Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
"The image of Israel as the 'villa in the jungle' has died. Our future depends on collaborations and creative leadership."

"The image of Israel as the 'villa in the jungle' has died. Our future depends on collaborations and creative leadership."

Shelly Hod Moyal, an investment expert, and the co-CEO of iAngels, the only venture fund in Israel founded and run by two women, has great optimism for our future. She shares her story + her optimism
Screenshot: Zman Yisrael

Given the damage to Israel’s economy that was widely predicted during the judicial overhaul crisis and the ongoing war, the strength of the shekel is surprising many, both inside and outside of Israel. The headline in the screenshot above from Zman Yisrael, a Hebrew-language relative of Times of Israel, had this to say:

Despite the situation in the country, the shekel is soaring ● The possible reasons: Israeli investment entities have accumulated dollars due to the tide in stock markets abroad and are realizing them; investors believe that Israel will win the war; speculators are taking advantage of Israel's weakness to buy and sell at a profit; and many investors believe that a ceasefire is near - and the government's days Short ● The question is whether they are really right

Today we hear from Shelly Hod Moyal, a finance and investment expert, and the co-CEO of iAngels, one of the most active venture funds in Israel. We hear from her the story of her extraordinary success, learn about her firm and its social commitments to Haredim and Arab Israelis, and also find out why she’s so optimistic about Israel’s economy specifically, about the value of investment in Israel, and the future of the Jewish state writ large.

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THURSDAY (03/21): If Chuck Schumer needs to get business cards printed up any time in the near future, he should probably add “Chief of Bibi Re-election Campaign.” Most Israelis have had it with Netanyahu, but they are incensed at Schumer’s trying to meddle in our internal political system (even if they agree with Schumer’s assessment of the PM). Biden and Schumer are trying to punish Bibi, but they’re actually boosting him, because they don’t begin to understand Israelis society. Might Bibi make it politically? It’s less unthinkable than it was not long ago, so we hear a leading Israeli commentator, Lior Schleien, share his assessment of what another Bibi term would look like.

FRIDAY (03/22): Breaches of protocol in the IDF are becoming more frequent—it’s a sign of the rage and worry wafting through Israel. Last week, we wrote about Brigadeir-General Dan Goldfus who took on Netanyahu, and in normal times, would have been fired—but of course wasn’t. Today, we’ll see a military ceremony that was attended by the father of one of the women soldiers at a base that was overrun on October 7. She was killed, perhaps burned to death. We’ll see the incident, and reflect on what is unfolding in Israel writ large.

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Shelly Hod Moyal is Founding Partner and Co-CEO of iAngels and the General Partner of iAngels Ventures. She co-founded iAngels with Mor Assia in 2013.

She is a finance and investment expert and has led iAngels to be one of the most active venture funds in Israel. Shelly oversees deal flow and due-diligence, investor relations and portfolio management.

As a General Partner, Shelly holds numerous board positions and is actively involved in bringing value to iAngels portfolio companies through assistance with marketing, finance, recruiting, fundraising and business development efforts.

Prior to founding the firm, she served as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and a research analyst at Avenue Capital, where she covered financials at the height of the global financial crisis. Her Wall St. background lends itself to her passion for modeling growth plans of early-stage companies that lead to the deployment of data-driven investment decisions.

A Northwestern University- Kellogg MBA graduate, Shelly is a sought-after authority for international conferences regarding Israeli tech investing across disparate verticals and digital assets.

Shelly Hod Moyal and Mor Assia (Courtesy iAngels Instagram)

The link at the top of this posting will take you to the full recording of our conversation; below you will find a transcript for those who prefer to read, available specially for paid subscribers to Israel from the Inside.

Our guest today on Israel from the Inside is Shelly Hod Moyal, founding partner and co-CEO of iAngels, one of the most active venture funds in Israel. In our conversation, Shelly relates her fascinating personal odyssey growing up in Israel, serving in the very elite Israeli army intelligence unit 8200, making her way to New York, her entering the world of banking and investment banking, venture funds and so forth, coming back to Israel, how she met the partner with whom she co-founded and co runs iAngels. But we also heard about iAngel’s outreach to the Haredi community, iAngels interest in and commitment to the Arab community and in general, Shelly's fascinating and to me, very inspiring vision for what Israeli society can be.

