Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 9

This was the last day and actually one of my favorites, which is hard to say because we did saw so many amazing things but it was nice to have the whole day to ourselves.  I woke up before checkout and went for a nice run along the beach.  Afterwards I packed up my stuff and left my bags in our reserved room.  I had been recommended a seafood restaurant on the boardwalk near our hotel and Prof Kessler with a few of the students agreed to accompany me.  The food was delicious and we had a great time.  From there we just walked around Tel Aviv for a while until the sun looked like it was starting to come down around 5.  At that point we walked to the Mediterranean and watched the sunset.  I was able to get some good pictures.  On the walk back we stopped at a place on the beach and relaxed for a little, then we headed back for the bus to the airport. 
The airport security was pretty crazy but everyone got through fine and we got on the plane back for home.  It was nice to be back but the trip was really amazing.  I really think it had a pretty big impact on my life.  I’d like to say thank you to Bruce for putting it together and those who helped him, especially Ayla and Fred Price.  Bruce let us know how helpful they were.

Day 8

The only thing we had on the agenda for today was an alumni brunch.  We walked to the restaurant in the morning and we were able to meet some interesting alumni, I think they all had their own companies.  The students were on one side of the table with the professors and alumni on the other so we did not get to talk to them much but they stood up before they left and explained what they do.  One of the alumni is even a very high general in the Israeli army and we were able to say hello and take a picture with him. 
After the brunch I was able to go and visit someone my father had done business with in New York.  I basically rested for the remainder of the day and the entire class went out that night.  It was a pretty good time.

Day 7

This was the last academic day, which was kind of a relief because we had been on the go since we arrived in Israel even though the trip has been very interesting so far.  We went to a venture capital firm in Herzeliya, this town is known as the silicon valley of Israel.  The meeting was in a very nice building and we could tell that there was a lot of money in this area. 
Here we had presentations from two entrepreneurs about their start-ups.  The first person that presented, Noam Band, explained two of his software-based start-ups.  The first company was a personalized banner advertisement company, and the second was a program that his team put together to monitor problems when implementing enterprise software.  The idea and implementation for both companies was very impressive and I asked him a lot of questions.  A great thing about the Israelis is that they have no problem answering plenty of questions, they actually seem to enjoy it. 
The next presenter was Amir Milo, another software start-up guy.  I enjoyed this story especially because they did not raise any money for this company, also known as bootstrapping.  He made some interesting points about market segmentation and business models.  I really learned a lot from these presentations.
Then we went to the last academic part of the trip, a class on technology and entrepreneurship at Tel Aviv University.  Here we heard from Ed Mlovsky who talked about the start-up scene in Israel and how it began.  He actually played a pretty big role in the development of the start-up ecosystem in Israel.  Then we had another presentation from Bruce about tech and entrepreneurship. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 6

Our first stop this day was the Ashkelon Desalination Plant.  The most unbelievable thing about it is the location.  The plant is a very strategic resource for the Israelis and it is only a few miles from the Gaza strip.  In fact the last time they were attacked from this area bombs landed within a few miles from the plant.  The students kept asking our guide Oshik what they do for security measures and he told us that there was nothing really that they could do.  This was the best place for them to put the plant and they have to go about their lives without letting fear stop them from doing what they have to do.  He basically said if they were to blow up the plant the Israelis would simply have to build it up again.
The construction of the plant is contracted out to private companies, one is IDE Technologies an Israeli company, and the other is Veolia, which I believe is French.  Oshik gave us an introduction talk and explained how the plant works, in addition to answering all of our questions.  I now even know that the steps to desalinate water are 1) intake 2) pretreatment 3) high pressure booster 4) sea water reverse osmosis 5) post treatment!!  The guide was pretty funny and did a great job explaining the plant as we walked throughout the facilities. 
Israel will have five plants and almost 80% of there water will eventually come from desalination.  This will be a great resource for them as water continues to runs short in our overpopulated world.
From there we went to Ormat Industries which was a company that builds alternative energy plants all around the world.  They make geothermal plants, solar, and “resource recovery” plants, which Chairman Lucien Bronicki explained to be for biomass and industrial waste recovery to make electricity.  He went through the company powerpoint in a nice conference room talking about the business, their plants, their employees, the education program they have to train potential employees, and he answered questions.  He even gave some good book recommendations at the end.
Our last stop of the day, Objet, was probably the most interesting, and definitely the most entertaining.  I always enjoy when we get to go into the factories where they make the products.  Objet is a 3D printing company, and maybe the most advanced in the world.  They build printers that can print 3D models and replicas in a number of different materials.  We were given a great presentation and they let us pass around the prototypes they printed and explained how the printers work, he was also enthusiastic about answering all our questions.  Then we went downstairs to see the printers while they were printing, and also where they build them.  It was really unbelievable to see them printing 16 micrometer layers halfway through a print.
The last stop of the day was the MIT Enterprise Forum where I was able to see presentations on entrepreneurship from Zvi Yemini, Ofer Shoshan, and our very own Bruce Bachenheimer.  Although a very accomplished entrepreneur the first speaker did not prepare too well for his speech.  The second entrepreneur who spoke basically told his story and it was interesting to hear how he started a few companies right out of the army without knowing anything, according to him.  Bruce also gave a great presentation about what they don’t teach you in business school.  Apparently it was web broadcasted across the world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 5

