I believe there are many ways for this venture to evolve. The community can become a place for the international community to support female founders,
expanding into more countries. I was approached by Chinese and Indian representatives to duplicate this initiative for their female entrepreneurs and their ecosystems. But the more profound ways of funding female founders is the most exciting and being discussed as we speak.
For Darya Shaked, gender equality means more diverse solutions to a vast range of challenges. On November 13 -20 the Israeli Women Entrepreneurs’ Mission to the Silicon Valley will take place offering leading women founders first-hand experience, knowledge and a sense of belief in themselves and their potential to build global corporations. As the founder of Stride Ventures and the force behind WEACT, Darya challenges communities nationally and internationally to redefine what it means to be a female entrepreneur.
What did you eat for breakfast?
I don’t really eat breakfast, I drink tea with milk. Probably because of my mother’s British upbringing…
What’s your favorite sport or exercise?
I love to do horseback riding but working out at the gym is much more practical. So I try to run half an hour and do some weight lifting. If I don’t have time to do that, I try to run in the evenings.
What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
I had a great experience relocating to the Silicon Valley from Israel. I had spent the last 10 years in an international Private Equity fund focused on Africa .
Here in the valley, I encountered a unique culture and met an unprecedented number of highly educated, accomplished and inspiring women. I felt it is such a shame that the innovation world, that shapes all our lives does not represent a diverse community and thus the products that reach the market are somewhat limited to the challenges of a homogenous community. Furthermore, this ecosystem is in many ways a threshold for the investment industry and for economic leadership so bringing more women to the innovation world will, I believe, make an enormous impact on other layers of decision making. This is why I decided to support women’s effort to build global corporations. In the beginning, I built a platform which I thought would be integrated into large corporations to support women in all levels and stages of life but when I realized most enterprises like to figure out their own way to bring diversity, I decided to do it myself. In a recent trip to Israel, I met many successful female founders who said they have never tried to raise funds in the SV or collaborate with local companies. I then decided to open the door for all these women and give them the confidence they need to further discover what this leading ecosystem can provide and to let them experience on first hand, the warm welcoming I received just a few months back.
In a very fast and strenuous effort, I raised $100K in Israel and had over 180 female founders apply for a week-long delegation to the SV. Learning how much this initiative was needed was an important milestone for me.
Then I started a community called WEACT (women entrepreneurs act) for everyone who is dedicated to an equal ecosystem (men and women) and asked the founders to share their stories so others can help. I also provide on WEACT relevant information and opportunities from the US to the female founders.
How large is your business?
I have 3 employees but also dozens of people supporting and partnering on this initiative, experienced and successful individuals devoting time, effort and funds to support this goal without the need of a signed agreement or a full-time job.
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
I had only 3 weeks of “vacation” time in Israel to fund the venture. I met companies on every hour and I was lucky enough to raise 90% of the funds needed to go through with the venture. The rest was raised in the US.
Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame that made you proud of yourself, or more confident.
I was introduced to a very well-known founder of a Unicorn enterprise. When I presented the venture he said that I was actually saying women are weak and that they are not able of succeeding on their own and without me, so I was actually hurting the cause more than supporting a change. For a few hours there I wondered if I should go through with it. Lucky for me, almost everybody else was extremely supportive of the idea, especially women, Female founders and the very few female investors who are now on board, one is the chairwomen of WEACT. The take away from this is, don’t let any one person discourage you out of something you are passionate about.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
My father always admired women who are able to manage a career and be good mothers at the same time. He passed away 1 year ago. I think supporting their effort of being both, is a good cause and will make the world a better place for everyone.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?
Great question. I admire Sheryl Sandberg for leading change and providing tools for other women to follow. But on the entrepreneurial aspect, I truly admire every woman, who is a mother, deciding to start their own business, tackling the challenges of juggling it all while competing in a man dominated arena of the financial world. I think Adi Tatarko founder of HOUZZ (and also an Israeli) is one of the more daring female founders.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being a female founder?
I think men and women are different in many aspects, I see it as more complementary skills than better or worse. I think women engage more stakeholders in the decision-making process and think for longer terms.
They are less likely to take risks and make decisions after thorough preparation while taking more into consideration. Studies show that diversities management and founders’ teams get better results.
What is the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
My parents taught me, and this is something the late president Peres had always said, to always thrive for a change if I think one is needed so I would say the best mindset is, if you believe things should be different, be optimistic in your ability to create change and do it with endurance. If you do that, You can’t fail.
Connect with Darya Shaked of WEACT
WEACT is dedicated to supporting Female Entrepreneurs and building an equal opportunity ecosystem.
This content was curated through WEACT and the first annual Israeli Women Entrepreneurs Delegation to The Silicon Valley.