Shelly, like many leaders in the tech world in Israel, was very involved in the protest movement between January and September 2023. And we asked her how optimistic she is that Israel has learned from those very painful months and might emerge from the present crisis more united and healed. You'll be, I think, moved, and inspired to hear her thoughts about Israel's future, and we're delighted and grateful to her for joining us today.

So, Shelly, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. The story of iAngels is really fascinating. The story of how you came to found it with your partner is fascinating. So let's begin from the very beginning. How does a young woman from Israel end up studying in the States, end up coming back to Israel, opening up a venture firm, and so forth?

So, first of all, thank you for having. After I served in an intelligence unit here in Israel, and two days after I was released, I traveled to New York, to the big city with a few friends to take a little bit of a break after these years in the army, although they were great. And after a few months in New York, I fell in love. I decided to study. I studied philosophy and economics, and afterwards I decided to stay, basically. And I took a job at UBS. I was working in private wealth management, basically responsible for creating investment portfolios for high-net-worth individuals. So, choosing mutual funds, bonds, unis, hedge funds.

After a couple of years there, in the summer of 2008, which was a very interesting time, just before Lehman went under and after Bear Stearns blew up, I decided that I want to be investing, doing fundamental analysis, and really investing in companies, and not just high level. And I was very lucky. I got a job at Avenue Capital, which is a U.S. distressed hedge fund. I started out working there as a junior trader, and then after a few months, there was a woman there who was hired out of Lehman. She was actually nine months pregnant at the time, so she came for two weeks, she gave birth, and then she came again two weeks later, and she was hired to cover financial companies in distress, which was very rare, because usually financial companies and banks aren't in distress.

And at the time, she didn't have an associate, so I would bump into her in the hallway and offer to help her analyze and model these companies. And we had really amazing chemistry. And after several months of me working from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. as a trader, and then from 4:00 p.m. till 12:00 a.m. as an analyst, finally, I was given the job to be a research analyst covering financial companies in distress at the time investing in AIG and Citigroup and Bank of America. And so, it was really incredible years where she took me under her wing and taught me a lot about investing, especially as it relates to value investing and distressed investing.

After a couple of years there, my father tragically died, and I decided to move back to Israel. That life is too short. I always knew that I'm going to come back to Israel. It was just a matter of time for me. But all of a sudden, the value of being with the people you love and your family and being part of Israel was very important to me. And then I got hired by Goldman Sachs, by the investment banking division. And that's where I really got into tech and learning about the high-tech ecosystem. I was doing M&As and IPOs in high tech also, involved in some principal investments that Goldman made into Mobileye and Solaredge and other companies, Viola.

And after a few years there, I decided to spread my wings and embark on an entrepreneurial journey with my partner, Mor Assia, who at the time was a good friend and today she's more like my sister and family. After building this business together for almost eleven years. I can't believe it. And basically, I went from investing in companies to investing in people and technology. And over the years we've invested in over 100 companies. We've had 26 successful exits. So, the investors that have been part of our journey have realized significant returns. We've built several funds over this period, our VC fund and a blockchain fund, both of which have been doing very well and feeling very lucky to be investing in Israel entrepreneurs and also connecting investors from all over the world to Israel and to the economy in Israel.

Tell us a little bit about how you met Mor because I think that's actually a fun story.

Yeah, so it's a fun story. We met when she was doing her MBA at Columbia. There was a gathering of young Jewish Israeli professionals and everyone kind of told about themselves. And Mor told her a story about how from a young age she was identified to be part of an elite technology unit within 8200. So, 8200 is a very prestigious unit like the Israel NSA, but even in 8200 there are special units. At the time she was also a ballerina and a prima ballerina at Bedor. Then she became a software engineer at SAP after she got her mathematics and computer science degree at the Technion. And we actually met when she was at Columbia and about to start working as a corporate strategist at IBM. And I was floored by this woman. I was like, wow, she was so impressive. And after this gathering, I came up to her, I said, “Shalom naim meod [nice to meet you]. My name is Shelly, and we need to be friends”.

