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.
Mor and Shelly are two smart cookies. They met in New York when Mor was working for IBM as part of their global business services division (“like an internal McKinsey”) and Shelly was working on Wall Street. Because of their business experience – and familiarity with their home country of Israel – they knew that:
- The investment ecosystem in Israel was closed
- There are 3,000 startups (and growing) in Israel
- There was a tremendous opportunity to help investors outside of Israel penetrate that closed ecosystem and engage in investments
iAngels bridges that gap. As Shelly explained during a phone interview, “We are the eyes and ears and personal advisor to investors who want to take part in this ecosystem.”
Investors get a tailored vehicle to create a startup investment portfolio that iAngels curates in a very data-driven way (both startups and the investors are analyzed and vetted). After they invest, iAngels provides them with ongoing reporting so they can track the companies and learn about new opportunities to help these companies.
To date, iAngels has investors spread around 20+ countries, many of whom are doctors or lawyers – they are not full-time investors.
As you can imagine, Mor and Shelly have learned a lot of lessons along the way. Here are excerpts from our phone conversation and a followup email:
- Learn to manage your time
Mor: “When Shelly and I started iAngels, the business was growing significantly every day but there was no one to delegate to. At my old positions, I managed other people and had practically unlimited resources; at iAngels, however, I needed to be the product person, the secretary, and also the founding partner, all while trying to define the strategy and goals of our young company.”
- Enjoy the ride – no matter how bumpy
Mor: “We are constantly working nonstop on what seems like an infinite amount of tasks, but every once in a while I remember how fortunate I am to be growing a business and doing something I love every day. Looking back, it’s important to remember to enjoy not only arriving at the KPI [key performance indicator], but also the journey towards meeting the KPI.”
Shelly: “The small successes and failures that are part of our day-to-day operations are what got us to where and who we are today.”
- Spending money to free up your time is OK
Shelly: “When you are trying to scale, you constantly have to juggle your expenses and your time. What’s more important: cash-on-hand or time? You always want to do things yourself so you can cut back on the expenses, but sometimes paying a premium to have something done for you just makes sense, as it frees up your time.”
- Hire people who are different than you
Shelly: “One thing we always look for is people who are different, who are complementary to us, who have different points of view and bring a fresh perspective. We see our team growing in terms of capabilities, and that’s very important.”
- Be analytical about everything
Mor: “We analyze all of our processes – marketing and sales included. Being thoughtful about every aspect of the business is very important to being effective and productive.”
- Opening a central office can put you “on the map”
Shelly: “Choosing to move our working space from a basement to a rented office space created a dedicated environment for the company and was a crucial step towards establishing cohesion and a physical presence. It gave both iAngels and our customers a sense of belonging – we are officially on the map and here to stay.”
- Develop strategic thinking and self-awareness skills – you’ll need them!
Mor: “Strategic thinking comes into play not only when making business decisions for iAngels, but also as we meet and evaluate the key drivers of dozens of startups each month. It allows me to gain insights from the very first meeting, and proactively create value for our portfolio companies (20 companies to date).”
Shelly: “Self-awareness gives me the ability to look critically at my actions, recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and objectively analyze a situation. This skill also gives me the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and do everything in my power to improve myself.”
What piece of advice do you find most interesting or helpful?
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