart. It took a lot of training for them to build that.

While choosing how to react in a situation - one should ask him/herself:

How would you act differently if the transaction only happened one time VS many? If you know that this is the partnership you want for life, it’s no longer a transaction, it’s continuous. They both understood that their partnership is necessary to achieve what they wanted in life. What they will build and accomplish together, is what they will share. Shelly compared it to marriage - it only works if you’re thinking of the other person.

In negotiation, Mor shared, “when we have a hand that’s dealt to us - we are never satisfied because we feel we can pull another card and change the entire situation. We're good at seeing new opportunities”

Gali, Mor, and Shelly

How to fight

Shelly knows when Mor is upset - “she needs a breather, so give her space”.

Shelly has the mindset of getting a resolution asap, while Mor needs to take time to analyze the situation and not react when she’s too emotional - She wants to come back to the conversation with solutions.

They know how the other one operates, and so they can have patience with each other during the process, even when it gets ugly.

Shelly shares that the key to not getting into a fight is to not get insulted. Don’t let the ego take the wheel; don't take it personally. You can have different angles on the same situation.

They don’t shout or yell at each other, a rule that they’re implementing at home as well. They speak firmly without being intimidating.

We spoke about the 4 understandings to live by, by Don Luis Miguel, and how to implement them within our lives:

  1. Don’t gossip
  2. Don’t take things personally
  3. Don’t assume - keep it simple, don’t tell yourself stories
  4. Do your best

Flexibility to live your life both as a mother and a businesswoman

How to manage your career and personal life? They know that they’re both career-driven, and it’s a part of who they are. Their families know that mommy is working; there's respect to that at home. It’s not either/or - they do things in parallel since both their personal lives and career are important to them. But it has its challenges.

How do you manage the trade-offs mentally, as a parent?

Shelly answers: “I forgive myself. I’m great, my kids love me, I’m doing my best, and it’s fine - they have love and everything they need.” She makes sure that as part of the logistics schedule is to spend time with her kids and to be there for them when she’s needed.

Shelly shared with us insights she took from the book The ONE Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan: If you want to be successful in life or your career, 9-5 pm isn’t really the right framework. Adjust everything - you need to understand that you have many balls in the air at once- health, career, friends, family. All the balls, except for your career, are made of glass. Career is rubber. So, when you're juggling everything, you mustn’t drop the glass balls. Within the career domain, you can have more flexibility.

Work-life balance - it’s ok to have periods when you need to work more than usual, and have a counterbalance for those periods, but when you're with a friend/ child - as long as you are present, dedicate your whole self to the situation.

How can you adopt that mindset in your day-to-day life?

For Mor, it’s having ‘date time’ with each kid every week - one on one quality time. Figuring it out with their kids, since each has different needs. Shelly agrees and emphasizes how much things changed for her when she decided to hire a babysitter for the rest of the kids, for her to take one kid every time. The same method is used with all their employees; even if it is just a short talk with them–being fully present and listening can make a huge difference. If they aren't getting as much of your time, the quality and value need to be there.

“We’re not going anywhere - this is our life - an incredible ride. We embrace the challenges, try to be in our element, have fun, and create meaningful partnerships all while running an investment fund of $400 million.”