And ever since, we were very good friends for the next five years. And when I was at Goldman at the time when she offered me to join her as a partner, I was already six or seven months pregnant. And she said, listen, let's leave our corporate jobs. Let's start our own business. And at the time, I was like, no, I'm very happy. I'm sure that I'm going to build a career here at Goldman. I was working really, I was working 18 hours a day. Sometimes I would book 122 hours a week. And I was there really, really to the last day, to the last day until my daughter was born. And after she was born, a week later, I came to my boss. I said, listen, I'm leaving. And he was actually very happy for me, even though he wanted me to stay. And I gave Mor a call, and I said, let's do this. And basically, we moved to my basement. I mean, we went from kind of being in these big corporates, having these big brands behind us, to working in my mamad [bomb shelter] at the time, and then in my basement when I moved. And it was a very different experience going from working behind Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints to all of a sudden when you start a company, you’re everything, you're the secretary, you're the sales guy, you're the analyst, you're really doing everything, and nobody knows you, and you're trying to convince people. Mor and I I would call entrepreneurs and ask them to invest $100,000 in their companies and then go to the United States and sell it to other people, which it was really an incredible journey, which I think both of us learned a lot from it.

So, there are probably… how many venture funds are there in Israel that are run by women?

There are quite a few venture funds that two of the partners include a woman. But I think we're probably the only venture fund that is run by women.

And founded by women also, right?

Yes. That two of the founding partners are women. I think that's definitely unique in the landscape. And we also hired many women. So out of the 19 people on our team, 13 of them are women. We also have two Haredi women working for us. We also invest in many women. So, in terms of our portfolio, about a quarter of the companies that we're invested in have a woman on the founding team, which is also very rare because the statistics are around 2% to 3 % and most funds also invest in around maybe 2% or 3%.

I assume that's an intentional investment strategy, right?

You know, surprisingly, it's not intentional. I have to share that from a business perspective, it is a personal mission for me to empower women. It's funny, you're actually speaking with me on International Women's Day. So, you can see we're holding today office hours here, and we have 50 women that register to speak with us about advice on career in general, on entrepreneurship. So, it's definitely something that we're very passionate about, but it's not a specific mandate.

I think that women are drawn to us because we're women entrepreneurs, so we're able to understand and connect with them on a certain level. But more importantly, I believe that we're less gender blind, whereas we're at a point today where people feel very passionate about inclusion and about gender diversity. But deep inside, I think certain people and certain investors still sometimes find it difficult to wrap their head around women being the mothers that we are. My partner has five children, I have four children, and people are still very surprised. But how is it that you're able to be an entrepreneur or an investor or travel the world? And this is something that I believe we're able to appreciate and understand in other women in a way that maybe others find it more difficult.

Do you think the experience of people who work for you, especially the women who work for you, is different at a firm that's run by two women and founded by two women than it would be if they were working at some other Israeli VC, no matter how open minded and embracing it was trying to be?

I think so. Last year, we had six women that were on maternity leave. And, and in Israel it's very common to take six months off, and we want to give women all the freedom to do that and to be able to pursue both a career and both a family life. It's very important to us from a value perspective, and I do think that's unique. I don't think there are a lot of companies that have that same structure. I know that when I was looking, interviewing in places before I decided to actually start the company, some people told me, listen, you look very capable, but it's not a job for a woman.

Really? People actually said that in the 21st century?

Yeah, people said it. Today, by the way, you're not allowed to say it, but Israel is more straightforward here. But I'm sure that even that people that don't say it, it's difficult to hire, when you're hiring someone that's in their 30s, that just got married, and you know that they're going to have kids, and you know that you're not allowed to ask them anything. And you know that most people take long vacations. It's scary. It's scary knowing what you know about the structure here. So, yes, I do think that people assume that being a woman at iAngels will be a different environment.

And I'm sure is. So, iAngels has also got very interesting interactions, for example, with the Haredi community, the ultra-Orthodox community, your work with the Arab community. Can you tell our listeners something about both of those?

