The latest post in a series profiling female founders participating in UpWest Labs, an accelerator that brings Israeli founders to Silicon Valley.
By Shuly Galili (Co-founder, UpWest Labs)
Tell me about your tech background and why you chose this field?
As a young girl my favorite subject was mathematics. I pursued my passion and majored in Mathematics & Education while working for the Estonian Government on their e-government systems and services. Estonia was the first country in the world in which all citizens could vote, pay income tax electronically and have all the government services provided through the Internet making them very efficient, fast and reliable. It was exciting times, and I was one of the youngest people who helped build the country’s e-services and e-government infrastructure. .
Tell me about Neura and what you like about the space of IoT. What specifically are you trying to accomplish?
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. My doctor guided me to follow my physical activities, change my diet, measure blood glucose and take medications according to all these variables. I found myself writing down everything in Google Docs. While I tried many diabetes management applications they all required aggregating data from several sources, manual analysis and an overwhelming self-management. I knew that there must be a better way and I explored some ideas to make it more efficient. Meanwhile, my Neura partners had been developing traditional “dumb” products into smarter data driven devices by adding internet connectivity and logic. This is when I gave up a senior position in RSA to join them to create Neura.
Neura is a consumer-facing solution to control the Internet of Things. It allows users to profile their connected environment and create logical connections between devices, people, locations and the web. Neura enables users to consolidate all of their connected devices to one mobile or wearable application. Through data correlation and adaptive learning, users are able to see all their connected devices data in one chronological lifeline and get interesting and meaningful insights about their lifestyle and wellness. The Neura vision serves my mission in creating data correlation and interoperability between devices (like glucose monitoring systems, activity trackers, medications devices). Through Neura, I will have a better overview of my day for diabetes management.
In every startup each person carries many roles. As CTO at Neura I am responsible for concepts of system architecture and design, technologies we apply, data integrity, data analysis, adoptive machine learning, data mining, security and IP portfolio.
You’ve worked for RSA, a leading global software corporation. What are the challenges as a startup entrepreneur? What motivates you?
In Israel I was hired to work for RSA Security CTO Innovation and Research Team. It was interesting and I was self-motivated. Usually, people say that in the corporate world you do not feel your impact so much. This was not the case in my role. My projects had a direct impact on our customers and I had an opportunity to impact many new products.
However, at the startup the experience is different. You work with the sense that everything is possible. You test your ideas fast, you study fast and you have all the tools to react fast. While every week brings new challenges, they give you unique experiences and make you stronger. I am staying motivated by my team and my love for what we are building in the IoT space.
You moved to Israel as an adult. We hear so much about the “Startup Nation.” What can you tell us about your experience living and working in that ecosystem?
I have lived in Estonia, in Italy and in Israel. Italians love football, Estonians cross country skiing, but Israel’s national sport is founding innovative startups. In Israel, many people dream the startup dream. I think that hundreds of brainstorming sessions were done in my living room, many of them ideas of our friends or strangers that come to visit for advice
Being in Silicon Valley as entrepreneur and CTO of Neura. What surprised you? Inspired you? Opened your eyes?
I think that my biggest surprise about Silicon Valley was how much people help one another. So many people here are passionate about our vision and willing to help and share friendly advice. It definitely gives strength to go on and overcome the challenges of founding this kind of initiative.
The fact that most of the people we meet are excited about the technology we are building and the space of IoT is very inspiring and creates the atmosphere that pushes me and my team forward.
What advice would you have for women thinking of going into tech innovation as profession?
While most of the people I meet in tech are men, some of the most analytical people I know in tech are women. They work with their heart and often bring unique strength, balance and a warm touch to the process. All necessary attributes to achieve success! I hope that women tech entrepreneurs will continue to believe in themselves and fulfill their dreams.
About the guest blogger: Shuly Galili is the co-founder of UpWest Labs, a Silicon Valley accelerator investing in Israeli entrepreneurs. She spent the last decade building Silicon Valley’s gateway to Israel. Prior to UpWest Labs she was the Executive Director of The California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC). Follow her on Twitter @shulygalili.