Lilac Bar David of Lili: “First, solve a real problem”

First, solve a real problem. For Lili, we are looking to resolve the pain points that every freelancer faces. Second, make a product that is easy to use. Third, make it affordable. This is connected to its accessibility. Fourth, make it fun and engaging. Fifth, embrace the power of your community with effective communication. In […]

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First, solve a real problem. For Lili, we are looking to resolve the pain points that every freelancer faces. Second, make a product that is easy to use. Third, make it affordable. This is connected to its accessibility. Fourth, make it fun and engaging. Fifth, embrace the power of your community with effective communication.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lilac Bar David.

Lilac Bar David is Co-Founder and CEO of Lili, the all-in-one banking app designed for freelance workers. She is an experienced chief executive with over 10 years in the fintech space, with a demonstrated history of founding, managing and leading operations at multiple finance companies. Prior to Lili, Lilac founded Pepper, the first and only challenger bank in Israel, and was its CEO for over three years. Lilac also served as EVP of Business Development for Leumi Card (now known as Max) at Bank Leumi, where she forged strategic partnerships and established a program for early stage fintech startups. Lilac received her bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting and her MBA from Tel Aviv University. She is based in New York.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

My sunny childhood involved Saturday trips to the beach in Tel Aviv, a lot of ice cream, and board games like Monopoly and UNO with my cousins. We never had a moment alone with such a large extended family. Being surrounded by the sun, the sand, and my cousins all day are memories I will never forget.

I ultimately fell in love with technology when I joined the army. It was an incredible contrast to my childhood, but one that brought me the same type of joy in many ways. Learning something for the first time always brings a smile to my face.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Building Lili, which is an all-in-one financial app for freelancers, has been a great experience from the beginning. We knew what we wanted out of Lili before we ever knew its name. We knew the impact we could create for freelancers, but we were stumped by what we should call our startup. After many nights, it finally came to us. My co-founder Liran and I chose our initials and created LILI. Most think it is my name (by default it has become my nickname!), but I love that we were able to compliment our work and share another part of the business together by choosing a name that is also associated with a flower that I love.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe a great deal of where I am today to the team at Leumi Card who gave me the opportunity to explore different roles within their organization. I rotated from finance to tech to business strategy, and gained so much wisdom from my mentors on how to build a business from the bottom up. Many thanks to their team for their guidance as well as creating the space for a young team member to learn by doing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Just before the pandemic began, I had the chance to see Hamilton on Broadway. Of course, “Immigrants, we get the job done” is a quote that stays with me. Not only is America a land of immigrants, but so is the rest of the world. We all come from somewhere else and choose to put our roots down and give a bit of ourselves to the community surrounding us. As the child of immigrants or immigrants ourselves, I think about the sacrifices our ancestors made to make sure we have more than what they did. It’s a beautiful story of giving future generations what we need most — hope.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As successful business leaders, entrepreneurship inevitably will test you in countless ways. In many ways, it is a story of persistence. Can you get back up after a hard fall? Can you keep going after one too many bumps on the road? It’s not for the faint of heart. Additionally, you need to strengthen your risk tolerance. Fundraising is something many businesses have to go through. To successfully fundraise, we experienced many rejections before we ever got to a single yes. Having the foresight to know our idea’s worth and persistently fight for it was how we’d reach success. We feel like we are getting closer and closer to the top of the mountain, even as that target constantly moves.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?

We are seeing a shift in the US workforce, heading towards self employment and small business ownership, particularly as the pandemic transformed our daily lives. And the shift is growing rapidly. Because of the pandemic, we saw many industries being hit hard economically, and workers having to find alternative ways to make ends meet. In addition, many traditional workers have been evaluating their work lives and deciding to choose a different path for flexibility, self-determination and other reasons.

So we wanted to help these entrepreneurs and freelancers gain resources to grow their business because running a venture is not easy to say the least. We’re proud that 60% of Lili accounts are opened by women, a group that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. With Lili, freelancers are able to download an app that helps them with the big financial pain points that all freelancers face — from saving for taxes to invoicing to categorizing expenses and more. Lili is the accountant in your pocket for anyone who is looking to launch out on your own — whether you are a housekeeper, software engineer, caregiver, graphic designer, construction worker, makeup artist, etc (this is just a snapshot of the amazingly diverse freelance community that we serve at Lili!).

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

The backstory of how we decided to work with freelancers was due, in many ways, to Lili’s co-founder Liran. He was a freelancer for more than 10 years. He had first hand experience in dealing with the complexities of running a business as a gig economy worker and felt that this aspect of banking can be an incredible opportunity to create Lili, considering it is a growing economy of its own in the US and around the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

While I have to admit that I have not watched either show, we are on to the next chapter of our relationship with technology. Today, we understand that there are consequences for many of the products we have grown to love. What happens, for example, when ride sharing apps eliminate the very drivers they have hired? Or when the market shifts and our entire shopping experience evolves overnight?

Knowing these complexities, I believe, pushes us to want more of a safety net for freelance and gig economy workers. We want people striking out on their own to build stronger businesses, easier. Technology is enabling a whole new lifestyle and it has only just begun to unfold.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

FIve steps? First, solve a real problem. For Lili, we are looking to resolve the pain points that every freelancer faces. Second, make a product that is easy to use. Third, make it affordable. This is connected to its accessibility. Fourth, make it fun and engaging. Fifth, embrace the power of your community with effective communication.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

It’s simply up to us to make the world a better place. This can be done with better products, better services, and so on. Think about a cause that is close to your heart and go after your dreams with the focus and determination to create impact.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Sheryl Sandberg. The challenges that she has had to overcome, both in her personal and professional life are inspiring.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow Lili at @HelloFromLili on Instagram. We are particularly proud of our TikTok. This video is my favorite at the moment.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

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