Sure, so, I've always been very passionate about social inclusion and about building Israel. And one of the initiatives that Mor and I took on ourselves was eight years ago to invest and also help structure KamaTech, which is a Haredi accelerator. I've also been very active in this community, trying to build bridges between Israelis from the secular community and the Haredi community, because I believe that it's one of the biggest opportunities, if not the biggest social opportunity in Israel right now. First of all, it's an incredible community if you can generalize anything, if you can generalize any community. And more importantly, it makes up 15% of our population and growing very quickly.

Yeah, 15, just to make sure everybody understands.

15, yes. And these are people that are very smart, that are trained to learn, that are believers, so very humble people. And I think Israel's challenge is really learning how to live together and finding a way to make life here sustainable, where everybody can preserve their own identities, but at the same time, take part in the economy, take part in the army, take part in society. And the opportunity is enormous. And for anybody that lives in the United States, you can already understand the potential, because in the United States the religious community works and is integrated very well with the rest of the Jewish community. And all Jews in the United States can find the synagogue for them and where they are on the spectrum of Judaism and where they feel comfortable. And this is an opportunity. It's also a challenge, but it's a great opportunity, both socially and politically.

And I think that it can be as big as the Russian Aliyah in the 1990s. Just imagine what happens when you get all these people working in the Israeli economy…

Right, a lot of engineers, a lot of scientists and so forth.

And you're already seeing it. You're already seeing it in the army. You're already seeing it with the women. As I said, I have two Haredi women working as software engineers here, and they are brilliant and bright with a work ethic that is not easy to come across, especially in these days and age.

So, I'm a big believer, and I think same goes for the Israeli Arab community. It's very important to make sure that they find their place here, that they integrate. We have good relations. It's not perfect. I'm involved in a nonprofit. I'm a director in Koret, which provides small business loans in general for all Israelis, but specifically for communities that are unbanked. And so we have a very successful microfinance program for Arab women here that basically there are mentors and scouters that help women build small businesses and give them loans, and then they guarantee each other. And we have incredible results and very low default rates also, below 2%. And also, we support farmers from the Arab community. And the more we do to help these communities build a better life for themselves and integrate within Israeli society, it's really a win, win, win . There's no other way to look at it.

I'll ask you a question that's a tiny bit edgy. And if you want to dodge it, just say, I don't know, or I don't want to talk about it. But you have Haredi women working with you. Obviously, they're meeting all different kinds of people. They're meeting non-Haredi women. They're meeting non-Haredi men. They're meeting probably some people who are religious, some people who are not at all religious, all across the spectrum.

Do you have a sense that given this very difficult time that Israel is in right now, and given the way in which the Haredi draft issue has become such a hot button here, that their exposure to your colleagues and your firm and their involvement in that is in any way shaping their sense of the ways in which the Haredi community at large should be increasingly invested in Israeli society at large?

I think maybe my example is not very telling. First of all, the Haredi women that work for us, we've created a very unique environment for them where they're working, first of all, only with women, where they have a kosher kitchen, where they have a certain setting that's appropriate for them. By the way, I think the same thing needs to be done in Israel. We want to bring in Haredi people into the army. So, we actually need to create an environment that allows them to keep their identity, and a lot of people talk about creating. I don't know how to say ugda in English…


But if you want to bring them in without them needing or feeling that they're sacrificing themselves, you need to create divisions that allow them to remain the way they are. Because the way it is today is that many of the ultra-Orthodox Jews that are drafted to the army, about 40 or 50% of them decide to stop being Haredi. And that makes their parents very nervous, as well as the schools, because one of the issues why they're not being drafted is because they know that if they're going to be drafted, there's a chance that their schools are going to expel the brothers and sisters and that they're not going to be able to find the shiduch later on. So, all of these things need to be taken into consideration when you're trying to structure an environment in which they can work.

This goes the same in the microcosm of iAngels. How do I create an environment where a Haredi woman will feel comfortable working? But we need to do the same thing in other workplaces and in the army. Personally, I think that on a one-on-one level, there aren't issues between people. When an Israeli meets an Israeli or a Jew meets a Jew, it's always a very positive conversation. I think people that meet with each other are always surprised and excited by how amazing it is that there are smart and nice and people with values on the other side of the political map or on the other side of society.

