Global Entrepreneurship: The Israeli Phenomenon
Imagine the possibilities when you immerse students in a global entrepreneurship graduate program that takes students outside the classroom to solve problems, work collaboratively and get closer to industry while driving new levels of innovation. “At Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, a university with a heavy bent toward engineering entrepreneurship plays a part in nearly every course that students encounter,” said Bloomberg Businessweek. Not a surprise, considering it’s the main focus of the university’s mission statement: “Developing innovative and entrepreneurial leaders for a global technological world.“ “Our goal is to introduce as many students as possible—particularly non-business students—to innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Mark Rice, dean of the business school. As a result, WPI inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs working hand in hand with industry taking leadership and innovation to the next level for generations to come.
Understanding the impact of entrepreneurship programs, Joel Schwartz, EMC SVP and General Manager, Global New Business Development, collaborated with WPI professors, Arthur Gerstenfeld and Susan Vernon-Gerstenfeld, to develop a graduate-level course in WPI’s MBA program called “Global Entrepreneurship: The Israeli Phenomenon.” The course immersed students in the entrepreneurial Israeli-Massachusetts high-tech world through a series of lectures and on-site visits delivered by successful entrepreneurs and business leaders from Israel and the United States. Critical to understanding their field trip experience in Israel and Israel’s entrepreneurial success, was an in-depth study of the unique historical, social, cultural, and political factors that created the State of Israel and that allow innovation to flourish. The academic side of the course addressed those topics through a variety of readings and papers that the students wrote, which set the context for the field trip. These visits were quite literally on-site as Joel accompanied the WPI class on a weeklong trip to Israel for a series of face-to-face meetings with Israeli CEO’s, venture capitalists, and senior government officials of the international Israeli academic community. During the field trip, EMC’s Israel COE hosted several panel discussions with entrepreneurs, military personnel, and venture capitalists.
As a guest instructor I had the opportunity to kick off the program sharing key insights into “Israel The Start-up Nation” thus establishing the framework for a discussion between Joel Schwartz and the students. Other guest lecturers included David Goodtree (TEDxBoston) who led 2012 Massachusetts’ water mission to Israel, Akhil Nigam (Co-developer of MassChallange) lead a class with on start-ups while Susan Hunt Stevens from Pratically Green collaborated with Kathrin Winkler EMC’s Chief Sustainability Officer to deliver another powerful lecture on sustainability. Check out Kathrin’s blog: Interconnected World. When the students returned from Israel Kevin Perkins, EMC’s IP Attorney presented the value of IP for entrepreneurs along with Paolo Gaudiano, Founder and President of Infomous, President and CTO of Icosystem, a serial entrepreneur who discussed how he uses IP as a competitive advantage. A timely discussion in this day and age considering the nature and frequency of IP law suits as detailed on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and other financial and legal publications.
The students, mostly graduate students had diverse backgrounds, with many from China, some from Latin America and about half from New England. Here is a video that I took after they returned from Israel. From left to right the students are Jiaqi (Nick) Lu, Joaquin Serrano, Kathryn Remillard, and Weihan Gao.
During the last seven weeks of the program the students were assigned a group project to develop an innovative startup idea including market research, technical feasibility study, financial analysis, and, most importantly, a brief investors’ pitch. The students presented their startup ideas at the end of the course to “compete” for the investment to a panel of judges including me, Mark Rice (Dean of WPI Business School), and Steve Rubin (then Chairman and now Emeritus of the WPI Board of Trustees). Four ideas were presented to us but only one could win and that was CrowdSpot. Their idea was based on an existing offering in Amsterdam, where a mobile application helps you find crowds. Their version of CrowdSpot offered new capabilities which included where the crowd was and wasn’t helping you to find parking, tickets to concerts, sports games etc. But the other ideas were equaling inspiring and included: Azimo social entrepreneurship (People2People (P2P) mobile microloans), Precision Threads (custom suits using Israeli 3D camera technology) and True Candidate (enhancing the admissions process using web based social media tools).
With WPI’s business school offering a minor in entrepreneurship, as well as activities like the Entrepreneurship Club on campus, and a business course catalog that includes classes like “Engineering Entrepreneurship,” “Entrepreneurial Selling,” and “Growing and Managing New Ventures” it is no wonder Business Week rated WPI School No. 1 in the Nation for Entrepreneurship. I look forward to working with WPI and inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.