Learning Start-up from a "Start-up Nation" at Technion Israel Institute of Technology

November 22, 2013

In response to the changing global business environment and the challenges it presents, 23 business schools around the world formed a Global Network for Advanced Management. The Network provides a platform for faculty to exchange ideas and for students to acquire knowledge about the multifaceted global business environment in which they will function as leaders.

The Global Network for Advanced Management sponsored a Global Network Week, where business students from the member schools were able to participate in exceptional educational opportunities.   Each school in the Network sponsored a course based on its distinctive strengths and culture.

I chose a unique academic program:  “Start-Up Nation” sponsored by the Technion -Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.  In one of our core courses at SOM, a book written in 2009 by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, “Start-up Nation,” was recommended to us. This book became fifth on the business best seller list of the New York Times. 1 The book examines how a 60-year-old nation with a population of 7.1 million was able to reach such huge economic growth so that as of October 2010, 130 Israeli companies were listed on Wall Street.2  The book analyzes the  question of “how the small nation with minimal natural resources surrounded by enemies states has produced more start-ups than the larger stable nations like China, India, Canada, UK?3,4  The Economist5 notes that Israel now has more high-tech start-ups and a larger venture capital industry6 per capita than any other country in the world.3

Intrigued by this book, I decided to learn the business of start-ups from the “Start-Up Nation“ experts.  I was not the only one who wanted to understand this phenomenon. My classmates were business students from business schools around the world:  Renmin, Fudan, Smurfit, EGADE, IE as well as Yale SOM full-time students.

At Technion, we found an exceptionally warm and friendly environment and an incredible stimulating program.  The campus was very large and modern with a great number of coffee shops, restaurants and pubs. Professor Miriam Erez,  Dean for the Technion MBA program, and Professor Harry Yuklea, Professor of Entrepreneurial Finance and Economics of Innovation, designed a  fascinating and instructive program, utilizing five case studies, industry visits, and networking events.

The leading professors presented their points of view and analyzed the evolution of innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel.  Israel’s ecosystem, and the contributing factors that allowed Israel to become a world leader in biotechnology/ technology start-ups, such as governmental support and the support of venture capitalists, were evaluated.

Still the students had an insatiable thirst to understand “ Why Israel??" a small country in the Middle-East, engaged in a constant state of war with its surrounding enemies.

The  industry experts shared their knowledge on building a start-up company using case studies and  company visits.

We had a meeting with a CEO, Gabi Iddan, and visited the headquarter of his company, Given Imaging, which manufactures a small ingestible capsule ( containing camera, transmitter and light ) to analyze small intestines without the endoscope. This capsule is now widely used by the gastroenterologists  in the U.S. and all over the world. Mr. Iddan explained that he brought this technology from his military career and adapted it to serve special needs in medicine.

We also had a presentation by top venture capital partners from Sequoia, Pitango and Radd. All of those VC’s receive about 1000-1600 requests per year for seed capital. They explained the selection process they use in choosing the most promising candidates for the investment.

Here in the U.S., we would not have a chance to speak to those high ranking officials, but given that Israel is a small country and most business people and leading academics all know each other, we were  presented with this unique opportunity. 

Trying to capitalize on incredible wealth of Israel’s human capital, major hi-tech companies like IBM, Yahoo, Google, etc., set up their headquarters there. We visited Google headquarter in Tel Aviv and listened to the presentation of three start-up companies currently developing there. All three start-ups had futuristic elements to their products. It was amazing to interact with those incredible creative individuals and to spend some time at the Google headquarter in Tel Aviv.

The students were divided into teams and charged with coming-up with an idea, developing  it during the duration of the course, and preparing a new start-up to be presented to venture capitalists.The one week program was so concentrated with different engaging events that sleep was a luxury.  I have developed ties with new friends from the business schools in China and Europe as well as from the Yale SOM full-time program.

This  program  inspired a spirit of entrepreneurship in me, to the point that upon my return to the U.S., I contacted my old colleagues in different research institutions and arranged a meeting to discuss the opportunity for a collaboration on a start-up. For me, this week was among the most memorable experiences at SOM, and I am very grateful to SOM for providing me with this unique opportunity.

 

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/books/bestseller/besthardbusiness.html
  2. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Economy/stocks.html
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Start-up_Nation#cite_note-CFR-4
  4. http://www.cfr.org/israel/start-up-nation/p20356
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economist
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venture_capital_in_Israel

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About the author

Emma Vinarsky

MBA for Executives, 2014