​Who says you can’t combine motherhood and entrepreneurship? Google’s Tel Aviv campus provides mentorship program, and infants are welcome.

 Israeli Google Moms grow babies and startups

 

By Rivka Borochov
Moms with babies and toddlers in Israel are looking out — not for a way out of motherhood or maternity leave, but for the next big exit. Like their male counterparts, Israeli women want a go at growing a successful company, like the billion-dollar navigation app Waze.
But even with Waze as an example, navigating through the landscape of the startup world can be daunting for the uninitiated. This is especially true when one has babies in tow. While Israeli women are career-oriented, most would never give up the chance to be mothers. 
Google’s Campus in Tel Aviv found a way to make moms’ dreams come true. It partnered local NGO Yazamiyot (female entrepreneurs) on developing a 10-week program to help Israeli moms start new companies. It’s called Campus Tel Aviv for Moms –– or simply, Google Moms.
The third cycle of the program began in May 2014.
The Google Campus sets meeting times to accommodate mothers’ schedules, from 9:30 to 2 pm. It provides mats and big poof cushions so that little ones could roll around and play in the office as the women talk shop, startups and babies.
Some 50 women joined the second cycle of the program in October 2013. Out of them, a handful of new companies emerged to give their elevator pitches at a demo day with investors and mentors present.
Winners of the demo day were the two-person company Coupick,  founded by Sharon Solomon, 39, and Maya Holtzer, 40. The duo has decades of experience in high-tech. They were each looking to ramp up the speed of the ideas they had been chewing on. Though comfortable in a man’s world, Holtzer says she chose to go to the workshop to take advantage of her gender.
Holtzer had been working on some ideas at home by herself, but was going in circles. She wanted a partner. Google Moms helped her find Solomon, now looking after a toddler and a newborn baby, Raz.
Creative energy at maternity leave
Only nine percent of startup companies in Israel are founded by women, and statistics are worse when it comes to investment prospects.
Recognizing not only the inequity, but the potential in this idea-force, a Yazamiyot founder, Hilla Brenner –– also a founder of the TASE-traded startup Whitesmoke –– decided to find a way to help women.
Maternity leave can be a creative point for some women, she says. And then there is the time to create and dream.
Brenner is a good friend with an executive at Google, also a mom, and they planned the program together while walking their kids at the park.
“It was an amazing experience,” says Brenner. “We even had an oversubscription of women who wanted to lecture. And because of this venture, Google is now opening programs in London, Berlin and Krakow. They are aware and recognize that this innovation comes from Israel,” she says.
Holtzer, a mother of kids age three, seven and nine, says the lectures gave her confidence. “They didn’t tell us only the success stories but also showed us what didn’t work and gave us their lessons from it,” she says. “Most of all, the talks were inspirational. They said: don’t be afraid.”
Her partner Solomon was far into her second pregnancy when the classes began, and they weren’t sure if she would make it to demo day before giving birth. They made allowances for both scenarios.
Going to Google Launch Pad
But all went on without a hitch. Coupick won $20,000 in Google cloud-computing power as well as a coveted spot in the Google Launch Pad program.
Coupick is a coupon comparison site that helps people find valuable coupons related to their interests and shopping habits. The company is looking for a seed investor.
“We didn’t come up with this idea because we are moms,” says Holtzer. “But we did find out that most of the users, or the type of common user, also happens to be a mom — because a lot of women shop online.”
Post-program and post-birth, Solomon now takes baby Raz with her to meetings, when she can –– even to legal meetings. She is known to leave a trail of her toddler son’s jelly bears behind her at times, and to pump breast milk in the midst of lectures.
However, she has been told that babies are not welcome at the Google Launch Pad program.
If the company gets off the ground, it may even be eligible for financing from Eva Ventures, a new Tel Aviv-based fund that micro-invests in female-founded startup companies.