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Female Founders: Yael Tamar of SolidBlock On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

It is incumbent upon women at the top of their game to assist and mentor other women in the field. We gain not only by teaching one another but by creating within the mentoring process close contacts for future support and business dealings. When I meet another women executive or founder, our commonalities outweigh our differences. I have female colleagues in the fintech and blockchain field literally all around the world. Knowing I can count on these colleagues — and that they can count on me — is a cornerstone of keeping perspective in this global entrepreneurial environment.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yael Tamar.

Yael Tamar is Co-CEO and Co-founder of SolidBlock, an issuance platform and a marketplace for property-backed digital securities. Yael co-founded several fintech startups, a successful marketing company in the blockchain space and an import/export company that was acquired. She is also a regional co-chair at FIBREE, the Foundation for International Blockchain and Real Estate Expertise, the leading international network for exchanging knowledge within the real estate industry. She is regularly invited to speak worldwide as an expert in Blockchain, Real Estate and Fintech.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Although I first became acquainted with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology about a decade ago, I discovered the need for cryptocurrency in the summer between second and third grade, while eating ice-cream on the beaches of the Black Sea.

I was born in Crimea. I was seven when I realized that the currency of my country had no value. I remember how one day I went to buy ice-cream with bills that had far too many zeros on them and the next day they had even more! We would take markers and cross out the zeros so that we would know how much money we had. I realized that this paper money was worthless. I am sure that those earliest years fostered my passion for financial freedom and entrepreneurship.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Meeting my friend and Co-CEO of SolidBlock, Yuval Wirzberger, in 2018, was serendipitous. I became aware of Yuval’s involvement in the tokenization of the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen, CO., and when I realized he lived in Israel, too, I figured I would contact him and tell him how interested I was in his project. I looked for him in blockchain groups and one of my friends, Sam Katz, started working with Yuval at the time as a securities legal advisor for SolidBlock; Sam introduced us. Despite being completely different in our backgrounds and religious outlooks, Yuval and I are a perfect match. We are able to use each other as a springboard for turning our ideas into products for our company. The synergy that exists between us, and our shared understanding of both business and marketing strategy has helped us create a first-rate start-up. SolidBlock is a play on words that captures the essence of our vision of transforming illiquid assets such as real estate into tradable, compliant liquid assets. The technology behind SolidBlock is based on blockchain and our primary, initial focus is on real estate, a “solid” real world asset. The word “block” has a dual role, emphasizing blockchain and the blocks that build houses.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is not so much a funny story as a poignant one. I don’t remember why I was having a bad day, but I was. I arrived at my office building (yeah, back in the days when we used to have offices) wet and cold from my early morning bike ride to work. I hadn’t checked the weather report and it was raining outside. I stepped into the coffee shop in the building shivering and cold and there was the coffee guy behind the counter who I saw every day. He always seemed to be happy and content, and without even asking, he handed me a hot cup of my regular coffee. I borrowed some napkins to wipe the rain off my face. “How is it you’re always smiling and happy?” I asked him. This is what he told me. “I believe it is part of my job in life — my mission — to smile so that the people I serve forget about their problems and challenges. Then they pass on that smile to someone else.” This one small sentence, this one small sign of respect for another human being really touched me. I realized that I could do that, too. Since then, I strive to pass on good energy to others. When someone asks how I am, my standard answer is, “amazing!” which does lift some eyebrows, but it’s really the truth. This has helped me prepare emotionally for my long days in front of the computer.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would love to thank a collective of awesome women who have succeeded in their own careers and serve as personal examples to me. I’d especially like to take note of women in the blockchain sector such as Natalia Karayaneva, CEO at Propy, a Silicon Valley startup automating the real estate transaction; Galia Ben Artzi, CEO of Particle Code, Inc., which allows developers to code in familiar programming languages and deliver apps to every platform; Nisa Amoils, Managing Partner at A100x, a venture fund in disruptive technologies; and Olga Feldmeier, Co-Founder of Smart Valor, a premier European digital asset exchange. There have been many other women whose climb to success has influenced my own, and I thank each and every one of them.

