“To be a female entrepreneur in Israel is difficult, but to be a woman leading a startup during wartime is even tougher,” said Hilla Ovil-Brenner, a partner at investment firm Arieli Capital and the founder of Yazamiyot, a platform for women entrepreneurs that she founded in 2010 and leads as CEO.
“It hasn’t really been talked about since October 7, but during wartime it is even more difficult for women in the local tech ecosystem because they have to bear the entire burden,” she continued. “In many cases, their partners are called up for military service, and they have to manage both the home front and lead the startup during a super challenging period. Naturally, the hardest hit have been startups led by women in the south.”
Recognizing this challenge and the need to boost female-led startups in the south, Arieli Capital, Ovil-Brenner, Yazamiyot, and MasterCard’s innovation lab FinSec organized a special event to support women-led startups at Microsoft’s offices in Be’er Sheva, with 120 female entrepreneurs in attendance. The event included a competition among five women-led startups from the south. “Some of the initiatives faced challenges as a significant number of their employees were called up for military service, and others are struggling to raise funds due to the uncertainty created by the war,” Ovil-Brenner explained.
The winning startup, anydish, an AI-based nutrition solution, will have the opportunity to participate in Calcalist’s Mind The Tech conference in March in New York.
‘Continue to invent, recruit, and benefit’
“This conference in Be’er Sheva is going to have a significant impact. The train of the ecosystem in Be’er Sheva hasn’t left the station yet; it is leaving now,” said Sharon Zarfati, Director of Operations & Community at FinSec. Regarding Masetercard’s operations in Israel, Zarfati added that, “Mastercard is not just a credit card company; it is also a tech company that supports billions of transactions. The innovation accelerator in Israel serves our commitment to innovation in the fields of cybersecurity and fintech.”
Zarfati said that they provide financial support for female entrepreneurs in cybersecurity and fintech, “including a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority for six months and helping them to make connections. What makes us unique is the infrastructure that allows startups in these fields to demonstrate the feasibility of their ventures.”
“The path of a female entrepreneur is challenging even in an ideal world, especially in a country that is experiencing one of its greatest crises in its history, in the midst of one of the worst wars we have ever known, and in recent years when women have been disappearing from all decision-making positions,” said Noa Tamir, CEO of Calcalist.
“And yet – keep going. Continue to invent, innovate, and create,” Tamir continued. “Keep up the amazing work because it serves as a model for all of us – for managers, employees, and our daughters. Keep spreading optimism and your incredible abilities. We are here to give you a boost.”
Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, CVP at Microsoft, which hosted the event, Managing Director of Microsoft Israel R&D Center, and CTO of Microsoft Security, spoke at the conference via a recorded video. “We established the branch in Be’er Sheva to develop the southern region, but after October 7 we are truly committed to it and will expand it.”
Another speaker at the conference was Rotem Viner Shapira, a senior advisor at the Authority for the Advancement of Women, who said that she attended the event, “to see how we in the government can connect to the field, cooperate, and share these amazing initiatives with more women. Our door is open, and we would be very happy to listen, promote, and see how we can work together. During the war, we created roundtables and connected the private sector to the government.”
In addition to Calcalist, partners of the event included Talma Travel Solutions, which provided the winner with a ticket to Calcalist’s Mind The Tech conference in New York, ESOP, Phoenix’s options management company, the Be’er Sheva Municipality, Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, Amit, Pollak, Matalon & Co. law firm, the Frontier Innovation Center, and company Resilion.