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By Olga Fromentin
Dafna Gabbay is a businesswoman and founder of the Medical Advisory start-up Curical Technologies from Tel-Aviv, Israel. After serving in the Israeli army, she built a successful career in New York and had a new start in her home country, Israel. She is a mother of four children. In the interview with Madame Success, Dafna Gabbay shares why organizing and planning, along with mindfulness and happiness, are the critical pillars for success in her life.
Dafna Gabbay: Successful founder story
Hello Dafna, Great to see you. You are a female founder. Please tell us about your start-up.
Over five years ago, I founded a medical consultancy start-up, Curical Technologies. Curical is on the mission to add copper to medical devices to combat different types of bacteria. We are developing anti-bacterial technology primarily for sutures.
Do you have a medical background?
I don’t. I studied Law at Hebrew University. Then I studied marketing at the University of New York. I spent some years in New York working in Branding and advertising.
When I returned to Israel 12 years ago, I worked as a VP of Marketing in a company. They were developing anti-bacterial technology based on copper for textiles. My start-up is a derivative of that company.
I raised external money, and they got shares in the company.
When exactly did you create your start-up?
It was founded in December 2014.
Are you managing your start-up alone?
Yes. But I have a fantastic team in place. Some of them are external consultants, and the others are employees.
How did you find your business idea?
I spent five years in a company after I came back to Israel. I loved the technology, but at some point, I felt like I’ve learned enough!
I wanted to have my own business and become number One in the organization.
Once you learn everything you can, you might want to become a leader and not being led by others.Dafna Gabbay
I told the management that I was ready to move on. I started researching if there was an interest for this kind of technology in the sutures market.
Then I raised the external funds, got a license to the technology, and that’s how Curical was founded.
How did you raise funds?
All my investors are “business angels,” so this is private money. One of the angels knew the products of the company I used to work for. He knew that the technology works and it’s useful. He believed in me.
Is your start-up’s technology successful?
We have developed our first-generation and are working now on the 2nd generation of our product. We have several ex-leaders of the world’s best and biggest suture company working with us. Curical is in the best hands possible from an R&D perspective!
Dafna Gabbay on what’s it like being a female in the Military
Joining the Israeli army was crucial for my success.Dafna Gabbay
I’d love to hear about your experience in the Israeli army. How old were you when you joined the military?
Here in Israel, men or women, we have to go to the army after high school.
I was lucky to be accepted to the air traffic control course. I spent the first time of my army service in the Airforce base in the desert in the south of Israel. I worked in an air traffic control tower. We lived there like a big family, it was a very intense experience.
Then I trained as an Operations officer in the combat squadron.
It gave me my most important managerial insight.
Most of the Operations officers start as Operations assistants. But I was an Air Traffic controller. That meant that I was responsible and had to supervise soldiers whose role I had not done myself before and that was very hard and challenging.
Later, after finishing my law studies, I worked for Ernst&Young for many years. Everything I learned in the army helped me tremendously in my first consulting job.
I knew how to deal with the Unknown. And I know how important it is to have a good knowledge of what you manage.
How long do you stay in the army in Israel?
I was an officer, I served a bit longer than usual. I served for 2 years and a half. Back then, it was two years for women, three years for men. I believe, now it’s equal, three years for both.
What are the gender proportions, is it 50/50 men and women?
Yes. Even though men’s jobs are different. Recently, they started letting women do some combat in the field. I consider myself fortunate to have an excellent military service.
Is there a way to avoid this military service, do you have conscription in Israel?
Yes, it’s mandatory. Of course, there are ways not to do it, like married women don’t have to do the service if they get married very young. But usually, everybody goes to the army.
I believe that military service teaches you skills and maturity. It is also good for Israeli society. It helps meeting people with different backgrounds who come from different parts of the country. It creates a kind of connection.
When I lived in the US for five years, I definitely saw it was not there.
Dafna Gabbay on Following Your Dreams
Why did you go to the US?
It was my dream.
After the army, I visited two relatives in the US. I spent one week in Chicago and one week in New York.
I fell in love with NY, and I decided I would move there.
I was already the mother of my first pair of twins. When they were one year old, we moved to New York.
My husband knew that it was my dream to move to New York. That’s why he applied to the Columbia Law School and he got accepted!
Did you kind of inspire him to go there?
Thinking back, it was crazy. We were a young couple with two babies. I didn’t have a job. When we moved, I didn’t know if I could get a job. Life is costly in New York.
We went after our dream and it worked well.Dafna Gabbay
How long did you stay in New York?
Initially, we were to stay for one year, the length of the Law School’s program. And that’s how much savings we had anyway.
We planned to come back to Israel by the time our twins reach the school age. We wanted them to start school in Israel. We had to choose whether we stay for one or five years. We ended up staying for five!
Did you want to come back to Israel because of kids?
Our home is in Israel. Once you decide that, you have to make a decision and move back. It was an important choice for our girls and for us.
It was not an easy decision. I had a great job, my husband, too. The girls were attending the right school. Then our little ones were born. We had a nanny. Everything was very convenient.
Was it easy for you and your husband to find a job when you came back to Israel?
It was easy, but both of us didn’t like the jobs we found. After spending several years abroad, it took us time to remember how to be and act like Israelis.
A few months later, I left the job. Then I found a job in a Technology company where I worked for five years until I founded Curical.
What about your kids, were they happy to move to Israel?
For the kids, it went very well.
