Several MBA students at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business spent part of their winter breaks traveling domestically and internationally to network and learn about specific industries through Career Treks.
A group of 35 students traveled to Israel on the first student-led international trek for the MBA program to explore the business ecosystem and culture of entrepreneurship. We took some time to ask Alexi Greenberg, one of the three MBA student leaders along with Norman Kaufmann and Jeanine Buzali, about the experience:
What motivated you to pursue this opportunity in Israel?
My co-leaders and I began to plan this trek back in our first year of school based on our own experiences living in Israel. We were interested in organizing the trek to offer an additional global opportunity to our classmates, and specifically to Israel, based on its impressive entrepreneurial culture and rich history. Israel also is a special place that some of our travelers have been waiting to visit and/or may only get to once in their life, so we wanted to make sure the experience was a meaningful one.
Tell us a bit more about the companies/organizations you were able to network with, and the industries they serve.
One of our goals in organizing the trek was to expose our fellow students to Israel’s strength in innovation and startups, so we chose to visit companies that aligned with this idea.
One of our first stops was Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), one of Israel’s largest venture capital firms with over $900 million under management. JVP is known for its unique hands-on approach to its portfolio companies and has had over 25 initial public offerings, acquisitions, and mergers. Visiting with JVP helped us understand the strength of the Israeli startup environment and the large amount of startups coming out of Israel every year.
In Tel Aviv, we learned about Deloitte’s work in Israel and visited the offices of Windward, a maritime startup bringing big data analytics capabilities to the maritime shipping world.
We also hosted a panel with five Israeli entrepreneurs who shared their personal stories and presented their most recent endeavors. The entrepreneurs represented many of the industries Israeli startups focus on, including cyber-security and patient health records.
What did you learn about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Israel? Did you find any similarities or differences as compared to the United States?
Through our many company visits, we learned that Israel’s entrepreneurship ecosystem can be directly attributed to the country’s unique geographical environment. Israel has had to rely on home-grown innovation in everything from agricultural production to military technology. On top of this, the mandatory military service requirement forces young Israelis to develop a problem-solving attitude and a strong network at an early age.
We also experienced plenty of Israeli “chutzpah” throughout our trip. To outsiders, this special brand of audacity can sometimes be perceived as rudeness or abruptness, but chutzpah is a key component of the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit. Israelis are accustomed to challenging authority if they think something can be done better and have a high tolerance for risk. These qualities translate well to the high-tech sector.
Beyond company visits, what sites did the group see?
No trip to Israel would be complete without traveling to Israel’s many historic and cultural sites. Some of the highlights included touring the Old City in Jerusalem, floating in the Dead Sea, ATVing in the Golan Heights, and enjoying the Tel Aviv nightlife.
Beyond the impressive start-up scene, the country itself can be seen as a Startup Nation, achieving so much in its short history, and so while each of these activities was fun on its own, each one also helped contribute to our understanding of Israel’s history, its current environment, and the reasons for its flourishing startup ecosystem.
Do you have any words of wisdom for students who would like to pursue international career treks in the future?
Organizing and leading this trek has been an amazing but challenging leadership experience. The administration, faculty, and my fellow students have been instrumental in helping us pull this off. My advice to students interested in leading future treks is to reach out to as many people as possible since there are so many resources available and people willing to help!