She-VC“Women need successful mentors and successful women need to pass it forward”
“Women need successful mentors and successful women need to pass it forward”
Calanit Valfer, Managing Partner at Elah Fund, firmly believes in doing good and shares her road to success which was paved through her mentors
Calanit Valfer, Managing Partner at Elah Fund, firmly believes every woman needs successful mentors in her corner. “I was blessed with the most amazing male mentors, two of which are my partners today. They were the ones that gave me trust and guidance - not because I am a woman but because they believed in me. Having great mentors is critical in any career path. Women need successful mentors and successful women need to pass it forward.”
Valfer moved to Israel from New York for ideological reasons when she was 21 as she believed this was her place to help build a great state. Her first venture was empowering young women with leadership. The organization worked with Jewish and Arab 10th grade girls and was called Nisan in memory of her father. “I left after five years because I was frustrated with the NGO world. I felt that I was powerless, and couldn't really push for change.” She spent the next 15 years in management consulting. “I was an economic aid to former Bank Hapoalim chairman, Shlomo Nehama.” After opening her own management consulting firm she founded the Elah fund together with her mentor Scott Shay.
When asked why she decided to go that route Valfer replied: “Elah fund was a clear vision of what investing could do, what the real power of being an investor is. We felt it was closing the gap between the periphery and the startup nation that exists between Tel Aviv and Herzliya.”
Valfer and her partner saw an opportunity during the 2014 war in Gaza. “We saw the complete breakdown of the economy and society in Sderot and the Gaza envelope. However, in Tel Aviv it was business as usual. My partner even had a historic exit around that time. We realized there aren't a lot of investments in the periphery and we thought about how we can offer growth capital for these companies, promote excellent management, and access to global networks. We also wanted to put diversity and inclusion at the forefront, as well as reducing carbon and keeping startups in Israel.”
Elah Fund has close to $200 million in assets under management in sectors that have tangible products such as industry 4.0 and material science. They mostly invest in companies that are post-revenue and that have a disruptive tech edge and something that needs to be manufactured. “We want to move traditional industries into the future,” she noted.
When asked how they address the issue of diversity and inclusion, Valfer replied: "Our objective is to be able to take an existing company and move the needle forward on values that are important for us. We believe in creating opportunities. We sit on the board and make sure they are interviewing minorities."
Valfer explains that companies should hire the best person for the job, but that they should give a fair chance to everyone. "In my own life, it was those opportunities that put me where I am. Now, as an investor, I am able to say 'this is important to us'."
CTech's She-VC series follows the stories of various female partners and senior managers in venture capital funds in Israel. Only 16% of partners in Israeli venture capital firms are women, and only 9% are investing partners. This poses a liability regarding how many female founders will be able to receive investments and it speaks to the industry as a whole.
What would your tip be for a woman who would like to start her own fund?
"Don't do it alone, find the right mentors. On the other hand, don't do it with everyone.
"My partners are people I have known for decades. Trust is built by acts and time, and investing in long-term, deep quality relationships and connections. I worked hard and I invested a lot of time, energy and money. There was a lot of hardship, but at the end of the day it was a blessing to have this group of people behind me and beside me."