Tag Archives: Israel

The End of an MBA’s Summer in the Start-up Nation

Israel is a start-up nation! The statistics say it all. Israel has the highest density of startups and these startups attract an enormous amount of venture capital – more venture capital per person than anywhere else in the world. And when it comes to R&D, no other country can compete.

When I lived in Tel Aviv, often times I’d forget that I was living in a country where a good part of it was covered by desolate deserts. What I encountered daily were people who were creative, driven, and who never took “no” for an answer. These characteristics – or chutzpah as some people may call it – have no doubt contributed to Israel’s spectacular economic success. One day over a coffee break, a co-worker at Medtronic and I discussed the economic downturn that the United States was facing and how it has affected people’s lives and the way people do business. We inevitably compared it with Israel’s economic situation  At the end of the conversation, the co-worker simply said, “Israel faces many challenges. It is small and lacks resources. However, that forced us to become more resourceful at solving our problems.”

What my co-worker said was consistent with what I observed. While I was in Israel, I rented a car so I could travel to other cities for sightseeing. Gas was very expensive, at least more expensive than what I was used to in the States – nearly $8 per gallon.   What stood out from all the many gas stations on the sides of the road were stations called Better Place. They are battery-swapping stations for electric cars.  Instead of waiting hours for an electric car to be charged, it only takes five minutes to change a battery. Just as electric cars were born out of the desperate need to wean away from oil, Better Place was founded on the idea that easy and simple battery replacement would convince more people to drive electric cars.  In Israel, whenever there is a need, there are entrepreneurs working on solutions.

Another Israeli technology that I found very useful was the iPhone app Waze (www.waze.com) – a community-based GPS traffic and navigation app. Before I headed out in my car, I would turn to Waze to get driving directions in English and, more importantly, to find out which streets were congested. I would rely on Waze to find the best route based on traffic patterns, to warn about road hazards (including speed cameras), and even to find the cheapest gas stations – all based on user-generated content. The idea for Waze originated when its founder was dissatisfied with traditional GPS devices that did not have the ability to characterize real time conditions. So a software engineer became an entrepreneur when he took actions to overcome the problem with a better invention.

A lot people have asked me about how I liked my trip in Israel. I have told many that I’d love to go visit again. This summer, I completed a course in Technology Commercialization at the Technion, had an amazing internship with Medtronic, and tasted some of the best food in Israel. Above all, it was an eye opening experience.

Allen Lu received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.  He completed his academic research training at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School and worked as an assay development scientist with Meso Scale Diagnostics.  At Smith, Allen is completing his MBA with a focus in Finance and Business Development.  He was recently in Israel as a Global Technology Entrepreneurship Fellow at the Technion and a business development intern at Medtronic WTC.

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An MBA’s Summer in the Startup Nation

 Allen Lu, MBA Candidate 2013, is spending his summer in Israel, participating in a technology commercialization course at the Technion-Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa and interning at Medtronic in Herzliya. 

The 2012 Israel Global Technology Entrepreneurship Fellowship kicked off with the ILSI-Biomed conference, which showcased innovations in the fast-growing biomedical, healthcare, and life science industries.

There is a strong relationship between academia and industry in Israel.  I was impressed to see both sides coming together to discuss university research and to explore opportunities for new business ventures.  Technology transfer centers such as Technion’s T3 and BioRap presented their latest inventions to investors and industry partners; while, executives from BioLineRx and Roche shared their success stories from partnering with academia to bring life-saving medicines from the bench to bedside.  The university business model began with teaching and then incorporated academic research; however, I feel the future success of the university will hinge on its ability to form strategic partnerships with industry through joint research and technology commercialization.


Even though this conference focused on Israel, the ideas shared where not bound by borders.  Multinational companies such as Life Technologies, Medtronic, TEVA, Johnson & Johnson, and Abbott all spoke regarding Israel’s spirit of entrepreneurship and the global impact of its innovations.  I was most impressed by Dr. Stephen Oesterle, Sr. VP of Medicine and Technology at Medtronic, who shared his insights on the urgent need to think differently about how we develop medical devices for the developing world.  The largest healthcare market is China – but in order to penetrate that market, Oesterle stressed the need for infrastructure development, physician and patient education, and most importantly, the need for affordable technologies.  Applying the principles of reverse innovation, Israel can partner with China to develop affordable medical devices first for the developing world and then bring these technologies back to developed countries such as the United States.

After Oesterle’s keynote, I developed the chutzpah to approach him and affirmed Medtronic’s mission of delivering affordable world-class healthcare not only the US and Europe, but also the developing world.  Supportive of my endeavor, he referred me to Medtronic’s office in Herzliya where I am now working with Judith Gal, General Manager for Medtronic Israel, on a business development project in making Medtronic technologies affordable to developing nations.

If you’re interested in bio-entrepreneurship, I highly recommend you attend ILSI-BioMed 2013.  I know I will be there!

Allen Lu received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles.  He completed his academic research training at the National Institutes of Health and Harvard Medical School and worked as an assay development scientist with Meso Scale Diagnostics.  At Smith, Allen is completing his MBA with a focus in Finance and Business Development.  He is currently in Israel as a Global Technology Entrepreneurship Fellow at the Technion and a business development intern at Medtronic WTC.

