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

Today was quite a day. We received lectures from four different speakers along the famous Rothchild Boulevard, the heart of Tel Aviv’s financial district. First up today was Ron Gura, who currently works for Aleph VC. He described how he made the switch from being an entrepreneur to being at the on the other side of the negotiations in the role of a venture capitalist.

Guest Blogger: Zach is a sophomore WashU.

Then we heard from Ron Goldi who works for Ajillion which was bought by Crossrider. [Quick side-note: We talked to Goldi on the roof of the Crossrider building, which was simply gorgeous.] Goldi actually made the opposite switch from Gura: Goldi went from being a venture capitalist to an entrepreneur. Hearing from both of these businessmen back-to-back was interesting, as they each had their own reasons for switching jobs. They are perfectly content where they are now. But they both admitted that having been on the other side of the table really helps them now because they can think like the people they negotiate with. That is why it is beneficial to work both sides of the negotiation. What I took away was that this doesn’t just apply to the VC industry. To be successful in negotiations, you must know the perspective of each party involved. Once you have accomplished that, you will be able to achieve success.

After those two speakers, we met with Ran Achituv of Magma VC. Magma is a VC fund that focuses in on early stage tech companies, including Waze. In the funding spectrum, they are somewhere in between a micro-fund and a multi-stage generalist VC fund as they tend to spend between $100 million and $150 million for funding.

Afterwards, we were able to hear from the other side of the funding spectrum: a group of angels called Maverick Ventures. Maverick is basically the complete opposite of Magma. While Magma has probably invested in many startups, Maverick Ventures has only invested in six. They also aim to fund startups with somewhere between $1 million and $3 million, which is a huge difference from Magma, too. But the biggest difference I saw was the unique mindset Maverick had. They believed that while other VC’s may only find success in three out of ten startups, they wanted to be successful with all of their startups.

I have been hearing about different types of funders all throughout my time here, but now I finally was able to clearly differentiate them with these back-to-back presentations of competitors.

Now for our startup app we have been working on in class, we are able to clearly decide which type of funding we want to aim for.

This program has forced me to analyze the definition of success many times.  Various people have told us that if your end goal is to make money, then entrepreneurship is not the career path to take.  Instead, the idea of making a change in the world seems to be the goal for many “successful” entrepreneurs.

Guest Blogger: Jessica is a junior at WashU

We currently have an assignment that requires us to meet with a Zell graduate, and to learn about their entrepreneurial experiences.  The business man who I chose to interview started a marketing company, and it has been open for around four years now.  It seems as if the company has gained a lot of traction, and they have formed partnerships with huge publishers like Fox Sports.  It seemed to me as if the company could be defined as successful, but when I asked him if his company is successful in his opinion, he responded no without hesitation.  He said that until an exit, IPO, or close had been reached, he wants to keep expanding the company. However, he said there are moments where he is extremely proud of his company, and a temporary milestone is reached. When his favorite basketball team, the Miami heat, started using his program, it was a redeeming feeling.  However, the billions of users of his survey service do not constitute a successful ending to Bitz, his company.

This answer reminded me a lot of the mindset of the start up that I worked for last summer.  It was a jewelry company that had products picked up by huge retailers such as Free People, ShopBop and Bloomingdales.  However, they still did not define their fashion line as a success.  I have learned that this mentality seems to be a trend amongst entrepreneurs, and perfectly depicts why money cannot be a driving force.

The ever-changing and dynamic of the start up world makes it addicting to these people, and they are emotionally invested in making their company as good as it can be.  No matter what the worth in capital is, a true entrepreneur is never truly satisfied with their product, and always wants to make improvements. If success is never reached in their minds, they are consistently working at their product, and are making the product as close to perfect as humanly possible.  The work ethic proves for the eventual success and prosperous futures of true entrepreneurs.

Working on our start-up, we’ve been gradually adding elements to create value and really work through the steps that real entrepreneurs go through. Today’s lesson consisted of learning about the lean start-up method and the business canvas. We took all the topics that we learned about and exercised those methods on our own product. The business model that we worked with was very similar to the tasks that we did in Management 150 at school first semester, but the difference here was, instead of doing the whole process over the course of a semester, we did everything in a fraction of a day.

Something I learned today is that we all have so much more potential than we think. Instead of second-guessing oneself, it’s important to just try things even if failing is an option. We had to work together in our teams with people we may not have interacted with before this summer and we had to get a lot of work done in a little amount of time. After seeing that we are capable of this, I got a surge of confidence. It sounds like a cliché, but if we put our minds to it and really put in the effort, a lot more than we think can get done.

It’s also very inspiring to see the works of others. In this class, we are presenting everyday our new findings and updating the class. This introduces a type of healthy competition to the groups. Instead of doing the bare minimum as many students do in some group projects, each student is striving to do their best so that their group and their idea looks good in front of everyone. The ability to be the one advertising your product makes you put so much more of yourself into the work behind it. I can now better understand the ways of entrepreneurs since I now understand their connection to the products. It really is their baby. We want people on board, we want people to give us feedback, and overall we want them to use it when it’s finished.

One thing that really gave me satisfaction in the work that we’ve done today, was hearing people talk about my group’s product. Having our peers say how useful it would be or how perfect it would be in a certain context is motivation in a sense. Knowing that it is a viable product drives me to do so much more with this. And who knows, maybe we will be able to take this all the way.

