The Human FounderHow can we balance competitiveness with sensitivity to become better investors?
The Human Founder
How can we balance competitiveness with sensitivity to become better investors?
As part of her day job, Executive Coach Gali Bloch Liran helps founders, CEOs, and investors develop the right skills and mentality. Her podcast takes us through the roller coaster of vulnerability, humanity, and the personalities of these "top dogs" of business and tech
Being a founder, not to mention a CEO, can be a very lonely place, carrying loads of stress and requiring constant peak performance. This often makes it hard to find a balance between one's professional and personal life. Maintaining strong relationships with the co-founders and investors is also not an easy task, where clarity and empathy are not always present. As one of my entrepreneurs says: “It’s not the technological challenge we deal with, it’s the mental one.”
“Throughout my +15 years as a professional, I've always been attracted to the intersection of business and psychology through entrepreneurship - What makes people tick? How do people think and act? And what motivates people in business? What drives me is being there for the amazing entrepreneurs, who are under constant pressure, so that they can make our world a better place. That’s what I’m here for, and this is my podcast – The Human Founder.”
In honor of International Women's Day, I'm excited and happy to share with you a special episode with Natalie Refuah, who shared in our intimate conversation about the insights she gathered during two decades of her career in the worlds of investments and entrepreneurship. Hearing and learning from her sensitive and wise take on the ecosystem has definitely made this day special and inspiring for me, and I hope it can do the same for you.
Natalie grew up in Tel Aviv, and studied in a small school in her neighborhood, which felt to her like a small Kibbutz inside the city - “This very cozy and warm feeling in the neighborhood of being together contributed a lot to my confidence, because I felt a part of a community.”
She described herself as a good and eager student - “First to wait next to the gate for school”, and really liked volunteering for social things; She wanted to succeed on every front.
She shared with a smile that it all might be connected to her growing up as the second child in her family. She felt like she had to achieve something in order to get her own space and acknowledgement - “We don’t see ourselves as one single person in the world, we always look at ourselves in the ratio of others - what’s our role in the setup.”
This quest that started as a survival tactic created a skill of sensitivity to herself and others, she uses today as a grownup to her benefit.
After serving in 8200 in the IDF, she went to study International Relations and Law with the wish of becoming a diplomat, but life changed her target as her husband, whom she started dating on the first day of school, didn't want to leave Israel.
She had to recalculate her path and realize she might not want to be a diplomat after all, so she started working at a VC as an Investor Relations in marketing, and learned everything about this industry from scratch.
“I like looking at things at a macro level - looking from the side of the investors, the LPs that invest in funds, gives you the macro perspective.”
As founders, we tend to look at investors with a tunnel vision. We forget that they also have LP’s - we all have a boss to deliver to. It’s important that we’ll hold this wide and complex perspective on the investors that also sees how stressful it is, how much responsibility it holds, and how the uncertainty of this role resembles the things that we deal with as founders and CEOs.
One point that a dear investor told me (Gali) in an interesting conversation lately, is that because he has the team of investors and the Lps that he’s committed to, he prefers not to push an offer that the other investors or LPs don’t like or approve, because in the end, those are the people he’s going to live with and wants to develop a strong relationship with for many years.
After 3 and a half years, Natalie needed a change and thought to herself - “I need to find a way to be in a position that I can grow to be the leader in, because I always aspired to get to the front, and I understood that in this VC I won’t be able to do it.”
She gathered all the courage and confidence she had and joined Viola Growth, where she got the opportunity that she strived for, and started doing investments.
In the beginning, she sat in the team meetings and didn’t understand 60%-70% of what was said, so she wrote in her notebook all the words that were foreign to her and studied them later at night, asked trusted friends that didn’t judge her for asking, and read a lot. Because she prioritized learning, after a few months she was already in a whole different place.
“I don’t jump to say everything that I have on my mind - I sit, I listen, and for the first year or two on my work at Viola I didn’t say much, I spoke only when I felt confident that what I’m going to say is going to contribute to the conversation and not just for the sake of saying something.”
When I asked her about changes that occurred in the VCs industry in regards to women, she said - “When I started this journey two decades ago, there were barely women who were Partners, General Partners or analysts, and I think that today it’s about 15-20% of women at the top of VCs, so it’s definitely better, but I don’t see any reason for why it won’t be 50%.”
Gali Bloch Liran is the Founder & CEO of The Human Founder; Executive Coach & Startup Advisor; Entrepreneurship Lecturer at Reichman University; Host of The Human Founder Podcast