A trailblazer in the Israeli and international tech world, Moran Bar is making the world a better place for startups, women and everybody she meets. She shares details about her unexpected meeting with Arthur Sulzberger, owner of The New York Times, and his unexpected trait.
Moran Bar is the CEO of Geektime, one of the largest international tech blogs that focuses on being an ecosystem for startups. She’s an inspirational and humble leader who openly shares her experiences. And while Moran is acutely aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of women in tech, she’s undeterred by them and instead focuses on the way she can help other women in their journey to success.
I met up with Moran in her Tel Aviv office to talk about her success, experience and insights into the world of women in entrepreneurship and tech.
The Karma of Serendipity
“It’s the stories that create your life,” Moran says, to explain how things just happen. Like the way she went into hi-tech. It was never something she planned.
Moran studied biotechnology in high-school, was picked up by one of the IDF’s elite technological units, and after the army got picked up by a startup company. “It just happened.”
When Moran was 23 years old, she had finished work for the day at the tech company she was working at. It had been a good day and she wanted to spread good karma. So she told herself she’d pick up a soldier from a base close by and take him to wherever he wanted to go. The soldier she picked up lived a 40 minute drive away. Moran drove him home.
Moran and the soldier kept in touch. After he was discharged from his army service and two years after they had met, they opened together what today is the largest restaurant website 2eat.co.il
While she was a law student working in a hi-tech company, she met Yaniv Feldman who was trying to sell her something for the tech company she was at. Yaniv asked Moran for some assistance with a legal document, and Moran was of course more than happy to help. They got talking about the world of startups and soon started what would become known as Geektime.
The Sweet and Salty of Being a Woman Entrepreneur in Tech
I ask Moran what she feels stands in her way as a women entrepreneur in tech.
She replies without hesitation:
“Not being part of a clique. So it’s harder. Because men in this industry always assume that you’re not the CEO.”
“And what’s the biggest problem that you think women in tech face?” I ask.
“That there aren’t enough women who have the courage to start something. And then when they start something, they don’t have enough courage to go on stage and present it. And then they have trouble raising money, because there are not enough women investors and men investors don’t understand what women are doing when the products are for women…they don’t understand the needs, the opportunity or the market. And I think this is something that needs to be changed from the bottom up and from up bottom.”
Luckily for us women, Moran defines herself as a feminist, as “someone who wants equality,” and as such she’s supporting women at every opportunity, even giving women entrepreneurs free space.
“To sit and work?” I ask.
“No. Not to sit and work…to promote themselves,” Moran clarifies.
Moran is involved in a few projects that help women, one of which is The Cracking the Glass Ceiling program, started by Alliance Israelite Universelle – KIAH (Kol Israel Haverim).
She recently took the winners of the last batch of the program, girls 13 years-old and put them on a stage at the Geek Awards in front of 1,000 people and promoted the program.
The Unexpected Trait of Arthur Sulzberger
One of the things most striking about Moran, is her humility; it permeates who she is.
“In the same way you can succeed, you can lose everything a second afterwards, you can lose everything, so stay humble,” she says.
She goes on to tell me about the time when she met Arthur Sulzberger, owner of the New York Times, in Munich. Someone nodded their head towards him and told Moran he’s a good connection. Moran only saw his name after she exchanged a few words with him and got his card. Later when she Googled him, she understood who she had met and sent him an email telling him, that if he’s in the area, maybe they could meet up for breakfast or lunch.
He replied two days later. And apologized for taking so long to respond. He also said his schedule was full.
But then a day later, he wrote back again. He had an opening on Friday morning. He hooked Moran up with two VCs.
“He was so humble,” Moran recalls. When she asked if it was ok to take a picture with him if he didn’t find it impolite or offensive, Mr. Sulzberger replied “it will only be offensive to the person who you ask to take the picture, if he doesn’t want to do it.”
Humility is a beautiful trait.
I’m very grateful to Moran for devoting some of her valuable time to share her insights with me. You can learn more about Geektime, here and follow Moran on Twitter at @moranbar.
During our hour-long conversation, Moran and I spoke about so many things. Here are a few more valuable takeaways from our conversation.
1. What motivates you?
“Every time I have a harsh conversation with someone, with investors or with people that don’t share my same belief, I do davka [act spitefully] – it totally motivates me. Most of the time. Some of them can bring me down and I need to find the strength to get up again, but that’s why I have good people around me. That’s the name of the game. To have the right people around you. Because you cannot do it alone.”
2. Do you have a certain ritual that you do in the morning?
“So this is something that we just started at home. We do laughter yoga; We sit together, me, my spouse and my baby who is two years old…and we laugh together…we sit together, we do laughter yoga and we go to work.”
3. What was the best advice you ever received?
“I met with an investor before I flew to New York [for an important meeting]. And he told me…’you know Moran, when you get nervous, just remember that he takes a dump the same way you take a dump.’”
4. Do you have a mentor?
“I have lots of them. I meet with people all the time for inspiration and for problem solving. I try to surround myself with people that I trust. Just the other day I sent emails to a few of my CEO colleagues and I said I need an hour to pick your brain. I do that all the time…do it as much as you can. But remember that eventually you need to decide what way to go.
5. What are 3 books that every entrepreneur should read?
i. The Power of Habit – “…it gives you perspective about habits and how to change them and what operates habits. It even gave me ideas on how to create more viral products and products that would sell well. It’s a good book to get inspiration from.”
[For more insights into The Power of Habit see this post.]
ii. Good to Great – “it should be the bible of entrepreneurship.”
iii. Any book that makes you laugh…But if it doesn’t have to be a book…I like to watch a Twitter account called @TheTinyFood…you see them preparing tiny foods and it doesn’t contribute anything to what your doing…I do that before I got to sleep. And it’s so nice. It’s like kittens.
[Editor’s note: I couldn’t find it @TheTinyFood when I searched it on Twitter.]