Today our first stop was Chiasma which is a biotech company outside Jerusalem.  We went to a panel on the life science industry in Israel and there were a number of impressive speakers.  Starting off was a managing partner of a VC named Dalia Megiddo who is also an MD.  She gave an interesting presentation on Israel and the life science industry.  It is very impressive that from their 3.5 million person labor force they are leading the world in patents and Nobel Prizes for life sciences since 2000.  Then was an entrepreneur named Galit Zuckerman who started a company called Medasense.  They are designing a product that can check for imbalances in your blood by putting a sensor on your finger much like Itamar the day earlier.  This product is designed to measure the amount of pain felt by a patient.  She did not explain what they are measuring but it sure seemed like a product of the future, much like the all of the products presented on this panel.
Then Steven Eitan, the CEO of a company called Exalenz presented their product which can detect liver disease by simply measuring the different molecules in your breath with high tech imaging technologies.  This provides for a very non-invasive way of diagnosing these problems.  I found this to be extremely impressive once again and we had a great discussion.  A presenter Dana Gelbaum from Chiasma gave us a presentation on their company and products and how far they are along.  They produce a pill release system that does not let out the medicine until the pill is in your small intestines to treat certain illnesses.
Shmulik Tuvia then presented on what it is like to be a scientist/inventor/entrepreneur and how much it takes to complete the entire process.  This was another great presentation and he made it clear how disgruntled he was about the entire industry and how difficult it is to succeed as an entrepreneur.
We then went on to tour the Chiasma facilities where they test out all their drugs on rats.  I had worked at home doing stem-cell research on rats before going to law school but that was academic and it was interesting to see the high tech industry side of research.
From there we went on to a company called Omrix Biopharmaceuticals where we were given a presentation on their business.  What they do is make products that stop bleeding by filtering clotting factors out of blood to put them into their products.  After the presentation and factory tour I know that this is much more difficult than it sounds.  There is apparently a huge market for their products and they are having a difficult time keeping up with the demand.  This company was having issues with working on Shabbat, also known as Saturday which is the Jewish day of rest. 
From there we went to tour Jerusalem once again because it was close by and then we came back to the hotel.  I was exhausted and went to bed soon after coming back home.

Day 4

Today our first stop was Itamar Medical and we were given a presentation by Dr. Giora Yaron.  He gave an interesting presentation about the Israeli high-tech sector and then an overview of Itamar.  Dr. Yaron is a very accomplished businessman who has created and exited many companies and hearing him speak was impressive.  He certainly knew a lot about the high tech business, he has a PhD in physics and worked at National Semiconductor for years as an engineer so he knows it from the ground up.
He spoke about how a lot of innovations come initially from defense and then make their way into the commercial world and that a lot of Israel's advancement has grown from the defense sector.  He also spoke about how much large multinational companies significantly helped Israel develop its economy, especially the tech sector.
From there we attempted to tour the Baha'i Gardens however they were closed so we could not walk through them but the view from the road was certainly impressive.  On that stop I was also able to get my first shawarma and it was really good but woa it was heavy I didn't need to eat for the rest of the day.
Then we went to the most impressive part of the trip, Iscar in the Tefen industrial area.  Iscar is a high tech precision tool manufacturer with incredible facilities.  They started off with an impressive video and we were able to tour the factory floor and see how their products are made.  Everything was automated and very high tech, not to mention extremely clean.  We also were able to see their R&D center which I found impressive also where all their scientists and engineers were working to design their products of the future.
One of my favorite things about Iscar was the fact that it was started by one guy who began making metal tools in his back yard in his twenties and now it is a giant international manufacturing company.  His name is Stef Wertheimer and he is now working to create peace in in this tumultuous area by expanding industry to provide jobs to more people.  He believes that once people have good jobs they will not concentrate on killing each other any more.  He is the richest man in Israel and his story is very inspiring.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 3

This morning our first stop was the Tel Aviv Stock exchange.  Much like the NYSE,  the Tel Aviv exchange is now computerized so we were able to listen to a presentation on what was previously the floor of the exchange.  It was given by Kobi Avramov who is "Head of Research" at the exchange and he gave an interesting talk about the Israeli stock market, the economy, and the exchange itself.  There were many graphs and charts on the Israeli economy and I found it amazing how fast they have been growing over the past decade.  Their economy is heavily reliant on international business and it is remarkable how well they have fared over such a tumultuous time.  It seems as though the companies and businesspeople have hit their stride maturing into a strong developed economy with great potential, I am excited to see what they can accomplish in the future.
From there we went to a revolutionary Israeli car company called Better Place.  The creator of this concept is an Israeli named Shai Agassi who thought up a system for electric rechargeable cars that run only on a battery with plugs to recharge the cars wherever the cars stays overnight, whether it be at a house or corporate office.  There will also be stations around the country to exchange the battery in minutes for trips over approximately 100 miles because that is the maximum life of the lithium ion batteries.  We were shown a video in their in-office theater about the potential of the system which was great, then we were able to drive the cars which were actually quite powerful.  I hope the company does well to help lead us down the path towards global oil independence, but they certainly have a lot of work ahead of them.
The final trip of the day was to another interesting company.  This was a restaurant called Liliyot started by a hi-tech entrepreneur, turned VC, turned social entrepreneur.  The restaurant employs young people who have dropped out of school and need to gain a skill to make a living.  Liliyot trains these people in how to run a restaurant with the hope of giving them the skill to go out and get other jobs in the industry.  Social entrepreneurship is something that is also growing in Israel and throughout the world, it is great to know that we have people who put their time and effort into projects that will help others.