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DCE: Land of Opportunities – A Guest Blog by Julie Mullins

When deciding on a business school, I knew I wanted one with an entrepreneurial spirit; a school that was active in not only teaching entrepreneurship, but living it. I chose the Smith School of Business because of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and sought out a student position there before even accepting my MBA offer. I felt the energy of innovation and execution and knew this Center could be a game changer in my life….and it has been!

My Advice: Get involved as early as possible. Students don’t realize what a valuable resource the Dingman Center can be for connections as well as insightful, fun, and practical experiences. Make time for it; trust me, it’s worth it!

The Dingman Center is filled with opportunities for student involvement, and of its many programs, I’ve been intimately involved with three: Dingman Center Angels, an angel investor network, China Business Plan Competition, and the Israel Global Technology Entrepreneurship Fellowship, an 8 week summer internship.

Dingman Center Angels
I sought out to be a part of the Dingman Center Angels for the interactions I’d have with both entrepreneurs and investors. I submerged myself in the process that the entrepreneurs take to mold their business plan and pitch, as well as the process the investors take to analyze the companies, provide feedback, and develop the terms of their investment. During my first year, I screened companies applying to the group. I attended Review Sessions and Investor Breakfasts where I was able to hear the investors provide questions and feedback to the entrepreneurs on their pitches and their businesses, guiding my thought processes in terms of analyzing entrepreneurial investments. During my second year as a GA, I learned to quickly assess a business, new product, pitch, etc. to identify the gaps in companies’ plans or strategies. This process helped me understand the entire startup Angel investment ecosystem and assess the investment potential of startups. The relationships I’ve made with the investors and entrepreneurs have also been a huge benefit for expanding my network and providing me access to some of the area’s most influential individuals in the entrepreneurship field.

China Business Plan Competition
The funny part about my participation in the China Business Plan Competition was that I accidentally joined the class. It was an early Friday morning when I was on my way to another Dingman event when someone pointed me in the direction of a nearby classroom. I realized I was in the wrong room, but was taken with the lecture on formulating business plans by a great professor named Dr. Bob Baum. I decided to immediately enroll in the class and what a GREAT decision it was! The China Business Plan is broken into two components: the class and competition/trip. The class gave me hands-on experience in creating a business plan, working with a cross-cultural team, and pitching a business idea to entrepreneurs and investors  for feedback. The execution of the entire trip by the Dingman Center was impeccable. We did a lot of sightseeing, but more importantly, we learned about the business environment. China is a high-growth market that is attractive to all international companies looking to expand; what everyone does not understand is the uniqueness of that market. This trip provided insights into the cultural norms, common practices, and challenges. I worked with classmates who quickly became some of my closest friends in the program, learned the ins and outs of writing a business plan and starting a business, worked on my public speaking skills by pitching in front of 100+ people, and had the perk of traveling to China while experiencing amazing food and tourist sites with fun people.

I quickly realized that every interaction I had with the Dingman Center was transformed to the words, “amazing experience”.

Israel Global Technology Entrepreneurship Fellowship
The Israel Fellowship was my next logical step, tying in my focus in entrepreneurship, products, marketing, and international interest. My time spent in Israel was definitely the best experience in my Smith career. Not only did I return to the U.S. with a desire to live in Israel, but I returned with new tools for my toolkit of starting a business and taking a new product to market. We learned the culture of Israel and why they’re #1 for startup creation. In partnership with the Technion (Israel’s MIT), we worked for 8 weeks on commercializing Technion-developed IP.  Our class was split into teams, made up of U.S. and Israeli MBAs, and we pitched our novel medical device technology to VCs and angel investors. We were critiqued on the aspects of the pitch and the business model components in order to continually improve. I learned about the intense market research and customer profiling behind commercializing an innovation and created a go-to-market strategy. As in China, we visited a wide variety of companies during our 8 weeks. The visits advanced our learning and understanding of local business practices while helping us make quality connections. There’s no lack of history in Israel and we got to sightsee in all the top locations including the Old City Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee.


All these experiences have equated to an enhancement in my entrepreneurial knowledge and connections. They are differentiators in my interviews and on my resume. The Israel Fellowship is highly memorable to recruiters and is an instant topic of conversation that sets me apart from the masses of students with more “traditional” internship experiences. The Dingman Center Angels has been a job experience that I flaunt on my resume. It is a GA like no other in the school since it provides a true work-like experience dealing with companies and investors in the community.

My experiences with the Dingman Center helped me learn how to think like an entrepreneur and an investor. They helped me shape my thought processes towards developing a strategy for a business or a product. They helped me learn from others’ mistakes and successes. My only regret is not having video-taped myself prior to being a part of The Dingman Center so that I could show those who hadn’t met me 2 years ago the transformation to what I’ve grown to be today.

Julie Mullins is an entrepreneur-at-heart, searching for the right idea. She spent five years in retail management prior to pursuing her MBA. She hopes to lead a career in marketing for consumer products after Smith. 

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