How Tel Aviv’s WMN hub helps female entrepreneurs
Today, 8th March, is International Women’s Day, which is earmarked to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women from around the globe.
In line with celebrations, htxt.women took some time out to speak to two women who are members of a women’s startup hub located in Tel Aviv, a city in Israel that’s been ranked the best startup ecosystem in the world outside the US.
We set about finding out what the benefits of working in such an environment are for female entrepreneurs, and what the rest of the world can learn from it.
What makes Tel Aviv triumph over other cities outside the US?
“Tel Aviv has an amazing startup culture because of a few things in the city’s DNA I think – openness, a home for the creative class, talent, tolerance and most important – everyone is willing to help each other,” Oren explains to htxt.women.
“There are plenty of mentors who want to “pay it forward” and share their insights; people love making connections between their contacts who can collaborate. It is really an amazing environment. There is an amazing culture of helping each other instead of competing,” she says.
Oren adds that such a support system is also critical to helping female founders make the right connections and advance to the next level.
Challenges in Tel Aviv are just like any other around the world
Although Tel Aviv offers a great platform for startups to not only survive, but thrive, Oren says startups, particularity those owned by women are still up against many challenges others from around the world face.
“Female entrepreneurs experience many of the challenges facing both genders in the industry such as struggling to obtain funding, build a strong team, make the right contacts, and stay inspired,” she says.
“The shortage of women in the startup ecosystem has roots in education and societal expectations, and WMN helps women-led ventures advance and bridge that gap.”
The WMN hub
WMN launched in May 2015 in the coastal city of Tel Aviv with a mission to significantly increase the number of female founders in the startup industry, and to bridge the gender gap in the startup ecosystem.
WMN was founded by entrepreneur Merav Oren under Agora, one of the largest tech companies in Israel, and is managed by Liron Ben Eliahu.
The hub is supported by Deloitte and the Tel-Aviv municipality
“Our mission is to be a game changer, significantly increasing the number of female founders in the industry and bridging the gender gap in the startup ecosystem,” Oren says. “We do this by providing our community members with a coworking space, professional events and workshops as well as mentors and networking opportunities.”
“It’s also amazing to see how while they are in very different markets, the startups have many shared experiences as women-led ventures.”
WMN is home to more than 20 female founders together with their startup teams, each operating in a different industry such as social networking, online dating, fintech, eCommerce, fashion and more.
A look at a couple of startups hosted at WMN
Oren also runs her own startup, called Open Restaurants which is hosted at WMN.
Founded in 2013, Open Restaurants is an online marketplace for the best culinary experiences a region has to offer.
It’s an innovative easy-to-use platform, where users can discover,explore and book a vast array of unique,handpicked culinary adventures in cities around the world – from culinary workshops, tasting sessions and special culinary events to cooking or baking lessons, chefs and expert-guided market tours and other activities.
“Whenever I went to a restaurant and the waiter delivered my plate complete with color, careful design, and delicious tastes, I was curious. I am always a curious person and couldn’t help but wonder what the process of creating that plate really looks like,” Oren tells us about why she started Open Restaurants.
“I wanted to expose people to the wonders of the culinary world and allow them a deeper, behind-the-scenes opportunity.”
The startups’ clients consist of 80% locals and 20% tourists. The tourists are foodies who are drawn by food and lifestyle festivals, while locals include anyone who is curious to learn and experience something different.
“The business has really grown and this year it is going to be a huge festival in Tel Aviv. In addition to meeting restaurant chefs, which was the original concept, participants will have the chance to tour bakeries, wineries, and breweries and interact with the people who run them. They can also participate in workshops at these locations and hear food talks about culinary perspectives from many angles including journalists, designers, and entrepreneurs in this field,’ Oren says.
Oren also has major plans to expand Open Restaurants further this year.
“I am excited to launch the venture in Amsterdam this coming November. Hopefully London will be the next stop, and then many other places throughout the globe. I am excited to open people’s eyes to culinary experiences they never had before and to build a greater appreciation for what’s in front of them,” she says.
TOPRO is an online platform built to display, connect, and support talented independent professionals worldwide. The startup maps all independent service providers, giving them more visibility and changing the way clients recommend, discover, and book the best professionals around.
“The first version of the product is a collaborative tool to help closed groups/events build their list of best professionals. This tool keeps the knowledge in one place, in a trustworthy manner,” 30-year-old founder Dannie Hetz tells htxt.women.
TOPRO is the second startup Hetz has founded, the first being a scheduling app named SPOT which helped clients book easily appointments with the potential employees they are interested in hiring.
Hetz admits that, like any other startup getting off the ground, she did have her reservations about launching TOPRO.
“There are always fears when working on something new and trying to build something in the hopes of making a change. One of the biggest lessons I learned, as a startup founder, is to manage those fears and believe 100% in what we do,” she says.
Working from a startup hub has also contributed to making the journey a little smoother, Hetz adds.
“WMN gave our team the ability to work together in a beautiful collaborative space. We also got to know other startups who come there and encounter similar challenges. We learn a lot from interacting with the wonderful startups around us at WMN.”
On working in the world’s second top destination for women entrepreneurs, Hetz says the startup scene in Tel Aviv is growing, but would love to see a more balanced ecosystem with more women investors, CTO’s, and founders of great companies.
“For the future of TOPRO, I’d love to see the beginning of a new movement: happy clients who take the time to appreciate and highlight those individuals who make our lives better. Independent professionals have earned the right to be visible, I’d like to see them grow,” she says.
Her words of wisdom from one women startup founder to another are to listen to corrective advice and to the consumer is a big lesson, but listening shouldn’t make you not do something- it should simply make you make corrections in your assumptions or re-evaluate those assumptions.
“The race is long… it ends only when you choose to stop,” she says.[Main image – CC by Mikhail Kryshen]