Tag: Israel

“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.

Image: nytimes.com

On Monday, when we were at IDC, we all had to do this Marshmallow Challenge. Here, we had to split into teams and spend the next 40 minutes trying to construct a tower out of spaghetti and string, with the marshmallow all the way on top.

Guest Blogger: Ben is a sophomore at Washington University

My group failed to keep our tower stable, but fortunately, most of the other groups failed as well, despite the large time gap we were given to plan out a structure. But after the event, we saw a TED Talk about this and learned that the Marshmallow Challenge was tested among other business students and among Fortune 50 CEO’s, and they mostly failed as well.

MarshmallowIt turned out that when kindergarteners had to do this, they all actually got the job done quickly, simply because they kept the marshmallow on top the entire time instead of focusing on building the biggest tower.

The big takeaway I got from this challenge was that it represented the big, long-term goals for CEOs and their companies, with the marshmallow representing the company’s success or core competency or something, and if these companies really wanted to succeed, they should make their “marshmallow” the main focus, the thing they strive to push to the top. It also really helped me learn that for company projects, it wasn’t about how much money or effort I had to put in to outdo everyone else, but how much I kept the main goal of the project in focus.

Marshmallow1Being in one of the groups that failed to make a stable structure, it was frustrating to make the tower stable. After all, we were all told that whichever group ended up with the marshmallow in the highest position would win, so we definitely had some incentive to achieve. But seeing as our group failed because we tried too hard to build the tallest possible spaghetti tower, we ignored the marshmallow, deciding to save it for last when the entire tower was finished. Yet since we couldn’t keep our tower stable as we brought it higher, we never even got a chance to use our marshmallow, since we were focused on the building development but not so much on the final structure and what we wanted out of it.

Learning how all those kindergarteners successfully built marshmallow towers, it shaped my long-term view on group projects and on how to pitch business ideas. I learned that big projects will fail if I focus too much on the product process but lose sight of the final product.

Going forward, I will use this experience with the Marshmallow Challenge to ignore the competition and just focus on developing a good product, instead of going through a sophisticated development process just to outdo everyone else. More importantly, this activity is going to help me succeed in the business world, which will involve a lot of networking and group work. I can share with others what I learned from this activity about making the final product the main focus during the process, rather than the process itself. This will encourage better product development and centralized group thinking, and help myself and my colleagues succeed with our product.

On Sunday, June 21, Anna, Becki, Jessie and I went to visit Anna’s Great Uncle, Shlomo Hillel. She gave us a brief background that he was somewhat important in Israeli history and a cute old man that lives in Ranana, outside of Tel Aviv. Our research paper topic is Immigration and Government and little did we know our visit to Ranana would enable our paper to, for lack of better words, come to life.

Guest blogger: Rachel is a  sophomore a the University of  Michigan

Shlomo Hillel, an Iraqi Jew, who came to Israel as a teenager to join his brothers, was the momentous figure to aid the immigration of thousands of Iraqi Jews to Israel, through Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.

From 1950 to 1952, Operation Ezra and Nehemiah airlifted between 120,000 and 130,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel via Iran and Cyprus. The massive emigration of Iraqi Jews was among the most climactic events of the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries. By 1968, only 2,000 Jews remained in Iraq.    – Wikipedia

He went on to tell us his experience in the government.

As a Knesset member and then Speaker of the Knesset by the end of his career, Hillel played a large role in the formation of policy under great Prime Ministers, such as Golda Meir. The four of us were consumed with what Hillel had to say and his thoughts about Israeli business, immigration and government. Shlomo continued to name his partners and friends when describing all the operations and policies he was involved in. This demonstrates the value of respect and teamwork that this country was built upon.

One of the best parts about Israel is the ability to meet people who have single-handedly shaped the country to be what it is today. In America, George Washington is not walking around the streets of Washington D.C. On the other hand, we had the opportunity to meet a man who saved the lives of thousands of Iraqi Jews and lead the Knesset to create change in the 1980s.

Image: Police minister Hillel inspects his troops in the 1970s ;  (photo credit:COURTESY SHLOMO HILLEL)  Jerusalem Post

I have never heard of anyone using love and business in the same sentence unless they were saying that they either loved or didn’t love business. However over the past three days I have heard two successful Israelis make the analogy between love and different aspects of business. Listening to Uri Levine, the founder of Waze, and Ofer Hacohen, an AT&T innovation coach create these analogies, made me think about business in a different way.

Guest blogger: Jackie is a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis

When Uri related business to love, he talked about falling in love with an idea. You have to choose one from many, but once you choose it, you know that it’s the right one. This process takes time, it doesn’t just happen instantaneously. Then once you know that you’re in love, you’ll start sharing your idea with others hoping to get their approval. If they don’t like it, you may disengage with them to pursue your love. And sometimes, you will be wrong about being in love, so you just keep going until you find what’s right for you.

After hearing this foreign concept on Sunday, I was surprised to hear a similar analogy from Ofer on Tuesday. He spoke about how finding an investor in your company is like looking for a spouse. Initially, there is the first impression, which is extremely important. If you were on the marriage track like he was, you’d start with a first impression, and if someone makes a good first impression, then you would want to get to know the person. However it is common to get cold feet when moving forward. This is overcome by building a  feeling of trust, something that has been emphasized numerous times during our company visits.

I thought this was very interesting not only because it was something that I had never heard of before, but also because I learn best when I am able to relate new ideas to things that I already know. These comparisons helped me to better understand the process of creating a new idea and what it’s like to try to find investors or financial supporters of your product. Also, I think these comparisons speak a lot to the culture of Israelis. They are a country of fun-loving people who strive to enjoy life. As they compare their day-jobs with love, it shows that they truly enjoy what they do.