We moved to New York with a pair of one-year-old babies. When we came back to Israel, we had two pairs of twins! The older girls were six-year-old. They were accepted to a great art school.
The younger twins turned one at the time.
You managed to create a beautiful life in New York. Then you made your dreams come true when you came back to Israel.
But after a few years in a technology company, I realized that I wasn’t happy there.
I wanted to have the same level of high energy that I used to have in New York. The last year in my previous job wasn’t exciting enough.
My solution was to plan a few sessions with a business coach. As a result, I decided to start my own business. I started looking for the right people to talk to.
What helped me was to be self-aware that I wasn’t happy and take action.
Whenever you are not happy, do something about it. Don’t let it hang on you for too long.Dafna Gabbay
Dafna Gabbay: what is success for a woman
Dafna, what is your definition of success? What makes you happy, and is happiness a part of success?
I prefer to start with the definition of happiness.
I’m a big believer in the importance of happiness.
Once I read that happiness is a combination of enjoyment and purpose. I am lucky to have both.
I have a life purpose. I enjoy the complexity of my life – being a mother of four kids and running my own company.
My business is my baby too. I am feeding it. I think about it every single minute of the day. It’s a big task that I enjoy.
How do I define success?
Success is to know that you’re on your journey, on the way to your purpose.
Success is not just an end result. Success is the way.Dafna Gabbay
Is it easier for men to achieve success?
I don’t know because I’m not a man.
But I can tell you about my experience as a woman.
I don’t know if raising funds would have been easier if I were a man.
I didn’t find it difficult. I’m very passionate about what I do. I convince people to have faith in me and trust the technology I offer.
As a woman, I’m pretty good at multitasking and getting things done.
But ideally, I’d want the whole gender thing to vanish.
I’d love people to see someone’s success regardless of the gender.
I’m hopeful that one day people wouldn’t judge anything based on gender.
Is money essential for success?
I think that money is very important!
Life in Tel Aviv is expensive. As a mother of four kids, I know it well.
One of my former bosses, a woman in advertising used to tell me:
If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
I’m not ashamed of asking for money. I think that I deserve it.Dafna Gabbay
I worked hard for it. Yet, I don’t think that it defines happiness.
You have to love what you do, but also you should be compensated for it.
Money is important for other aspects too.
We love traveling. We went to Alaska in the summer, it was special.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.Dafna Gabbay
My husband and I invest a lot in experiences with kids. To me, it’s important.
How do you manage everything: running your own company, being a mother of four kids, being a wife?
Do you know the concept of Mindfulness?
I learned about Mindfulness, and I consider myself to be Mindful.
I live in the moment. Now I’m with you, interviewing. I don’t think of anything else.
Every morning, I take out a white paper, and I create a To-Do list. I would identify items that need to be done, followed up, and be aware of. I do it for work and for my personal life.
Even if I don’t check off everything on my list, I either move the things to tomorrow’s list or add to my calendar.
I’m trying not to pollute my mind with the things that I need to be aware of. I write down everything. Then my mind is clear.
You have a good organizing system. Organizing helped you during the period of confinement.
I believe that organizing helps to be productive, work fast, and be very efficient. Having a crowded mind and trying to remember things can slow you down.
How did you learn about Mindfulness?
I attended a workshop. I learned how to practice. Every Saturday night or in winter in the morning, I go for a walk on the beach.
I watch the sunset. This time of the week is dedicated to my visions and dreams. I’m trying not to think about the present. I’m letting myself jump into the future and then go back.
Do you use any apps?
Simple white paper!
I create a list of everything I need to organize.
I love visualizing things on paper and then getting things done.
I love the rule of two minutes: If something takes less than two minutes, do it right away.Dafna Gabbay
You never procrastinate?
I picture my life as a tennis court. The balls keep coming. If I don’t take care of them immediately, they keep on coming.
My life is very fast-moving. I work a lot, and I do a lot with the kids.
Do you play tennis?
I tried playing tennis a bit. But now I play Catchball, it’s a kind of volleyball. I play it every week.
So even as founder and mother, you have enough time for hobbies or sports?
Sure. My older girls are 18 years old now. My youngest twins, the boy, and the girl are 13. I have more time for sports.
I also try to swim at least once a week.
What sports or activities do you do with your kids?
We hike together. We spend a lot of time together as a family.
When I played tennis with one of my girls, she told me I was too competitive!
I learned to be open about my weaknesses and communicate them to my spouse and kids.Dafna Gabbay
Which books influenced or inspired you?
The book I am reading now is called “One Hundred Days of Happiness.” It’s about somebody who has cancer and has only 100 days to live.
It’s a tough book to read, but it teaches you about making the right choices, with no regrets.
Many books I read are about happiness. I love the books by Dalai Lama.
I love reading spiritual books to balance my hectic life with inner peace.
I also like “The Secret,” I did a lot of things from it before the book was written.
“The Power Of Now” changed my life recently and helped me focus on the moment itself.
What is your advice on how to be successful and make your dreams come true?
My advice is: Just do it.Dafna Gabbay
If you are unhappy at work, try to either improve your position or go away.
Don’t let it be, act upon it.
If you have a tough time, do sports, get yourself out of this, use the professional’s help.
Don’t let life pass by.
Once you are doing things, it helps to raise your energy level and be more productive and happy. I am really convinced about it.
What’s next for you?
I am thinking of doing some volunteering work. I like raising funds, dealing with many different things. Maybe in the future, I’d like to manage a bigger company.
Thank you, Dafna, for the great interview!
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