After 16 hours of flights (transit in Moscow), I am finally in Israel!
Day 1 – Tel Aviv
While the organizers managed our expectation that the immigration process might take very long, it was surprisingly efficient with only 2 quick questions being asked by the immigration officer. Stepping out of the Tel Aviv airport, I was greeted by the beautiful Jerusalem stone and palm trees. Yes, I am now in the Middle East!
My first impression about Tel Aviv is that it very much resembles Miami in terms of urban fabrics and pace – it’s very much like a resort city! And our hotel is right by the beach that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.
Our study tour kicked off with a beautiful Mediterranean sunset, followed by a very delicious Israeli dinner at Benni Hadayg, with HUGE dishes of seafood and steak.
Day 2 – Tel Aviv
Our second day started with a meeting with Mr. Gidi Grinstein of Reut Institute. Mr. Grinstein previously represented the Israeli negotiation team on the Permanent Status Agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Office of Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001). For the many of us who are extremely intrigued by the political issues in Israel, this meeting was the golden opportunity for us to ask tons of questions. Indeed, Mr. Grinstein gave us refreshing insights on Israel’s international relations and role as a start-up nation.
Next, we toured around Rothschild Boulevard, a relaxing and local neighborhood in Tel Aviv. The tour surprised me with the very strong sense of community. As we walked around, many locals approached our Israeli tour guide Steve and asked about us – “Why are they here?” “Where are these young guys from?”. As we were crossing a road, we came across a truck that delivers flowers. The truck driver, excited about our big group visiting his neighborhood, even got out of the vehicle and gave us a big bouquet of roses (for free)! This really shows their hospitality, which I am extremely impressed of.
After lunch at a relaxing local cafe, we visited Aleph Venture Capital on the rooftop of a 3-story building with great views of the street. Through the app Meerkat, the meeting was simultaneously video-conferenced with 40 people from around the globe. The presenter, Mr. Michael Eisenberg, is a very engaging speaker who gave us great perspectives of how it is like to work in a venture capital.
Next, we visited Elevator Startup Accelerator. During the meeting, we met with three entrepreneurs who were working in three different start-ups. The start-up that interested me the most was the one which designs drones. The founder showed us the various types of drones and talked about the challenges, such as legal liabilities and how to sell this new technology in the mass market.
We had dinner at a Spanish restaurant called Vicky Christina. Food quality and ambiance were outstanding. What’s more, we also had unlimited drinks including sangria and champagne. This was, hands down, one of the best dining experiences in the trip.
Day 3 – Tel Aviv > Israel Air Force Base > Golan Heights
In the morning, we visited Rumble, which is a smart mobile management system founded by Mr. Al Azoulay, a CBS EMBA alum. Not only did he talk about how the system works, he also described the process through which he became an entrepreneur and shared tips of how to run a successful start-up.
After the meeting, we left Tel Aviv and headed to the Israeli Air Force. The visit was very eye-opening to me because I had never learned about how a military force works. We were hosted by an officer, who is also an entrepreneur (not a surprise in Israel). He talked about the operations and showed us how Israel is very well protected by the Air Force. I particularly liked the real-life dilemma cases he showed us. This really led us to realize the many difficult situations the Air Force has to face on a daily basis, especially when it comes to life-and-death matters. After the presentation, we also got the chance to check out the F15. Unfortunately, no photo was allowed inside the base. But this is definitely one of the most interesting visits to me.
In the evening, we arrived at the Golan Heights, and we had a very delicious dinner at a steakhouse, followed by a party featuring karaoke and of course drinking.
Karl Chan, MBA ’15