It was after three in the afternoon and May Piamenta, 22, was just starting to eat her lunch.
She crams as much as she can into her days, dividing them in 15-minute segments, so it wasn’t unusual for her to be multitasking, taking a bite or two while conducting a fast-paced interview on Zoom.
Making the most of her minutes is an idea that she developed at an even younger age. It is still what drives her.
“My best friend, Efrat, died when I was in junior high school,” Piamenta explained. “I was suddenly aware of how limited my time was on earth. It’s really important to use our time wisely to make the world a better place.”
Her friend’s untimely passing was also one of the reasons she came up with the idea behind Vee.
The concept is simple — and far-reaching. Vee is a mobile app designed to help companies enable employees to participate in meaningful volunteer activities.
“People around the world are becoming more and more interested in sustainability and doing good,” Piamenta said.
“Employees want to feel like they’re doing more than simply getting a salary, and that the companies they work for are committed to improving the world. And consumers want to feel like the brands they use have a positive impact.”
Some companies have even started to pay their employees for their volunteer time in activities from food aid to youth mentoring and environmental initiatives.
Vee, which in February raised $12 million in seed funding less than two years after launching, currently works with 500 employers in 20 countries, including eBay, Booking.com, Salesforce and Columbia University.
Nearly 1,000 nonprofit organizations, such as Heart to Plate, turn to Vee to connect them to the corporate volunteer teams.
Piamenta said, “Our platform allows Vee users to spend less time coordinating and more time carrying out their volunteer work.”
Piamenta was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in Israel.
She grew up in Dimona, a development town in the Negev founded in the 1950s. It’s not considered a high-tech incubator or a startup hub, and it isn’t much of a draw for tourists, but Piamenta had only good things to say about it.
“It has very warm people,” she said. “It’s a very close, cohesive community. A really good place. Now that I live in Tel Aviv, I see that it does seem faraway from everything but I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.”
In particular, she said the city gave her core values. “It’s not a big city but it’s very connected,” she said. “I learned the importance of supporting your community and volunteeering,” she said.
Her own father volunteers as a medic and runs a day-care center for children in need.
She credits her mother for teaching her the value of working hard.
“She works in a hotel from six in the morning to six at night, and she’s passionate about helping people,” Piamenta said.
But, she added, “I always knew I wouldn’t just want to work in a corporate environment. I wanted to do something to make the world a better place.”
From an early age, Piamenta became aware of the things she could do to make a difference. When her best friend, Efrat, had lost her hair due to her cancer treatments, Piamenta shaved her head in solidarity and then donated her hair to cancer patients.
She went on to lead many initiatives during her high school years, including fundraising for children with disabilities and organizing volunteering days. In the army, she served as a commander in an electronic warfare unit.
After her military service, she worked in a global nonprofit project with millions of volunteers across 32 countries and realized that traditional management tools were difficult to use.
That was when the idea for Vee was planted.
Passion for social activism
When Piamenta started her company, she turned to her mother’s brother, Gil-Eyal Amsalem, who was then in research and development at Ness Technologies, to help her.
“He asked me, ‘Do you have a chief technology officer?’ When I told him, ‘No,’ he told me, ‘I’m in.’”
The only problem with having “my company’s CTO who’s also my uncle means that at Friday night dinners, everyone makes sure we sit on opposite sides of the table so we don’t talk about work.”
She paused. “But there’s plenty of time to talk about work before and after dinner.”
The other cofounder of Vee is Avi Amor, who “shares his experience and passion for social activism, education and community projects.”
Covid brought both challenges as well as payoffs to Vee, Piamenta said. Nonprofit organizations were strapped because there was a sudden drop in donations; at the same time, there was a plunge in volunteering because of health reasons.
Piamenta made Vee free for nonprofit organizations.
“Thank goodness things are back to normal or even better,” Piamenta said.
There are other companies competing for the corporate volunteer market but Piamenta is undaunted. She said, “I like the challenge.”
She’s competitive by nature; in high school, she was on a team that reached the semifinals in an international robotics competition. She’s also got a blue belt in karate.
Piamenta’s Vee currently has 51 employees and operates in Tel Aviv but she is eyeing a relocation to New York.
“My mother will kill me when she hears that,” Piamenta said sadly. “But most of our work is in the United States and Canada and it’s hard to work off-shore.”
Right before she left on a recent trip to see the New York City office, she posted a photo of herself at Ben Gurion Airport and wrote, “My eyes are tired but my heart is full. So excited. Go Vee.”
She plans to expand Vee’s services to municipalities, schools and universities. Most growth is through word of mouth.
“We only have two sales people in Europe and every day we get more people signing up,” she said. She believes it’s due to a “global shift toward wanting to do good.”
Oh, in between her goal of helping to improve the state of the world, she also studied acting for five years. One of her dreams is to be an actress in Hollywood.
“We’ll see where life takes me,” she said.