My first day in Gaza, there were sonic booms overhead from war planes. At the same time, 60 startup founders were pitching their ideas to me. They lived in an environment that was used to receiving international aid but they told me: “We don’t want aid, we want private investment because we have valuable business ideas.” So that was part of what inspired me.
When I moved back to the Bay Area I worked at Upwork, which specializes in connecting employers with remote talent. We had the entire freelance marketplace available to us—and we still struggled to recruit. This made me interested in going beyond the typical referral networks. I knew from my time in Gaza that girls are outperforming boys in high school math, which translates to women studying computer science and electrical engineering and all these other technical fields at the same rates as men. And yet, in places like Palestine where the majority of STEM graduates are women, those women have difficulty finding employment after graduating. So the original idea for Manara was just that I wanted to hire these women to my team.