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An Interview with Mali Baum, Serial Founder, Investor, Grace Mentor and Ambassador.
"Even if you are a superstar, you cannot build a unicorn alone."
Mali ist CEO & Founder at WLOUNGE ecosystem and MAGDA GROUP upcoming European fund Of Funds with focus on European technology and diverse team. Born in Tel Aviv, living in Berlin. She is an instrumental in creating the Tech ecosystem in Berlin, connecting it with her global network from Tel Aviv, New York, Silicon Valley, EU markets and Asia. Bridging opportunities for the local startups and corporations. She has 20 years’ experience in founding companies. Started her first business in 2007 and followed this up with a global educational toys business, in Tel Aviv, which sold products in the US, Asia, Australia and across Europe. Since 2020 she is a jury and expert advisor at European Commission, EIC. Mali is part of Findervest App, a platform where startups meet investors that aim to bring the important value of having new layer that focuses of female investors and female founders for fundraising and mentorship, full dedicated layer for mentorship and connections for female investors and female founders to connect on a global scale.
Mali, you founded 5 companies overall, what was the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey?
When I started in 2005 with my first company, in my twenties, I didn’t even understand this world. I was just doing what I felt I needed to do. My kids were super young( 2+4.5) , we were also very young parents and no one called anything a startup. Our first company was in the educational toy industry with different solutions for young parents, working on the bonding between parents and kids. In my second startup, we focused on global manufacturing. And then we started the third company ‘beezeebee’ that took me to the global level with global sales and many markets with a full production line.
What tips do you have for founders to enter global markets:
- Be sure that you have a local partner that understands the market, key players and the culture - you cannot copy paste your product into any market AS IS . learn and make adaptations.
- Learn about each market and the consumers, it needs and your solution which you provide with your product. market- solution focus is the key.
- Invest time in conferences and put yourself on stage.Have a voice in the industry.
- Build your network and relationships with consumers and potential partners from different markets. Strong network will bring you strong opportunities.
- Build your brand. Spread the word. Collaborate with others. bigger and better together.Make yourself an asset in any negotiation.
How did the ecosystem for startups in 2005 look like in Tel-Aviv,Israel?
There is no market when it comes to products and growth in Israel as it is a small economy and market. Since day one we were a global company. While the local market was the best case study and focus group to learn and test, Israelis are early adopters and very good ones when it comes to innovation. we went very fast globally with our products. At the moment I built the company, I put myself in a global mindset and went to international conferences to broaden my network and bring opportunities for the company to grow. I started to establish myself globally in the toy Industry, and quickly became a board member of ‘Women in Toys License and Entertainment’, which I'm thankful until today, Thus, I had access to the biggest retailers and players of the toy industry. Indeed, it's the network that was vital to me to establish in new markets and become a local player in various markets in a very short and intense time.
Which developments have you noticed in the German startup ecosystem within the past years?
In my last 6 years in Berlin I have seen many positive changes, thanks to many initiatives in Berlin. Back then, I saw Berlin in comparison to Tel Aviv as 20 years behind, Blue Ocean for me. This is because there was not enough awareness, communication, networks, platforms to promote growth of the ecosystem. It appeared that there was no understanding that Berlin has to thrive and bloom within the startup system. Back then, there was barely any investment or opening doors into the startup scene and close to zero involvement of the government. A lot of this has changed now and we see much more initiatives, family offices, corporate M&A and investors in the startup ecosystem.
Startups are building great products, but they are mainly focusing on the local markets instead of a global level. However, I believe these startups need someone to open doors, show them the way to other markets to grow faster than they think or believe they can. This supportive part needs to come from the government, Venture Capital firms , networks like WLOUNGE and investors.
What makes innovation and startups in Israel special? Is there another entrepreneurial spirit?
In Israel there are amazing investors and founders and they really like to talk about their success, that’s part of the culture. Tel Aviv is quite small, but you are surrounded by founders that inspire you and you start believing in ‘I can do it too’. This is the mindset we grow up with in Israel. This mindset needs to be established in the German culture more and more and as fast as we can. In fact, here in Germany, founders are not willing to talk about their success, also not private investors and this is a big problem. Only from talking about success and success stories, we can see more people getting in this entrepreneurial spirit. If you are not sharing your success, mistakes, obstacles, what are you giving back to the society, who can learn from it? Where will the inspiration for the younger generation come from? Another important thing in Israel is, 99% of successful founders are becoming an investor, investing in younger generations and actively sharing their stories. This is an ecosystem growth.
You became an Advisor and Investment Committee Member at the European Innovation Council (EIC). What does that mean?
Since I became part of the EIC, we ran initiatives together such as Conferences in Berlin to highlight local people, startups, experts and programs. Founders should know the European commission programs as the EU wants to invest in Germany too and in bigger numbers . My role in specific is to bring more publicity for the EU programs here in Germany and help select startups that are applying to the EIC programs. This year, for the first time, the European Commission is offering money specifically for female founders and I'm very happy to see the European Commission focus on impact products that bring smart solutions and make revenue for their investors.
I’m inviting startups to apply here.
What advice do you have for female founders, starting their first startup?
Learn a lot and very carefully: What is the problem you are solving. Why does the world need your product? Build the best team you can dream of to show that you cover the whole need for the product to grow. From day one, have a pitch deck which you feel comfortable with and go for public money or an accelerator that invests you the time, the network and the money. In order to grow you have to have the right mentors and network that will open doors for you. Because, even if you are a superstar, you cannot build a unicorn alone.
Thank you so much, Mali!
TECH AWARDS GALA