At Home on the Fast Track

Yahav-Levanon poses in front of what looks like a roughly plastered white wall
Chen Yahav-Levanon ’06

She used to be a star hurdler in Israel and at Brandeis. Now Chen Yahav-Levanon ’06 is keeping up the pace as an entrepreneur. The 36-year-old has already founded three successful startups, a track record that landed her a spot on the 2019 Silicon Valley Business Journal 40 Under 40 list.

“I still think of my life as a 400-meter hurdles race,” says Yahav-Levanon, who was a medalist in track at the Israeli Championships and a veteran of Israeli military service before entering Brandeis. “I focus on the big picture — how to finish the race — but I also know I have 10 hurdles to run to accomplish that. When I start a business, I’m thinking how I’m going to make it to the finish line.”

This multitasker worked as an investment banker before founding her first company, ClicksMob, at age 29. ClicksMob, which built a mobile advertising platform, went from earnings of $1 million to $10 million in two years and secured a place on the Forbes America’s Most Promising Companies list in 2015.

Yahav-Levanon’s third startup, MyKumbaya, created the Kumbaya app, which lets you tap into your circle of most-trusted people to mutually exchange help — a boon to the working parent. For example, she says, if you’re in a meeting at the office and a crisis arises at home, you can request assistance from friends in your circle and know when a friend has claimed the task.

The aim is to make life easier for modern parents, says Yahav-Levanon. She and husband David, who live in San Francisco, have three children under age 6.

“I always say competitive sports and investment banking prepared me for motherhood,” she says. “When I was starting my first company, I got pregnant, and then, three months after giving birth, I got pregnant again. I found myself with two babies 13 months apart and a company with 60 employees.” 

She credits Brandeis with setting her on the path to success. “I would never have become who I am without Brandeis,” she says. “It’s not even a question. Because of Brandeis I have great friends and networks. Brandeis prepared me to speak, learn and think creatively, and turned an athlete and small-town girl from Haifa into a successful businesswoman.”

Her advice to young women aspiring to an entrepreneurial career? 

Turn on the chutzpah — “gracefully” — to get noticed, she says. “Think big. Think positive. Don’t be shy to approach other people for help. Network, network, network.” Finally, “don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

— Mark Sullivan