This January, a group of 37 students from both the full- and part-time MBA programs set off with high expectations on a two-week DBi trip to Tel Aviv, Israel. We quickly acclimated to Israel’s mild January temperatures, incredible food scene, and stimulating academic and business environment.
Israel is defined as a start-up nation. It has more start-ups per capita than any other country in the world. More than 1,200 start-ups are launched every year, and at least 80 percent of these new ventures fail within that first year. These percentages sound demoralizing but are considered to represent success by most international venture capitalists who continue to invest heavily in Israel’s start-ups. This dominating business culture has created a dynamic, young, and exciting environment in Israel.
The group had a full schedule, taking several courses at Tel Aviv University with the topics including “Venture Financing to Creativity and Innovation,” trekking to company visits, and adding some fun group outings. It was fascinating to meet with companies that spanned industries, from desalination plants to high-tech 3D printing. Having the opportunity to hear entrepreneurs’ stories firsthand and to learn how they achieved their success was nothing short of inspiring.
During our stay, we learned about “Chutzpah,” a Yiddish word that embodies so much of what governs the Israeli culture. It is the constant, healthy challenge of authority; a true bottoms-up approach that fights against hierarchical ways of conducting business. In Israel, every person in an organization is considered essential to its evolution, and nobody is afraid to speak up if they have an idea, regardless of their title.
This culture starts in the Israeli school system, which encourages young children to find the real meaning in things and to not be afraid to query what a teacher says if it leads to deeper learning and critical thinking. This mindset then continues in the military where a general will accept input from a soldier with ego set aside. As a result, everyone is more fearlessly creative and innovative flexibility exhibiting a high degree of improvisation when things don’t go as planned.
The mandatory military conscription for almost all young Israelis not only helps to create deeper personal connections and national pride but also produces a vast number of highly trained, tech-enabled people – perfect for the start-up world!
The entire group took full advantage of all that the city had to offer. You could find us exploring Tel Aviv and Jaffa, trying all the wonderful restaurants, and playing volleyball on the beautiful beaches. We figured that our meager athletic skills were okay to be on view since we were thousands of miles from where anyone might know us! We also took weekend trips to destinations such as the Dead Sea and Petra.
The trip was truly memorable and created new friendships. There were beneficial experiences on many levels, giving everyone the opportunity to bring back a little bit of “Chutzpah” to their everyday lives in New York.