Meet the Female CTO and CEO Who are Shaking up the Corporate World with Their Crowdsourcing Startup

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Coworkers Iris Tsidon and Maya Gal combined their corporate know-how to shake up the status quo with their business performance management startup.

By Nili Zaharony (Founder, Penguin Strategies)

Major challenges abound in the world of business. Though many would quickly deny it, gender plays a huge role in the perception of a business’ success. Iris Tsidon and Maya Gal were out to change that with their vision.

They named their startup Okapi after a unique mammal that has features of a giraffe, deer and zebra. Like the name of their company, the Okapi CEO and CTO look a bit different than most enterprise software companies -- simply because they’re both women.

As CEO and CTO of Okapi, Tsidon and Gal help companies enhance business performance and achieve strong growth. Their SaaS-based platform leverages crowdsourced KPIs, business know-how and automation to deliver the next generation in business performance management.

How did you get started?

Maya and I had been working together in the corporate world for many years and we decided to take a trip to South America. As we traveled, our creative juices started flowing. The trip was the perfect environment to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other. Together we looked at some of the challenges at large corporations where we were working.

We thought of new ways of doing things in this wildly connected world and of the new problem-solving technologies that were being implemented to produce more efficient and streamlined businesses.

You built your model around crowdsourcing. How does that work with enterprise software?

We figured that if we take a model that was used out of the business world, we could change the way businesses managed themselves in a more radical way. Crowdsourcing was a fairly new and radical way of doing things that was relatively new to the corporate landscape. We were also excited about the concept of shared economy which through the right technology would allow us to empower organizations by sharing the collective experience and best practices.

The idea for crowdsourcing KPIs spawned from the way we saw the KPI decision process take shape at many large corporations. Smaller companies do not need (and most can not afford) the expensive customer-tailored tools that many companies need to create their own KPIs. As such, these smaller businesses stand much to gain by crowdsourcing the ways that others are doing it, and in turn build upon their success. A different way of doing things was needed. That difference is the basis for what Okapi is today.

Men predominantly run the Enterprise Software space. Can you share the challenges you faced as you were building your company?

The challenges for us as two women company founders getting noticed in this world that is dominated by men were many. We did not exactly fit the mold of what people were used to, and that caused many barriers. Because our partnership was so unique and unexpected, there were also those who said: “Yes. I want you to succeed, simply because of who you are.” It really ran the range of responses.

To prove just how rare it is to have two female founders of a startup: We were involved in a Startup Leadership Program and out of all the participants, we were the only startup with female founders and the only women representing our company.

We’d love to see more women take on solving problems in the enterprise-software space. What advice you have for those embarking on the journey?

We have a lot of advice to offer others, but the core of our message to female entrepreneurs everywhere is to believe in the value that you bring customers. You should also feel empowered by the idea that you are a pioneer and that you have the right to do so, regardless of what others say. You'll hit many roadblocks, many of those an unfortunate result of your gender. This has nothing to do with the value you (or your product) bring to the world. The best way to move forward is to collaborate with your business partners and not take no for an answer.

What other advantages do you see to having two female co-founders?

Image: Nili ZaharonyAbout the guest blogger: Nili Zaharony is the founder of Penguin Strategies -- a unique B2B marketing agency that helps clients reach their target audiences with the RIGHT information. Prior to founding Penguin, Nili managed the marketing at multiple Israeli-based startups that have gone on to be acquired by large multinational corporations. Follow her on Twitter @PenguinStrategy.