Students get up-close view of Israeli high-tech innovation

Applying skills and testing new ideas in a real-world setting

With a concentration of high-tech startups second only to America, Israel — which has the second-most number of companies on the NASDAQ stock exchange — is considered the world’s next Silicon Valley.

Twelve students from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis will get a chance to view that innovation up close when they travel to Israel Jan. 5-12, 2012 as part of a venture advising course aimed at exploring the country’s venture capital market.

Israel’s start up community, consisting of several thousand companies, is making headway in many technological fields, including medical devices and imaging, advanced chip design, wireless communications, cutting-edge Internet applications and more.

While in Israel, the Olin students, both undergraduates and graduate students, will work directly with an Israeli venture capital firm on a specified consulting project at an investing company. Olin students will be collaborating in teams with students from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, who are enrolled in their own version of the course.

“This is a truly unique and exciting opportunity for these students,” says Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Olin and professor of the course.

“It’s difficult to get any kind of applied or experiential learning in the world of venture capital because the firms tend to be quite small,” he says. “So this is a great chance for our students to gain a solid grounding in venture capital in a country with the second largest number of startup companies in the world.”

MBA student Tim Fetter says he’s looking forward to learning more about Israeli culture and how business is conducted in a different part of the world.

“As students, there is an incredible amount of information that we absorb in the classroom, but it’s not often that we get a chance to apply our skills and test new ideas in a real-world setting,” Fetter says. “The Israel trip will provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. “

“In addition to getting an inside look at the venture capital industry, I hope to gain some valuable insight from an entrepreneur’s perspective by analyzing real business issues that affect start-up companies. Working as part of a cross-university team will be a challenging but extremely enriching experience.”

Senior BSBA student Jordan Zipkin says he looks forward to understanding a different and highly successful entrepreneurial climate.

“Not only am I excited to apply what I have learned in the classroom” Zipkin says, “I am also thrilled that Olin has presented me with a real-world experience where conflicts and problems are not isolated and cannot be solved by one discipline, but by a larger understanding of how everything connects.

“My entrepreneurial side is thrilled to get my hands dirty on a real project, the economist in me is looking forward to have a high level consulting opportunity and as an international student who is also Jewish, I am very curious to learn and understand another new culture, and understand how their political framework has created a culture in which brilliant and creative start-ups can thrive.”

Olin Business School has a strong relationship with Israel.

In 2010, Olin launched its “Business in Israel” course. Taught by Steve Malter, PhD, assistant dean for student development and strategic initiatives at Olin, the course is designed to give undergraduate students a unique opportunity to understand the economic success, entrepreneurial spirit and innovative nature of Israeli business while learning about Israeli history, culture and politics.

In addition to their class work, students spend their spring break participating in a 10-day immersion program in Israel. While there, they meet with leaders of various business industries, government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Olin students also can take advantage of an international internship program in Israel.