I can share that just before Yom Kippur, we organized a unity event together in collaboration with Nifgashim, and we brought 1,500 people from Israeli society, from the ultra-Haredi to the ultra-secular, and we put them in tables. So, there were 150 tables with eleven people on each table and a moderator. And people were just so excited about talking with each other, we couldn't get them to stop talking. Literally. They were crying, they were laughing, they were exchanging phone numbers. And it was really beautiful to see how, when you kind of let the generalizations down about the different communities or different genders, as we talked about before, and it's just people to people that you're able to really communicate on a whole other level and understand on a whole other level.

And that's also what happened to me personally. When I was back in 2023, I joined the high-tech protest. And I was there, I was in Kaplan every Saturday, and part of kind of the high-tech communities that were doing different initiatives. And I felt that there was something very important that was missing, because there were parts of the protest which I loved, which I think are great. And till this day, I think this awakening that's happening in the community, the fact that people are willing to fight for our country, and I'm seeing it across the board, it's not just with me, it's really with everyone. If you look at us, before 2023, many of us were like, okay, politics is politics. I'm going to do business. I'm going to make my mark through the business bridges that I'm creating. But all of a sudden, everybody's waking up and say, wait a minute, no, I have to be part of rebuilding of Israel. I can't just assume that I'm going to live my life and everything's going to be okay.

So that was great, but one thing that got lost in this awakening was our connection with each other. And as part of that, I decided to create these forums out of the high-tech protest. High tech leaders with Haredi leaders, high tech women with Haredi and religious women, and through these forums that I've created, we call it ma’agale siach talking circles. I've gotten to know so many people that are wonderful and became actually close friends of mine. And so, I think that that's really important that we don't drop our eye, on the one hand, we keep our eye on the ball, and we stay focused on building a leadership in the way that we believe is relevant for Israel today. But on the other hand, don't lose sight of the fact that we're all one and that we need each other. We're such a small community, and we're only 15 million people, and it's really important that we remain united and remember that we're all part of one.

So apropos that, which is exactly where I was hoping to go. Back in the day when you were protesting at Kaplan and we were protesting in front of the president's house here in Jerusalem on Saturday nights, people were protesting all over the country. You're right. I think we had a sense that while it was fabulous that people were reawakened and people were coming out, you know some people for 39 weeks in a row, and it got to be a little bit “matish”. I don't know how you say that. Exhausting, whatever. I mean, here in Jerusalem, I can tell you we actually learned the trick. We knew that the numbers were counted by drones. So, we would go right after Shabbat to the protest in front of the president's house, and as soon as people saw the drones, they would wait to be counted, and then they would go home, because how many weeks in a row can you stay outside just hearing more speeches? But it was a really wonderful awakening. But you're right, at the same time, it was also a very divisive period in Israel's history.

We're actually of course, now in a very different crisis, an even more tragic, horrible crisis. As a keen observer of Israeli society and as someone who's always talking about Israeli society to investors and potential investors abroad, do you have a sense that this horrible period that we're in now because of the war and so forth, is likely to leave us more healed? Do you think that there's a capacity here for what we're experiencing to heal some of those wounds from the first nine months of 2023? Or conversely, are you worried that despite all those good intentions, there is a kind of a political echelon which is so “atum,” sealed off from the rest of what the people are feeling, that it's going to march ahead as if nothing has changed. How optimistic are you that we've actually, as a society, learned something important and profound from those first nine months of 2023 and that we can carry it into 2024 beyond now and into 2025 and thereafter?

That's a loaded question. I'm going to try to answer. First of all, I'm an entrepreneur, so I'm optimistic by nature. If I wasn't optimistic, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I even tell sometimes, thank God, that I was so naive, because if I knew what I'm getting into, I would never do it in my life. So, first of all, I'm very optimistic. I'm very optimistic because of this awakening on many different levels. The realization that dawned on us that in many ways, we're alone here and we're responsible for not only designing our lives, but also designing our environment. And if you think about it in a way, this microcosmos of everybody individually, that's how it was also on the country level. People you know actually talked about us being a villa in the jungle. I think it was Ehud Barak actually coined this term.

