Women Key to Israel’s Tech Growth


From Start-Up-Daily

Now in its seventh year, Birthright Excel helps create a network of young Jewish business leaders around the world while also introducing future entrepreneurs to Israel as a place for business opportunities. The program is geared for college sophomores, juniors and select seniors. Participants are assigned an internship at a prominent global company in Israel where professional mentors guide them at work. Fellows are also paired with an Israeli student to acclimate them to Israeli society.

“The participants are 19- and 20-year-olds, and I am constantly impressed with how passionate they are. They want to have fun, but they are also so serious about what they want to do. They are not just looking for a good company, they are really looking for a company that does good,” said Ifat Bechor, Executive Director of Birthright Israel Excel.


Since the program began in 2009 there have been 450 participants. Each summer the number of fellows breaks down to about 40% women and 60% men. The percentages reflect the ratio of women to men in US business schools, Bechor said.

“In terms of programs we encourage as many women as possible, especially in tech and finance where there are less women,” she said.

‘They are not just looking for a good company, they are really looking for a company that does good’
To that end, many young women were eager to hear Wilson speak about the risks and opportunities in early-stage investment as well as what it’s like navigating the business world as a woman.

After Wilson changed tracks from real estate to investing she decided to make women founders one of her criteria when weighing whether to invest in a business.

“It was always important to me to invest in women and minorities. When I started a decade ago, no one was investing in women and they felt they had no one to connect with,” she said, adding that there was, and is, a winning strategy in investing in what nobody else seems to see.

Her investments include Food52, Catchafire, Vengo, Nestio, Captureproof, Makers Row, Le Tote, and Little Borrowed Dress. She’s also invested in several real estate transactions, restaurants and education projects and served as chairperson at the non-profit Hot Bread Kitchen, which is dedicated to increasing access to the culinary industry for woman and minority entrepreneurs.

Aside from helping fellows hone their business skills, Birthright Excel also strives to deepen the ties participants from abroad feel toward Israel. One of the project’s aims is to enable fellows entering the business world to preserve the identity, heritage, and welfare of the Jewish community and improve the way the global business community views Israel.

Lofty goals to be sure, but ones Birthright Excel alumni Galit Krifcher and Lisa Wallace said attracted them to the program.

Krifcher, 23, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in economics, spent her 10-week fellowship working with Giza Venture Capital in Tel Aviv. Now an analyst at the Boston-based venture capital firm Battery Ventures, Krifcher credits Birthright Excel with helping shape her career trajectory.
“We often hear the term ‘Start Up Nation’ but I didn’t know exactly what that meant until I spent time there,” said the Potomac, MD native. “Spending so much time in Israel gives me a chance to explain why BDS is bad, and why non-Jews should care about Israel. It’s a formidable player in tech, it’s seen as a quality investment around the world.”

As for Wallace, spending time working with former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat gave her a chance to work in a mission-oriented environment. The Stanford University graduate now works at Qadium. Founded in 2012 with seed money from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the San Francisco-based firm provides global internet sensing for the private and public sectors, including healthcare, defense and finance.

And while she and Krifcher said women clearly have made tremendous strides in business, it can still be an incredibly tough area to navigate.

“As Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her new book, ‘It’s okay to be a little deaf sometimes.’ There are virtually no women in cyber-security so you just have to remember why you’re there and what your goals are,” Wallace said.

It’s a sentiment Krifcher shares. After all, she works in a sector where, according to Fortune, fewer than six percent of decision-makers at US venture capital firms are women. In the magazine’s April, 2016 study of the 906 decision-makers, only 52 were women.

“I go to industry events and there are maybe four or five women. I show up in a room and it’s unexpected I’m going to be there. Many of the men passively assume I’m in marketing, or that I’m someone’s secretary,” Krifcher said. “I like to say the learning curve isn’t a curve at all, but a vertical wall. Sometimes opening the door requires a bit of brute force.”

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This blog looks at how modern technology affects Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on Jews across the globe. The Internet has made the Jewish community seem smaller. The Jewish Techs blog, written by blogger Rabbi Jason Miller (The Techie Rabbi), explores the places where Jewish culture, education and faith intersect with technology. Of course, like anything, Jews will continue to ask if technology is good or bad for the Jews – the age old question of our people. Good or bad, it is undisputed that technology has changed Jewish life. If you’re Jewish or interested in technology or both… you’ll enjoy the conversation. Thanks for reading the Jewish Techs blog.

The Techie Rabbi – Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, the Techie RabbiJason Miller is NOT your typical rabbi. Known as the Techie Rabbi, he launched Access Computer Technology in 2010 and has grown it into a full-scale technology firm that provides social media marketing consulting and web design in addition to IT support. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary a decade ago, Rabbi Jason has made a name for himself as a popular blogger, social media expert, educator and entrepreneur. Based in Detroit, his congregation includes more than a million people who read his blog and follow him in Cyberspace. He began the Jewish Techs blog in January 2010 as the New York Jewish Week's technology expert.

An entrepreneurial rabbi and an alum of Clal's "Rabbi Without Borders" fellowship, Jason Miller is a rabbi and thought leader whose personal blog has been viewed by millions. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most tech-savvy Jewish leader" and the Huffington Post ranked him among the top Jewish Twitter users in the world. A social media expert, Rabbi Jason is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world. He writes the "Jewish Techs" blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly "Jews in the Digital Age" column for the Detroit Jewish News.

Miller won the 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and is one of the winners of a Jewish Influencer award from the National Jewish Outreach Program.