Talking Cranes interviewed Darya Henig Shaked - CEO of Stride Ventures, LLC.
Darya is bringing the first Israeli Women Entrepreneurs Mission to the Silicon Valley. She talks to us about this and her driving force to make a difference and improve people’s lives and create a equal eco-system for women entrepreneurs.
Darya, tell us about your work experience in Private Equity?
In the past 10 years, I used to work for a Private Equity Fund focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. We did infrastructure work, housing, agriculture, clean energy and water. After doing that for so long, I decided that I want to focus on my first priority, which is women representation in the eco-system, in the workforce in leading positions. We moved here from Israel to the Silicon Valley about a year ago and I started three different ventures trying to moving the needle on gender gap.
What is Stride Ventures, what is your mission and what are you hoping to accomplish?
Stride Venture is a company, a social venture company. I started it in order to make a difference. I am focused on impacting the world, doing something that matters.
The current venture is bringing more women entrepreneurs to this eco-system. The idea is disrupting the cycle that prevents women to come to this eco-system, because once you have women becoming entrepreneurs, they have success stories. They have an opportunity to get into the investment world and then you have more money and funds invested in women. And women will become more confident in becoming entrepreneurs. So, I am trying to bring the best, Israeli entrepreneurs; women who have already raised millions and millions of dollars, helping them reach out to the Silicon Valley eco-system to tap in the funding and the best partnerships they can find here and give them a competitive advantage to succeed, to build global corporations and then, 20 by 20 we can close the gap on gender equality.
Darya, you have had an interesting career, what have you learned along the way that taught you how to take big problems and break it down and find solutions?
I think there is a phrase called “Tikkum Olam” in Israel, in Hebrew. It means ‘fixing the world’. It means that every child in Israel is being taught to ask the right questions, and being told to question everything. If you think something doesn’t work well, it is your responsibility to change it. So, since you are a first grader, if the teacher doesn’t teach you well enough, you make sure that you get the best service and you are being educated in the best way.
Career in the Military – Comm Specialist to the Prime Minister
Everyone in Israel, when they finish twelve years of school, they go to the Army Service. And I became an Officer very quick. In about six months after I started the military, I went to Officer’s course and I was the Israeli IDF spokesperson in the Northern Command. That was the time when we still held the South Lebanon security zone and the Prime Minister at that time, came to announce that we are going to withdraw from South Lebanon. He met me there; at that time he offered me to join his team and become the Communication Specialist in his team. So, I was about twenty years old, joining the Prime Minister in his Black Hawk, going to Jerusalem; it was the best experience. I remember coming home everyday to my parents, then you had tape recorders; it was 15 years ago. I used to press play, they could hear the Prime Minister saying my name and telling people that Darya could help them and my parents were just shocked that the Prime Minister is talking about their nineteen year old daughter. I only worked for him for about two years, the term was very short; they change governments very soon then, in very short terms. But I realized that I want to make a difference. I want to be in places that my opinion and my driving force, my will is strong enough to make a difference and improve people’s lives.
Make a difference, Improve People’s lives
So, I did it in the Army and then I did it in a few ministries in Israel in the public sector, and when I met the founder of Vital Capital Fund and we worked together for 10 years in shaping Africa, I always looked for the jobs that could help me be fulfilled and happy with what I do; and once we moved here, I immediately started thinking what can I do to make this eco-system better and to improve the solutions that everyone of us gets to use. I totally think that bringing more women and more solutions to women or diverse set of challenges could bring more solutions and more funding and just a more equal eco-system.
What do you suggest that the average person in the Valley, or Israel or anywhere in the world could do to help more women entrepreneurs? And why is it important that the world has more women entrepreneurs?
We are in a phase I think, the best in history where technologies shape our lives, they bring solutions, they determine how we wake up and how we drive and how we use medical services; everything is determined by the products that technology provides. And if we have a very, non-diverse eco-system, then we have less challenges being met because start-ups usually bring products to challenges they themselves encounter. So, we need diversity in all the challenges and finding products to many difficult problems.
Everyone can do it, first of all being minded to it because many of us think that other people are biased and they don’t hire the right diverse employees. But every one of us is biased and we don’t even realize we are. And once you know that you have to make the corrections, and you are minded to it, I think we can all do better in hiring people, in supporting, in building a community that you know, there is a phrase “reaching further together”. A community of women or men dedicated to a more equal eco-system can make such a big difference.
Do you feel optimistic?
I am optimistic as a person, I always was. I have no doubt that lets say in a hundred years, people will be amazed hearing that there was once a need for a delegation for only women. A hundred years ago, women could not vote and we think that is crazy. So, in a hundred years, we will be shocked that there was a need but I don’t want to wait a hundred years. I want my daughters and even our generation to get the benefits and solutions and everything they need to succeed because of who they are and not their gender.