Natalia was a recent guest of mine on a panel to honor International Women’s Day in February 2021. As we are both children of the former FSU, I always have this urge to start speaking Russian with her. In fact, as part of a game we played, I sang one of my favorite nursery rhymes in Russian. I could see Natalia nodding along. The basis of the game was Truth of Dare with some heavy topics (singing was the dare, and you don’t really want me to sing in public). When Natalia, as truth, had to tell about one of the worst things she’d been asked in an interview, she recalled how just that week in Silicon Valley, a man asked her what would happen to her business if she became sick or incapacitated. This, she believed, was in response to her gender and would never have been asked of a man.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

There has been a prevailing view that women can have it all — a family and a career and all that these two seemingly contradictory life-defining spheres give us. I am a mother to two children, ages six and eight (not to mention the dog and the one-legged cat that we own). I am also a more than full-time Co-CEO of a start-up business. That means that trade-offs happen. We compromise when it comes to finding that balance between love and success. And that balance will be different for each woman standing on that complex scale. More than convincing women that they have the requisite skills to become start-up founders, it is conditioning the society in which we live that a woman’s choice to enter the business world should be supported. It is difficult to be a woman in an influential position knowing that women are still being paid less than their male colleagues, that there are many unreported sexual harassment cases in the office setting, that women are judged for being in an office instead of the home, and that some men are intimidated by women’s achievements. Society is changing, but our progress is incremental.

My favorite part of my entrepreneurial journey is the blessing of being able to see a dream become reality. In other words, I am able to take an idea, grow it, develop it, nurture it and watch it flourish. When I think about it, entrepreneurship is a lot like parenthood. Fintech in particular and start-ups, in general, may be optimal career choices for women.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

I believe that as individuals, women are doing great in forging ahead in their entrepreneurial quests and that the things that need to happen, need to happen on a societal level and supported by governments. The more that governments provide frameworks for quality childcare and girls/women’s stem and business education, the greater women’s success will be. Moreover, I staunchly believe that success breeds success and the more successful women are viewed as role models and also serve as mentors, the more success will trickle down to would-be women entrepreneurs and founders.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

As part of International Women’s Day this year, I hosted a game night panel with two other women CEOs in the financial technology space. Though we live in different countries, speak different languages, and work in different fields, there were both humorous and serious points of commonality. We played a game of truth called, “Never have I ever,” where we reacted to statements that might have been true or false for each of us. When I read statements about the atmosphere in some of the offices we have worked, it became quite clear that despite our disparate identities, we had all been excluded from a business activity because we were women, we had experienced sexual harassment, earned less than a male colleague in the same position, watched other women being treated unfairly, and had not only suppressed our own experiences for fear of repercussions, but urged other women to do so as well. I don’t want my daughter growing up in the same insidious atmosphere that exists today in many male-dominated fields. Putting women in a position of authority may break these inbred office habits for future fintech entrepreneurs.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

It’s super important for me to dispel myths about women not being capable of being founders and mothers. I am living proof that it’s not easy but it is very possible and moreover, the balancing that I, by necessity, do is in the end, advantageous for the company and for my family, as well.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Of course not everyone is cut out to be a founder or a doctor or a flight attendant or whatever. Each person has unique skills and inherent abilities that may be enhanced but within reason. A founder must be totalistic, but not a perfectionist. They should allow themselves to ship products that have flaws. However, they should also be able to devote themselves fully to what they do and never look the other way.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

Gender-blind investment pitches.

Just as musicians who audition for an orchestra do so from behind a screen, we must somehow make the pitching process gender blind. In the case of the musicians, the judges are interested in a musician’s abilities not in their gender. A recent study of executives across genders by the Harvard Business Review found that women were perceived to be more innovative and resilient. Somehow, we must teach investors to look beyond the gender of a founder to see the promise and commitment that that founder brings to her company.

