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Cartier Women’s Initiative and Tech It Forward Join Forces for Israel’s First Ever Event in Israel

Author: Liat Behr

What an honour to have attended Cartier Women’s Initiative and Tech It Forward’s Event!

In the first event of its kind, Tech It Forward hosted the Cartier Women’s Initiative in order to spread the word about its global program, and help women-led Israeli startups apply for its international entrepreneurship program.

Special thank you to Elah Alkalay, and special thank you to Jessica Rosner and Jennifer Elias of Tech It Forward for the event and invite!

Here’s some background and context

The Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI) was founded in 2006 and since then has supported more then 262 women across the globe as they build impact-driven businesses that are changing the world.

Tech It Forward is an innovation bridger that uncovers the power of Israeli startups, helping them to boost their strategy and execution and connecting them to international partners, investors and corporations.

Tech It Forward’s well established multi-sector network is powered by more than 5,000 entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, innovation hubs, universities and corporations. These powerful connections perfectly position it to be at the top of new trends and discoveries, and a perfect partner to get the word out about the Cartier Women’s Initiative to the startup nation.

The event was ninety minutes and took place online. It was inspiring and thought provoking in both its panel, discussion of challenges, and presentation of women-led Israeli startups in the fields of food-tech and medtech.

How the Cartier Women’s Initiative supports women

Wingee Sampaio (pronounced WinJee), is CWIs Global Program Director. She’s been heavily involved in women’s entrepreneurship for over ten years, and has work in leading financial companies. Currently she is working towards fulfilling CWIs vision of helping every woman impact entrepreneur achieve her full potential.

Wingee emphasized the world’s need for solutions created by women. Through CWIs important work throughout the years it has learned that women entrepreneurs are very keen to solve four main UN SDGs – quality education, good health and well-being, gender equality and economic growth. Through empowering women to build successful startups, the Cartier Women’s Initiative is supporting women through financial, human and social capital support to help them succeed with less barriers, and create the change the world so badly needs.

(More on why you should apply and the financial, human, and social capital support you’ll receive if you win, here.)

Why do women need to be propelled forward?

Elah Alkalay, Israel’s leading authority on impact and gender lens investing, shared some fascinating insight into why not enough women are in powerful positions, and why they need pushing forward.

Overall, Elah explained, we live in a society that strives for equality. However, in our daily experience people are not equal. In fact, in almost all parameters – height, weight, intelligence, background, we are different from one another. And that’s before we’ve even touched upon gender and race!

In life, Elah went on to point out, we use heuristics – mental shortcuts that help us make faster decisions. Except that these heuristics sometimes trip us up. So if most of the CEOs on Tel Aviv’s stock exchange are men, we assume that if we’re talking about a CEO, we’re talking about a man. If most entrepreneurs are men who come out of the same army unit, not only will it be odd for us to see a woman entrepreneur, we will become suspicious of her, because she doesn’t fit in the picture we have in our mind of what an entrepreneur looks like. As a result, we’ll question her and scrutinize her more than we would any male.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that women speak differently than men, and so when a woman speaks using words like “feel” instead of “think” this completely throws men off. Elah mentioned Madeline Albright in this context who used the words “I feel” when addressing her all-male delegation, and they didn’t understand what she was trying to say. (Here’s a link to the full Ted Talk – it’s only twelve minutes and it’s packed with gems.)

Elah goes on to explain that the bias against what we are used to is very strong which is why an enterprise like the Cartier Women’s Initiative is so important. It helps women become more familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and familiarizes the entrepreneurial ecosystem with women – it is a symbiotic relationship, Elah points out. The more women we become accustomed to seeing in the ecosystem, the easier it will be for the women who follow.

Elah ended off by saying that when we embrace diversity, we make less assumptions and better decisions.

Thought Provoking Questions

January Barnes, the excellent moderator of the event posed some through provoking questions, which the panel took turns answering.

Why is it so important today to continue to actively empower women entrepreneurs around the world? And how can women be supported?

Michael Michaeli, director of economic development at Tel Aviv Global pointed out that the actions that are most effective at helping women get ahead, like the Cartier Women’s Initiative, combine fundraising, creating connections and professional mentoring. When used together, they make a tremendous difference in creating change.

Sandrine Montsma, managing partner of Bridges Israel, Israel’s largest impact investment fund in Israel, shared that over the past four years, Bridges Israel has looked at approximately 1500 startups, out of which only 5% are led by women. Sandrine asserts that the main barrier is numbers. Without more women-led businesses in the funnel, capital will continue to be deployed to startups led by men. With more women-led startups there will also be more capital going to them. To create more women startups, we must encourage more entrepreneurship among women, and make access to capital easier for them.

Having said that, Sandrine went on to say that since the beginning of the pandemic, she has seen more women-led startups than ever before. Sandrine finds this encouraging noting that Israel’s Innovation Authority and other organizations are paying more attention to women-led startups. But even so, we must continue to do more for women because we are not doing enough.

