Author: Israel Summer Business Academy


About Israel Summer Business Academy

A collaboration between Olin and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, the Israel Summer Business Academy (ISBA) is designed for students of all faiths, beliefs, and academic backgrounds who want to learn about Israeli business firsthand – and immerse themselves in the country’s entrepreneurial environment. For more information about this six-week summer program, reach out to or go to

The Israel Summer Business Academy (ISBA), launched in 2014, is a collaboration between Olin and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. The academy is designed for students of all faiths, beliefs, and academic backgrounds who want to learn about Israeli business firsthand – and immerse themselves in the country’s entrepreneurial environment. Olin Business School sophomore Eli Perlmutter describes his ISBA experience, which he called “the best summer of my life”: 

Participating in ISBA was the one of best decisions I have made in regards to my personal, academic, and professional growth. Looking back on it, I believe I took away four major lessons from my time there: how to live on my own, a new knowledge of Israel, knowledge on venture creation, and a new connection to Israel, my religion, and my school.

It was a completely new style of living to me. We were not in a dorm surrounded by other college students, or under an RA’s supervision. We were placed across the city in apartment buildings with no one constantly watching us. I have to admit that this was a little intimidating at first, but as the summer went on, I realized how amazing of an experience I was having by living this way. Living on our own also allowed us to explore Tel Aviv as much as we wanted, which was every hour of the day that we weren’t asleep. We tried our best to learn the ins and outs of every corner in our neighborhood, finding the best coffee joints, hummus, falafel, shawarma, and Chinese food in a 2-mile radius. Being in Israel also helped me find a new connection to my people and religion. I believe this is something that is only possible when spending time there.

An integral part of the Israel Summer Business Academy experience is learning about the country. Through the Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Israel course, living on my own, and partaking in group trips around Israel, I accomplished this. I believe that each experience I had enhanced and built upon every other experience and culminated in a vast knowledge of the country, as well as a new relationship between myself and Israel.

The second course that I took in Israel was about venture creation. This course was taught by Liraz Sharabani, one of the best professors that I have ever had. This course did not give me a million-dollar idea, but more importantly, taught me the process of creating a successful venture. It was a unique class in that groups would present their findings and progress nearly every class. The skills we learned in the venture creation course will not only be applicable to endeavors in entrepreneurship, but every other aspect in business as well. I learned to think on my feet, match demand, find a customer base, and how to determine the most lucrative way to sell a product, among many other important skills.

My trip to Israel also made me realize how amazing of a community Olin creates for its students. I am so happy to have had this experience and can honestly say that it was the best summer of my life.

Guest blogger: Eli Perlmutter, BSBA ’19

The deadline for the Summer 2017 ISBA program is Feb. 15, 2017. Learn more.

We spent our last weekend of our trip in the Negev, and it was clear that we definitely saved the best for last. Our weekend began with a stop in Be’er Sheva where we visited Ben Gurion University to hear a talk about the history of the school and sustainability. At the school, I heard for the first time the famous words of the former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. He said the way for Israel to succeed is to make the desert bloom. At first, I didn’t fully conceptualize his words, but after we left the university and drove to visit The Salad Trail, I started to really understand.

Guest Blogger: Emily is a sophomore Wash U

The Salad Trail was an amazing place. We were truly in the middle of the desert, yet there were hundreds of thousands of fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants growing. We had the opportunity to walk through the gardens and pick and eat the fruit. It was definitely the best farm fresh food I had ever tasted. I was in awe by the fact that less than 50 years ago there was nothing in the spot we were, and now there was a huge farm where over 200,000 people from all over the world visited each year. I saw first hand, Israelis’ ability to take nothing and turn it into something wonderful.

Another highlight of this weekend was visiting Masada and the Dead Sea. While the Dead Sea was an amazing experience, Masada was something I had never heard about before I came to Israel. I had no expectations as I was taking the cable car up to the top of the plateau, and when I reached the top I was stunned. I had never seen anything like it. The beautiful ruins, the advanced technology for the time, the fact that they even had a swimming pool, everything was so cool about the place. I thought it couldn’t get any better until our tour guide started to tell us the stories and history behind the giant rock.

I have never been very into learning about history until my visit to Israel. There is something fascinating about learning history in the place that it actually happened. This trip has been so much more than I ever expected and I never thought I would get this much learning, experience and excitement out of one visit to Israel.

One commonality that I’ve noticed at almost all of our company visits is the philosophy of giving back to their community. On the simplest level, all of the companies strive to support Israel economically, but at Google we were able to see how much action they divert to doing great things for the people of Tel Aviv.