Education.

A STEM curriculum within primary and secondary schools based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is a fundamental way to begin leveling the playing field for young girls. As a mother of two children, I am aware of the fact that the higher the number of high-achieving boys in any given classroom, the lower the girls’ math and science grades. Perhaps schools should teach small groups of kids based on gender as well as aptitude. The supplementary work I do with my own children is towards making them more confident in their own abilities.

Mentorship.

It is incumbent upon women at the top of their game to assist and mentor other women in the field. We gain not only by teaching one another but by creating within the mentoring process close contacts for future support and business dealings. When I meet another women executive or founder, our commonalities outweigh our differences. I have female colleagues in the fintech and blockchain field literally all around the world. Knowing I can count on these colleagues — and that they can count on me — is a cornerstone of keeping perspective in this global entrepreneurial environment.

Believe in yourself.

Society promotes self-doubt in women who try to follow their dreams. That means that in order to succeed, a woman must buck the current trends and believe in herself and in her power to create. We must trust our own instincts. As a founder of several start-ups, this lesson applies equally well to flourishing in the business world. Not only must we strive for success, but we must acknowledge our failures. The reason that certain start-ups are successful in scaling up is the fact that they know how to acknowledge their own failures, learn from them and turn them around. A start-up is in fact an experiment and if you fail early on it will actually help you achieve success. My advice is that every time you fail, you shouldn’t let it cast a shadow of doubt on your ability to lead a successful startup. It is in your hands to become one of the greatest entrepreneurs; it’s your responsibility to lead the way to grow a truly wonderful business, one that will generate revenues and value for your clients, and provide you, your co-founders and employees with a true sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Build your team.

I believe that the team you build around you is the key to the success of any new start-up. If you don’t have people working with you who you trust, you will not be able to overcome the difficulties you will likely face along the way. This includes hiring men who are open to working with a woman founder. When you have a fantastic team and a shared passion for the vision, you can pivot your solution to a market-ready product and lead your company to success.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

SolidBlock is a pioneer in real estate tokenization. Our mission is to create a market that is global, inclusive, transparent, and efficient, with no borders, limits, or unnecessary complexities and where capital is both accessible and protected. The technology that we use has built-in trust features. In this age of digitalized innovation, we want to create opportunities for equality that are accessible to everyone. Along with opportunities for innovation, a blockchain-powered ecosystem can manage and grow successful communities by harnessing the social capital of the community. The network token that is created for a community project enables people to build sub-economies (hyper-focused marketplaces), commit themselves to each other, and knit the social fabric of their interactions into a tight weave. This creates a sense of belonging, and the tolerance of social networks is enhanced and facilitated by community currency.

Diversity, sustainability and social good are the components of SolidBlock’s DNA. With respect to HR, we have a global team with people working together simultaneously in Israel, India, the FSU, the United States, Canada and various countries in Asia. We hire people whose skills are a good fit for the company and who are excited about our mission. We are an eclectic group with members from various cultural, ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. We celebrate our diversity while anchoring our success in effective collaboration and communication even during these challenging times.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

One of the organizations that I’ve established is called Women in Block. We share educational resources, host events and tech talks, and highlight the accomplishments of women in the blockchain technology industry. Our goal is to provide the space and resources for our members to connect, learn, and grow. It is initiatives like this that support the advancement of women in the blockchain field. I invite all of you out there to join us in this endeavor.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have a conversation with Elon Musk. His vision seems grand and unattainable and yet over and over he succeeds in making that vision a reality. I think that’s because he thinks deeply and widely. The path he is on is definitely the one less traveled. He also seems to understand the challenges that all of us in start-ups face and is not afraid to speak his mind. Like me, Elon Musk left his country of birth as a teenager and plunged himself into a new culture. When I arrived in Kershaw, South Carolina, at age 16 from Crimea to participate as a high school exchange student, it gave me a new perspective on the world.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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