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WMN: A Great Collaborative Workplace for Women and their Startups

A new workspace in Tel Aviv provides female entrepreneurs and tech workers with the space they need to be themselves
Female employees of Intel Israel at a hackathon that took place in Tel Aviv last September (Courtesy)
Female employees of Intel Israel at a hackathon that took place in Tel Aviv last September (Courtesy)

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Around the world, women entrepreneurs are engaging innovative efforts to close the longstanding gender gap in technology and startup industries.

One Israeli social initiative is WMN, a collaborative workspace at Yarid Hamizrach in Tel Aviv Port that focuses on women-led startups.

Providing a warm, open space for mentoring and relationship building, WMN is not “woman-only,” but does require woman co-founder for each company. Here, in the light-filled, stylish architectural setting, fledgling companies ideate, invent, and develop together.  Founded by Merav Oren, a serial and multidisciplinary entrepreneur, WMN is part of part of Oren’s company AGORA, which specializes in design, technology, and lifestyle in the public space and business sector. WMN is managed by Liron Ben Eliahu.

I heard about WMN from the founder one of the startups at the space, Chedva Kleinhandler, who is developing Lean On, a mentoring app for professional women.  With a little help from Chedva’s networking know-how, I connected with Merav Oren, who was kind enough to answer some questions about WMN:

1) Tell us about WMN, the space and the location.

Merav Oren:
WMN is a coworking space and ecosystem for women entrepreneurs. Our mission is to be a game changer, significantly increasing the number of female founders in the industry and bridging the gender gap in the startup world. We provide our community members with a coworking space, professional events, and workshops as well as mentors and networking opportunities.
2) It’s interesting WMN is not a woman ONLY space, could you say more about this decision?

MO:
The only application requirement at WMN is having at least one woman as a co-founder or CEO. We want to change the numbers and have more women-led ventures, but to do so, we need to influence and industry as a whole. We reach out to startups that have female leaders because that is the gap we are trying to fill, but we definitely do not believe in a women-only place.
We want to provide women with the opportunity to lead innovation, but we fully support teams with both men and women! WMN launched nine months ago, and we are already a home for more than 20 female founders together with their startup teams, and the energy here is very special.
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3) Who are the people who work at WMN?

MO:
The twenty startups currently working at WMN span many industries including cybersecurity, fintech, foodtech, voice recognition, mobile navigation, professional mentoring for women, dating, and e-commerce. It’s amazing to see how while the companies work in very different markets, they have many shared experiences and challenges as women-led ventures in the startup world. Working at WMN means that you are a part of a unique community of support and opportunities.

4) What kinds of collaboration go on at WMN

MO:
We are involved in many types of collaborative relationships. We have hosted Innovation Delegations from around the globe including China, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Taiwan, London and Amsterdam and New York. We also work together with other innovative organizations to plan events relating to entrepreneurship and innovation.

We launched WMN RoundTable – a new forum bringing together all the organizations that focus on women-entrepreneurship-technology in order to join forces together on our mission to change the numbers in the startup ecosystem.

WMN believes that to become a woman who leads; that process has to start from a young age. That’s why we also started WMN NextGeneration, a community of young girls that are interested in technology and innovation which is going to host hackathons, meetups and work with mentors but most important – expose these young girls to role models from the industry.

5) Do you have any advice for other women who might want to start a space like this elsewhere on the globe?

MO:
Our mission is for WMN to go global and I would love to speak with anyone who is passionate about our mission and interested in expansion. I think that passion drives success, and if you really want something you can make it happen. Let’s work together to change the numbers and have more women-led ventures!

About the Author
Dr. Ruth Starkman teaches courses on biomedical and computer ethics and writing at Stanford University. She writes about encryption, privacy, cybersecurity, actively promotes women in STEM fields, and hopes to prepare the next generation of STEM teachers.
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