Oh, did he. I didn't know it was his.

It was his term. Like, we're building a villa. We're building our villa and we're in this jungle. And it doesn't matter what's around us so long as we have our own kind of beautiful haven and we wouldn't get involved in things that are related to things outside of Israel because we were very kind of focused on ourselves, on our country. And I think that from a conceptual perspective, that concept fell apart, right? We understand today that we can't just be a villa in a jungle. We need to be part of a larger region. We're not going to be able to deal with the challenges ahead alone. We can't take on Iran alone, even if we think we can take on Hamas, we're not going to be able, and we're not going to be able to rely just on the United States. So, we need to find a way to be more collaborative with the regions around us, with the communities around us, and find the right incentives and kind of creative leadership that will enable us to build life here in Israel for the next 20, 30 years so that our grandchildren will be able to live here in a way that's safe.

And so, from that perspective, I'm very optimistic because I think that a lot of people understand that we were wrong to believe in these conceptions and in general that we need to be able to test our conceptions. I can't say that we're not in a challenging place and that we're not going to continue to be divisive, because I think that part of this healing process requires a real reflection, what I call heshbon nefesh, where not only the people of the state of Israel, but also the leadership is able to reflect and take responsibility and bring in new blood, a new generation of people that start learning about what it is to lead this country and where to take this country. And that also needs to happen. And it's not there yet. But I do believe that there's a lot of energy around Israel and there's a lot of energy around the very talented people in business and in high tech that it's difficult not to be optimistic when you're spending a lot of time with these people every day. But again, it needs to happen for that healing process to occur as well. So, I'm cautiously optimistic, if you will.

Okay. No, that's great. I don't know that it was a loaded question. It wasn't meant to be a loaded question. It was meant to be an important question. But your answer is moving and it's inspiring. And I think a lot of people who are both those of us who live in Israel and people from abroad who care deeply about Israel, when they hear somebody with your talent and your intellectual integrity and your intellectual sophistication, be optimistic, even if cautiously optimistic. That's really important. And I think we need causes for optimism these days. I completely agree with you. I think something very powerful has been unleashed, but it doesn't matter what I think. What matters is what people like you think, and that's a fabulous way for us to begin to bring our conversation to a close.

I'll tell you one more thing, though, if you want to be optimistic, because it's not just people like me. Look at the shekel. Look at the Israeli stock market. And the market is comprised of the smartest, the most sophisticated people, all the algorithms in the world, all the hedge funds in the world. We're higher than what we were pre-October. And if you look also at the high-tech sector, $1.7 billion dollars was invested in Israel since October. We had 8 companies that raised capital since October 7th, $70 million dollars. And it shows that the world, despite what you think and despite what we are experiencing on social media, the real mirror is what is. And when you see that, you understand that the market, which is the average, taking into consideration the average of everything, is pricing in that Israel is here to stay. And I think that anybody that understands Israel and believes in Israel and visits Israel can appreciate the fact that we're probably going to get out of this. We will prevail. It's going to be difficult. It's going to be challenging. We've been through this huge trauma. But there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic and positive about Israel.

I share your optimism. It's delightful and wonderful to hear somebody like you share it also. Thank you for everything that you do. Thank you for what you are and thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience with us today. It's really a breath of fresh air to hear someone like you be so thoughtful and optimistic about the future. Wish you and Mor continued success in your extraordinary venture, and look forward to a conversation down the road sometime. Thanks again.

Thank you very much.

Impossible Takes Longer is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and at other booksellers.

Music credits: Medieval poem by Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Gvirol. Melody and performance by Shaked Jehuda and Eyal Gesundheit. Production by Eyal Gesundheit. To view a video of their performance, see this YouTube:

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Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis
Israel from the Inside is for people who want to understand Israel with nuance, who believe that Israel is neither hopelessly flawed and illegitimate, nor beyond critique. If thoughtful analysis of Israel and its people interests you, welcome!