Guest blogger: Jameson is a sophomore at Wash U

They created an entire floor dubbed “Campus: Tel Aviv” that is a free space anyone can use to host events to increase the number of connections and networks that can be made and expanded in the Israeli entrepreneurial world. In addition, Google itself started hosting certain events in this space that they invited people too. The range and target audience of the events showed how much thought they put into their drive to support the community. They established events for women in business that the moms could bring their kids to and showcases for how to integrate technology in the agriculture industry. In addition, they partner with several schools and universities to ensure that the future generations are just as talented and passionate.

I think this fact stems from Israelis’ massive national pride and deep cultural morals. The Israeli business leaders are often times the ones that drove the decisions for big multinational companies to create an R&D center in Israel. Intel is a notable example that we’ve frequently discussed, but I’m sure there are many more similar stories that most people don’t even know about. It is their love for their country that drove their decision making and supporting everything Israeli even if they were working and living in America. Additionally, the principle of tzedakah is wide spread in Judaism religion and beliefs, so this amount of overwhelming support for the rest of the people of Israel is no surprise to me.

Before this summer I had no clue what a minimum viable product (MVP) was, let alone how to create one for a potential startup company. While we were not able to execute these proposed ideas, it felt as if we were when presenting our ideas to the rest of the class.

Guest blogger: Marni is a sophomore at WashU

The lecture began by watching a video that served as the MVP for the startup turned into the well known company Dropbox. A short video, lasting about five minutes, was the first release of their product and was used to gauge whether there was any interest or need for a cloud-like storage system. It was amazing to watch a video which did not even prove the company had created the technology. Even knowing this, watching the video still made me want to use the product. The main goal of an MVP, we learned, was to see if there is a need for your product and if customers are willing to pay money to implement this product into their lives.

Having Zell applicants help us with this MVP was very beneficial since they had done a similar project during the application process to the program. They really made us focus on what would be the key metrics we would measure and which type of MVP would be the most beneficial for our product.

We ultimately decided on a “Wizard of Oz” MVP in which a website acts as the app and we are organizing all the tasks and sending out reminders by hand acting as the “man behind the curtain.” The goal of our MVP is to learn which features presidents of groups think should be added and how the task management was affected using our product vs. not using our product. We were able to use which allowed us to create a website that resembles what we pictured our app to look like. It was really cool to be able to come up with a way to test this product’s validity in the market without really knowing how to code an app.

We gathered at the Google Campus for Entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv this morning to hear from a founder of Wix.  Wix is a platform that helps average internet users create websites.  The basic premise of the service is that a person goes to a webpage through an easy to use platform.  All it takes to design the website is clicking and dragging on elements such as pictures, text etc. and modifying it on the spot.  Changing the layout just involves clicking and moving components around the screen.  Their tagline is “Easy to customize. No coding.”

Guest Blogger: Jessie is a junior WashU

In 2006, the idea for this website came from two brothers who were accomplished entrepreneurs.  In an apartment on Rothschild Boulevard, they quickly thought of the idea of the webpage.  In 2007, the first investment was made.

A question that investors frequently asked them was “Why are you creating a company for a solved problem.”  In fact, a website similar to theirs existed and was created in 2000.  However, it was messy, unorganized and not easy to use.  This idea is a clear testament that solving a pain point and creating convenience for the consumer can create a great company.

Not all startups have to be revolutionary ideas, and sometimes the best ones just aim to make every day life easier and more efficient. A lot of the backlash, interestingly, came from Israeli investors, and many early investments were made by Americans and Europeans.

As intrinsically motivated entrepreneurs, they kept working on the product.  They followed a very precise, three pronged goal.   First, Wix recognized the need to have a presence as a website.  Creating an easy-to-use platform and in turn having consumers produce great webpages was the goal.  Second, they understood the need for traffic.  Wix has tools to get market for traffic, and allows their consumers to leverage their brand through the Wix user base.  Each site gets about 100,000 exposures per month, and to get that number of exposures through Google ads costs $200,000-$400,000.  Since start ups especially are on such a tight budget, this creates extreme value for a user and incentive for them to use Wix.  Finally, they manage customers through an API that allows companies to be leveraged by each other, and to sell products between small businesses, also creating value.

Needless to say, this concern should have never existed.  The path to success did not come without obstacles, though.  Throughout the time the website has existed, it has pivoted at least 20 times before finding out the best version of the product.  Today, Wix exists in 19 languages, has over 60 million users and creates websites that millions of people are exposed to.  Our speaker stressed that small changes are made every single day, and on average a change is made every 9 minutes.  This innovative mindset confirms why Wix had an IPO in 2013, and continues to grow and improve every single day.