Today, marked the fifth and final day of meetings with business leaders for our group. We started off the day with a meeting at the large, impressive facilities of the Israel Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor in Jerusalem. There we spoke with officials, including Gabi Bar who is the director of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) trade, and Yair Shiran.
Mr. Bar opened his talk by referring to Israel as being on an “island,” in the midst of their Arab neighbors. He said that three different parties encircle this island. The first is the Palestinian Authority, which is a “captive market,” one which depends on transfer of custom payments that Israel makes monthly, and depend more broadly on Israeli prosperity. The second is the countries with full agreements and diplomatic relations, such as Jordan and Egypt. The final circle is the countries that have no relationship with Israel, many of which boycott Israeli products. We then talked about the QIZ (Qualified Investment Zones) that Isreal has established in Egypt and Jordan.
These QIZs, which allow raw materials to leave Israel, be converted to final goods in Egypt, and then flow through, duty-free to the United States. Bar told us that 180 companies participate in this type of agreement, of the 860 that are eligible. He points this out as evidence that the profitability of the arrangement is key in this situation: during the Arab spring movement in Egypt, all of the businesses continued to operate.
Then, after lunch we spoke with Eldad Taub, a high-tech entrepreneur who has worked with the father of one of the students on our trip. He told us about three ventures that he has worked on. The first, CADENT, replaces the “gloop” that they currently use for dental impressions with a fully digital process. The second, EmBlocker, prevents brain damage during heart bypass surgery. The third, Plan and Act,organizes and mechanizes financial advice.
To round out the day, we spoke with Raphael Nejman who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Terra Venture Partners. He told us about the ecosystem that Terra has set up, using “TCamp” to invest in the pre-seed stage, Terra Lab Ventures as an incubator for these companies, and then Terra Venture Partners as the VC that structures exits.
Lastly, we had a reception with alumni at the Herzl Museum. The Herzl Museum, located on the grounds of the Mount Herzl (a cemetery for many of the nation’s leaders and military), is a wonderfully interactive museum that walks you through the founder of modern Zionism’s journey to create the State of Israel. We then all had a chance to meet alumni of Washington University who were currently living in Isreal. We’re all now looking forward to spending the rest of the trip sight seeing!
Alex, Class of 2015, Olin Business School, Chicago