This past spring, I participated in the Global Network Week and had an amazing opportunity to spend the week at Technion in Israel. More than 40 MBA students from 10 different countries from Global Network Schools attended as well. The curriculum focused on Israel’s culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. While Israel is barely 60 years-old and with less than 7 million people, it ranks only behind Silicon Valley for the number of high tech start-ups and successful exits. In 2013, Israeli start-up exits/IPOs were worth nearly $8 billion, with names like Waze, Wix and Trusteer. The one-week course included lectures on "Lean Start-Ups," "Israel's Innovative Culture," and "Strategies and Valuations of Israeli M&A Exits." We met entrepreneurs, students and leaders from academia and industry and got a glimpse into what fuels this "Start-Up Nation." We visited Government-funded incubators and the Innovation Centers at Google and Microsoft where we interacted with renowned venture capitalists and angel investors. What struck me was that there was an absolute lack of hierarchy or formality: the tech gurus were eager to impart their knowledge and wisdom. I felt the energy of an evolving ecosystem where competitors are considered colleagues and it is encouraged to fail often and early.
While we can attribute Israel’s success to a variety of reasons, including leadership skills acquired in the military, the risk-positive mentality of immigrants, and the start-up friendly government policies, the culture and people of Technion demonstrate why Israel’s leading university is such a fertile breeding ground for new ideas and enterprises. Technion is a great asset to the Global Network of Advanced Management as Yale and the 26 other affiliated universities strive to “prepare tomorrow’s leaders for business and society.” The most important aspect of the Global Network Week is the interaction among students from different schools, cultures, and backgrounds. It was quite a sight to see the amazement on our new Japanese friend’s face, when an Israeli student challenged a professor in front of the whole class. Our group project also provided valuable insights into how culture impacts team dynamics and efficiency. My thoughts about building social enterprises and funding social innovation were received warmly and I was able to develop great relationships with students and professors all over the globe. From the buzzing nightlife of Tel Aviv to the palpable fervor of Jerusalem; from the spectacular sights of Bahai Gardens in Haifa to the sobering views of the West Bank checkpoints, Israel is a country like no other and has to be experienced to understand this young nation’s spirit of innovation and progress.