A Trip to Startup Nation
Master of Advanced Management student Nicky Ou ’23 reflects on her Global Network Week at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
There’s a reason why Israel is known as “Startup Nation”: the country’s high-tech industry contributes to 54% of its exports. Some of Israel’s most recognizable startups include Waze, Monday.com, and Mobileye.
In March, I and 12 fellow SOM students had the opportunity to become immersed in Startup Nation culture when we attended a Global Network Week module titled “From Startup to Scale-up” at Technion Institute of Technology. The team at Technion organized an immersive week of learning, application (and competition!), site visits, and sightseeing, taking us to different accelerators, startups, and mature-stage companies in Haifa and Tel Aviv.
The week started in Haifa at Technion’s campus. We were welcomed with a short movie on all the “defining moments” that have brought Technion to where it is now. The university has a strong culture and supporting ecosystem that helps academics translate their research into commercial products. One really exciting example was from the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute’s project demonstrating the potential for miniaturization. Their technology produced the Nano Bible where 1.2 million letters of the Hebrew Bible were engraved onto a thin layer of gold! (Fun fact: You can actually visit the smallest bible in the world at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.)
This theme of transforming ideas into reality is something Technion wanted to challenge us with. Right off the bat we were put into teams. The deliverable was to pitch a startup by the end of the week. There was a plethora of ideas, from African haircare to financial literacy training and meditation pods. The excitement and creativity in the room was tangible. Professors and industry experts were brought in to teach us about lean startup methodology, risk management, presentation, and storytelling—all fundamental skills to creating and delivering a persuasive pitch. Sprinkled among the lectures were visits to the campus robotics lab, t-hub (similar to Yale’s Tsai CITY), and other spaces Technion has available to help their students grow and test their startup ideas.
But no international experience would be complete without some travel and delicious food!
I had the best falafel ever at a hole in the wall in Tel Aviv as we were touring downtown. Our group also had a unique opportunity to take a night tour of the Old City of Jerusalem led by some local guides. We started our night at Jaffa Gate, heading toward the Western Wall. Walking through the Four Quarters, you could feel the city’s history and the cultural and religious significance to its people. What struck me most was the preservation of the past coexisting so well with the modernity of the present. The original stones Jesus walked on in the current-day Christian Quarter are mere streets away from the newly reconstructed Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.
This week showed me the real complexities and challenges entrepreneurs face—and sometimes the outcomes are not within their control. There was one consistent message from every entrepreneur we met: In those moments (and sometimes weeks) of extreme uncertainty and frustration, trusting their team proved more important than sticking to the theoretical risk management and lean startup methodology we were taught earlier in the week. Before saying our final shalom, we were encouraged to spend time building our relationships and interpersonal skills, as the journey of an entrepreneur can be very lonely. It was an uplifting note to conclude our trip on and a nice reminder for us to stay in touch as we started our journeys back to our home countries.
A lot of the concepts and theories we learned in classes were reinforced in the companies we visited during the week. Some highlights were:
- Visiting HiCenter, which has a specific investment arm looking at technologies in sustainability and blue economy ventures.
- visiting Intel, where Viki at Intel’s Development Centre spoke on how to overcome inertia when pursuing intrapreneurship within large organizations;
- and pitching our startups to guest judges at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.