Elah Alkalay, shared the now famous quote “she can’t be what she can’t see.” For women to get to certain positions they need to be able to see themselves there. Not seeing women in the positions they may seek, turns them away and leads them to other easier career paths. We can help women become an entrepreneur by helping more women become entrepreneurs.

Orelle Khalili, deal flow manager at Capital Nature commented that it’s important to empower female founders because when there are more women present, there is more innovation.

“We simply don’t have time to be limiting women,” said Orelle. With the environment in the state that it is, we need as many women onboard as possible. In terms of the support we should be providing women with, Orelle mentioned mentoring and having more women as part of the decision-making process. Orelle also agreed with Sandrine that the more women there are in the funnel, the more we can shift capital to them.

In what fields are we seeing women develop more impact startups and where do we need to see more women?

Sandrine Montsma reflected that the two biggest challenges that humans are facing today are the environment and social inequality. Bridges Israel invests in startups that solve these challenges. Sandrine shared that in terms of the startups that she’s seeing in the Israeli ecosystem, women-led startups tend to focus on foodtech (environmental) and health (social inequality). Because there are less women studying subjects such as math, physics, and computer programming, we see less women in these areas. These areas, Sandrine points out, are the areas that attract more capital, and this is where she would like to see more women.

Michal Michaeli reports seeing women-led startups that are doing amazing things such as developing biological concrete, producing energy from the sea, and creating fabric that absorbs solar energy. And while she points out that this is inconsistent with what Sandrine has seen, she has also observed that many of the women-led startups she is seeing involve healthcare.

Wingee Sampaio explained that over the past fifteen years, the Cartier Women’s Initiative has shifted. If in 2006 it was prompting women to take more action to develop their ideas, today CWI is focused on helping women scale their businesses in order to create more impact.

Orelle Khalili shared that she is seeing more women-led startups focusing on the circular economy, and like Sandrine and Michal, she hopes to see more women in STEM related fields – technology, engineering and mathematics. In order to achieve this, we need to encourage more girls to study these subjects.

Between men and women there exists a confidence gap. Why is there a confidence gap and what steps can we take to close it?

Orelle Khalili explained that the confidence gap is a vicious cycle. Women are challenged far more often than men when making presentations. This in turn leads to women questioning their abilities and their image. Orelle’s message to entrepreneurs is to have confidence, know your business and your product, and hold yourself as the competent entrepreneur that you are – regardless of whether you’re male or female. Inner confidence is essential to success.

To investors Orelle’s message is to stick to the data and crunch the numbers, regardless of the person behind the startup.

Wingee Sampaio reflected on the importance of having a sense of belonging – this helps women build their confidence. This is why the Cartier Women’s Initiative dedicates so many resources to building a sense of community and belonging. Wingee also identified self-expression as a key to unleashing women’s potential, and this can happen when women are confident in themselves and in the impact that they can have.

Michal Michaeli reminded us to remember that even as women, we are also biased and that we need to do our best to open things for women.

Women led businesses outperform businesses led by men, yet more businesses are led by men. Why?

Sandrine Montsma reiterated that we need to encourage more women to lead startups. It’s our job to take some of their risk away. This can be done by funding women in the first and most difficult phase of building their startup. Sandrine even suggested coming up with creative solutions such as paying the founder a salary in the first years so that she can continue to build while knowing she can sustain her family.

Elah Alkalay, pointed out that while there is a positive correlation between economic performance and diversity, so long as there is nothing to compel society to change this, it will prefer to stay within its own comfort zone. In this case, what we require is regulation, which is what we are seeing in the EU. Another direction that both women and men can take is to be more vocal about a lack of diversity, and whenever it shows up in teams – to point out the lack of diversity of the team.

What does the future look like for women-led impact startups who in 2020 only received 2.3% of all equity funding?

Sandrine Montsma emphasized again that we must work towards boosting women’s numbers in the pre-seed and seed stages.

Michal Michaeli shared that she is seeing more women on investment teams. As women become partners with larger stakes in their companies, women will invest more in women.

Orelle Khalili is hopeful that we will see more female founders of startups. She points out that the more we have great initiatives such as CWI that enable communication and education, the more women we will see.

Featured Startups

The last part of the event featured four women-led startups whose founders presented their businesses. While each women gave a live presentation during the event, instead of summarizing their presentations, I have chosen to embed videos they have produced about their respective organization. Enjoy!

1. Adi Lengel – Fabumin

2. Jasmin Ravid – Kinoko

3. Hillary Harel – Serenus AI

4. Inbal Zafir-Lavie

This video is in Hebrew.

If you’re a woman entrepreneur, Cartier Women’s Initiative invites you to apply to their program. Here’s a link to their LinkedIn applicant page.

Once again, special thank you to Elah Alkalay. And a special thank you to Jessica Rosner and Jennifer Elias of Tech It Forward for the invite and organizing this first ever event of its kind!

Hope you enjoyed the summary of the event. If you’d like to see the full event, you can see it here, courtesy of Tech It Forward:

Special thanks to Liat Behr for the article

Watch the full event online here:


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