Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and requiring constant 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. 70 - With Inbal Arieli, Founder & CEO of Synthesis; Author of Chutzpah Center; Investor
An adventurous childhood
Inbal is the youngest of 3 children born into an Israeli family - but since she was four, she and her family would move back and forth between Israel and Europe; every four years they would move– starting anew in a different place, with a fresh start. Moving from one place to another forced her to meet new people and integrate into different cultures. It sparked her interest in different kinds of people, and to this day she has friends from each stage of her life: “It’s either you really enjoy it, or you really don’t. Of course, it can be a struggle anyway and it has its highs and lows, but for me, it was a very positive experience”. She returned to Israel around the age of 15 and decided to no longer join her family in their moving adventures. At the age of 18, she moved to Tel Aviv and made it ‘her city’ to this day.
A lot of responsibility at a young age
She served in 8200, where she was in a professional intelligence position for almost 5 years. She had a lot of responsibility at a young age managing a team: “I faced unbelievable challenges, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so. But when you're 18-20 and you get a lot of accountabilities and are a part of something much bigger than yourself - it’s extremely formative.” Inbal shares that rather than the expertise itself, it was mostly the skills she learned managing that shaped and helped her in the future.
After her service, she decided to take a different path and went to get a degree in law and economics, where it became clear to her that it was business that interested her the most.
At that point, with skilled English and French and her international background, she should lean toward international businesses.
Inbal shared about having great mentors in the first years of her career, like the Wertheimer family. As a young lawyer in their team, watching them handle and manage incredibly huge transactions, taught her a lot: “If an organization is a body, you get to see from the inside all the different bones and muscles and how they're connected and interact. If you move one part, something will happen in the rest of the body.”
Another excellent mentor came from a completely different field - Sami Sagol, the CEO of Keter, which at the time was the 3rd largest plastic product manufactured in the world. Again, she had the opportunity of watching and being a part of their IPO process, big transactions with the biggest retail players in the world, and seeing how those companies handled themselves through the good and the bad. It was extremely informative for her.
Fast forward to the present, everything she did connects to what she does today. This is one of the things that I (Gali) find most beautiful in life: when you look back and see that all the dots are connected, in retrospect you understand the choices you’ve made got you to where you are. And maybe then you didn't fully understand it, but eventually, everything becomes much clearer.
You make your role
“Instead of thinking about your role in a company like Lego bricks, where one simply connects to the next in a specific way, you should really see it in a more flexible light, where boundaries are less clear. This allows you to actually shape and form your role.”
After 10 years in her career, Inbal looks back on a very meaningful conversation she had, when someone told her: “Birds fly under their mothers’ wings until they are ready to go out on their own. At a certain point, they feel strong enough and just know. The same goes for us– at a certain point you’ll be ready to get out from the wings of others and just fly. And then the sky's the limit.” That’s when she realized she was finally ready to branch out on her own.
When I asked Inbal how she got this inner confidence and how she knew she was going in the right direction, she shared: “I never have full confidence that I’m doing the right thing. I’m trying. I’m very open to listening before I take the next step, whatever it might be, and I’m very open about what I’m doing so I can create the opportunity to hear other people. It doesn’t mean I do whatever I’m told, but I’m definitely receptive to other people’s observations, opinions, and thoughts because it enriches the way I think.”
Still, she emphasizes the importance of having a strong inner sense of self; you must believe in yourself. It’s a balance between the confidence you have in your own capabilities and the belief that the world has more things to offer you, so you should take care to notice them.
Becoming an author
Inbal shares that she never dreamed of being an author, but she did like to tell stories. She did it in her lectures on stage, and she loved interacting with the audience and helping them change the way they think for the better.
One time, during a big event, she was interviewed on stage and was asked about her service in 8200, which she knew has a narrow perspective of the Israeli Tech scene. She knew that the ecosystem today is shaped by much more than that. “Something about entrepreneurship is actually drawn from our childhood in Israel”. Coming off stage, someone approached her and asked where they could read more about such a concept, but she had no idea where to guide them too. Then a few more people came asking the same question. Once one more came to ask, she told him that he would have to wait for her book that she is writing about it to come out. That was her eureka moment: “There is something interesting in this narrative that had not been told yet, that resonates with people who want a better understanding of the miracle that is Israeli Tech.”
When I asked her about her aspirations for the future, she knew right away: “My biggest dream is to go to Egypt, and sit by the Pyramids, holding my book “Chutzpah” in an Arabic version. That’s my dream.”
On a personal note (from me, Gali), I would like to congratulate Inbal for not only being an amazing entrepreneur but also an amazing mother who encourages her children to follow their passions, so much so that her daughter has been accepted to The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre in New York!