• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Raising Money While Pregnant And Launching My Startup – With A Newborn

orit-hashay

I wanted a baby and I wanted a startup, so I did both. In parallel.

By Orit Hashay (Founder & CEO, Brayola)

The title says it all, though no tricks are to be found in this post. This is my story – the story about a woman who decided she doesn’t have to choose between professional greatness and having a family. As far as I’m concerned, you can do both. A little hint – it’s not easy, but I promise you – you have no idea how strong you are – until you live it.

I am a coder who seven years ago discovered the world of entrepreneurship. I wrote the code for my own little projects. Over two years ago, I went to the dark side and joined a leading Israeli venture capital firm Carmel Ventures. Technology was always in my DNA, so I decided it was time to learn the business side. For two years as an investment manager, I watched companies grow strong after they raise money.

After a bad day of buying expensive bras and realizing they stretched to become unusable, I decided someone had to make bra-shopping a better experience – and this someone had to be me. I left Carmel Ventures to build Brayola.

I want a baby and I want a startup.

Once I built my pitch deck in PowerPoint, I started looking for a seed investment. In parallel, I also started coding the site. As I was building Brayola, I was also trying to get pregnant. At no point had I stopped to think “what would happen if…” – I just kept pursuing both goals.

Lo and behold, I found myself pregnant after a month. I was overjoyed but kept the news to myself (as most do until 15 weeks), with the plan of first getting the final YES from the investors, and then letting them know. “Thank you for wanting to invest in Brayola, please know that I am pregnant and yes I am aware to the fact that I am a solo founder.” This is exactly what happened. They said yes, and I said “FYI – I am pregnant.”

My investors were great.

They were truly, very happy for me, but then it started – they wanted to offer advice, as I would be a first time mom, and the investors, all parents themselves, urged me to think about starting a company while having my first baby. “It can change you” “you might feel different” “we’ve seen it many times” and I told them – “yes, I can only guess, as I have no kids yet” – that I will have to become a super woman – but I am confident and happy to build a company while being a first-time mom.

And then it hit me. My entire body started aching – I started doubting myself. “What if they’re right? What if once I’m a mom I won’t care about anything else?” That night I wrote an email to the investors:

My plan for Brayola

My plan was to keep going, at whatever slow pace it meant, without taking any money. I would then raise the money after giving birth.

At 6 months pregnant, I met 2 angels for lunch and told them about my decision. After congratulating me, they insisted I take their money. They saw my passion about the idea and didn’t want me to lose momentum. So I took it. That was my $350k seed round.

At 8 months pregnant, I found myself coding through the nights. Obeying doctor’s orders for rest, I would code on a sofa in our offices with my husband delivering my meals. I worked hard because I had a plan to go live with a closed alpha one month before my due date, and then do a full launch a month later. We did just that.

I recommend never resting to wait for something like money. You can always being doing something, even if it is taking baby steps or searching for a co-founder, which for this particular startup was not an easy find. There are many great potential co-founders out there, just not many with the understanding of bra issues..

Enter my newborn son Daniel

Two hours after giving birth to Daniel, I was emailing our designer about Brayola’s new look.

This picture was taken six days later when we left the hospital. This was a day I won’t forget. It was a challenging day – one of the hardest, but I didn’t stop. I had to be on time for the launch and I was.

In late February, TechCrunch covered Brayola. It became even more chaotic – real users, women reporting bugs, making requests, partnerships forming…

Daniel is 3 months old now. Life is good. Everyone asks me, “isn’t it hard?” It was hard, but Daniel now sleeps at night and no more breastfeeding – no more pumping (I swear it just stopped by itself).

Startup lesson learned

I learned you can do everything. Just decide what you want and you can achieve it. Yes, it is hard but if you want it, it’s also fun and exciting.

Right now I’m raising a new round. I’m going to be in New York for TechCrunch Disrupt (May 21-23) and in the Silicon Valley for 7 days. Right now I have no idea how I’m going to cope not seeing Daniel for 10 days as I already miss him when he is a asleep….

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Orit Hashay is the Founder and CEO of Brayola, a personal bra discovery engine that enables women to find their own perfect bras without “having a fit”. Orit is a serial entrepreneur. She was a co-founder of Ramkol, Israel’s leading local reviews site, and mit4mit, Israel’s second most popular consumer wedding services reviews site. She has over 10 years experience of software development, business development and consulting experience. Follow her on Twitter at @orithashay.