“Tech it Easy.” This is the slogan written on the wall of the room at Tel Aviv Google Campus where a Google representative talked to us about this R&D center for the world famous company. Not only is this a catchy pun, but also it truly encapsulates the atmosphere at Google Campus.

Guest Blogger: Anna is a sophomore at WashU

Google has beautiful work spaces so employees are happy at work. This includes delicious and healthy breakfasts and lunches that allow employees to mingle with co-workers, furthering friendships and sharing of ideas. There are even countless amenities: gym, washing machine, postal service, and even a barber that comes once a week! It was also an honor to hear from the manager of the Google Tel Aviv R&D center and amusing to see him wearing jeans and black T-shirt when he oversees over 600 Google employees.

I learned about components/abilities of Google that I didn’t even know existed such as Google Sites (where one can create his/her own website hosted by Google). I was also intrigued by the 20% Project which allows employees to work on their own side projects 20% of their time. This feeds into the entrepreneurial culture that is so present in Israel, allowing people to think on their own independently apart from their main Google assignments. Remarkable projects have come out of this, including digitizing Yad Vashem records and the Dead Sea Scrolls, preserving them forever and making them widely available electronically. This seems so different than many work environments that are more possessive of employees and are structured hierarchically such that those at the top have more latitude for innovation than those expected to complete assigned tasks.

When the Google representative was asked his favorite thing about working at Google, he answered simply: the people (the same reason I picked WashU). It’s no wonder it’s so difficult to get a job at Google because, as the representative described, everyone who works there is strong professionally/technically and highly motivated, but also has fun hobbies and is interesting and personable. Being well rounded is so important in any industry – it’s not good enough to just be really good at computer technology or only being able to communicate with people: to work for Google you need both. Google understands that the value of technical and intellectual talents is compromised without equally compelling personal and interpersonal qualities.

While I think more fields (and colleges) today appreciate that success depends on the entire person, not just their intelligence, I imagine few professions look for these qualities as thoroughly as Google does. I am reminded of a physician who cannot communicate with or comfort a patient or a professor who excels in research but cannot teach – both likely compromise the work they perform and the consumers they serve.

I was also made aware of the many social movements Google has led. We have learned from so many places (the news, VCs, Start Up Nation, etc) how the many Orthodox Jews and Arabs in Israel are under-employed. Google provides programs for both of these groups through Kama-Tech (for Orthodox Jews) and Palestinian High-Tech Trade Mission.

Google additionally helps bridge the gap between the number of men and women in high tech by both creating Yazamiot, a women’s entrepreneurial movement, and Mind the Gap, a program that encourages high school girls to major in computer science. I appreciate the way Google is reaching out to different underprivileged groups of people without gaining any immediate reward in return. Just as Google regards employees as “whole” people, the company seems to consider the whole environment in which it operates and engages that environment. How fitting for a company that offers such an interactive product to value interaction in all aspects of its operation.

Image: Google headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Yesterday, my venture creation team ran into a little problem with our proposed app. Our initial plan was to create an app that would crowd source information to make the buying process easier for big ticket items. The application would compare prices in the nearby geographic area as well as take information from online blogs and customer reviews to make a summary of the product while highlighting reviews that your Facebook friends posted. I thought this was the perfect idea because I always struggle when I try to make buying decisions and this would allow me to avoid difficult decision-making situations like when I spent two hours on Amazon looking for the cheapest and the highest quality pair of fuzzy socks.

Guest Blogger: Jackie is a sophomore WashU

Unfortunately for our team, there was already an app out there that did something very similar to what we were trying to create, but fortunately for me, I found an app that could help with my buying decisions. This morning when we got to IDC and had group time, we decided that we needed to regroup and come up with a new idea. We spent a lot of time brainstorming together and trying to come up with a new idea and after about an hour we decided to create BettaFit, which is an app that helps with shopping online for clothes. It is similar to our original idea, but this is more specialized and has fewer competitors that are already in the market.

Last night I was really worried that we were going to have to scrap all of our work and come up with a completely different product and be days behind all the other teams. Although, when we got to IDC we were able to sit down right away and start working. I have never been in a business group where everyone was so focused on the task and able to work together so well while still having fun. It was a really good experience. Also, when we were going through the nine steps of the Lean Business Model, we were able to put that we were serial entrepreneurs in the unfair advantage box because we had already gone through the first few steps of creating a venture before.

Although we ran into the problem with our company and had to take a few steps backwards, it was worth it to overcome the challenge. I think going through this process allowed us to come up with something we all liked a lot instead of choosing someone else’s idea and we became closer as a team because of it.

Today we presented our startup ideas to students from the Zell program. For a few days, we had been working in small groups to modify an idea from one of the Zell entrepreneurs. My group chose Savey, a money-saving app with the goal of combating consumerism by helping users cut down on their impulse purchases.

Guest blogger: Callie is a sophomore at Washington University

We modified this idea so that it would be more goal-oriented; we wanted to help users be able to reach their long-term goals and do things that would give them more lasting satisfaction than a quick impulse buy. We also changed the revenue stream from being based on ads to partnering with companies that could provide “goal experiences” to users – we promote these goals through the app and offer them at a discount, and then receive a commission from the company when users put their money toward that goal.

After presenting our idea, we were able to spend some time with the Zell entrepreneurs and get their feedback. Because our group disagreed on some things, and also were very much in the early stage of developing a concrete idea and business model, I found this time especially helpful. It was great to hear the entrepreneurs’ feedback and advice, and I think this will help our group better develop and execute our idea.