Google Israel Seeks to Inspire Working Mothers

“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and the law of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

Participants brainstorming at the Campus for Moms event at Google Israel. (Photo: Google)
Participants brainstorming at the Campus for Moms event at Google Israel. (Photo: Google)

Google’s Campus TLV in Tel Aviv hopes to inspire more women entrepreneurs with its new Campus for Moms program.  Having run two successful courses already, other Google campuses worldwide are looking to follow suit.

The Google Campus “is a hub for entrepreneurs and developers located in the heart of the startup nation.”  It is a space for developers and entrepreneurs to meet, interact, run or participate in events and generally grow in the field.

According to Bloomberg.com, technology makes up roughly a third of Israel’s economic growth, yet only 9% of technology startups are headed by women.  “The biggest miss we have on talent in the technology industry is the lack of women entrepreneurs and engineers,” said Google Israel’s head of research and development, Yossi Matias, the senior company executive working with the Campus for Moms project.

For many moms, though, the problem is juggling business and family.  According to Hila Brenner, whose Yazamiyot group for entrepreneurial women helped found the Campus for Moms program, juggling work and kids doesn’t leave much time to invest in learning and developing new skills.  Maternity leave may be the only time some mothers have to develop their skills.  Brenner herself raised $5 million for her first startup venture when she was nine months pregnant.

The child-friendly program runs for nine weeks, covering such topics as From concept to production; Fund Raising; Intro to patents; User interface; Intro to recent trends in tech:  Cloud, HTML5, Android; Online Marketing best practices and Local success stories.  The facilities contain mattresses, beanbag chairs and changing stations to make the space as comfortable as possible for mother and baby, though the promotional material indicates that children are not required and men may enroll, too.

The first course ran in July of last year, the second began in October.  The third course is planned for this coming May.

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Nira Sheleg, a 37-year-old mother of two, founded Wizer.me, a teacher-resource company, during the program.  “The course helped me realize that this is who I am,” she said.  “I am an entrepreneur, not just a mom with an idea. Now I have a support group, and the mothers around me are amazing.”

The Campus for Moms initiative is a step in the right direction.  Eva Ventures is a micro-venture capital fund dedicated to the promotion of women entrepreneurship.  According to its website, as little as 4% of venture capital worldwide is dedicated to female-led initiatives.  “We know that having more women as startup founders would enrich the vibrant, innovative and unique scene that is Israeli high tech,” the fund’s website says.  It started raising money a few weeks ago and hopes to reach $30 million over the coming months before seeking candidates to invest in.

Shelly Hod Moyal, co-founder of equity crowdfunding platform iAngels, points to another obstacle in the path of entrepreneurial women: prejudice.  “There was one lead angel investor who said ‘just because you have a pretty smile doesn’t mean you will be successful,’ and another told us we were missing male energy,” she said. “On the other hand, there were a lot of people who empowered us and said, ‘Just seeing two women doing this is refreshing.’”

In addition to the typical challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, those in Israel face an additional challenge: mandatory service.  Since single women serve in the army as well, and only begin their education after, most women find themselves starting a career and a family at the same time.  Additionally, says Brenner, “…your partner does reserve duty, sacrificing for his country, while you sacrifice for the kids.”

Sheleg believes Campus for Moms offers mothers with ideas the knowledge, and possibly more importantly, the support they need to get their ideas off the ground.  “Once you’re in this community of mothers doing the same thing you are you don’t think it’s so extraordinary,” she said.