What makes an entrepreneur? Is it the idea? The dream? The desire to create?
While all of that might be innate, some of what shapes an entrepreneur are
circumstance and natural advantage.
A Tel Aviv area-based entrepreneur
has more access to money and contacts than a southernbased one. Moreover, those
who grew up in the South don’t always have the educational advantages of those
who grew up in the center.
Shamoon College of Engineering is looking to
level the playing field a little bit. SCE already caters to the more
disadvantaged residents of the South and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Center (EIC) was the next step in giving them more tools to succeed, its
director Dr. Miri Yemini, 30, told The Jerusalem Post
in her office at the
college’s Beersheba campus.
“More than 70 percent of the students here
are from Ashdod and south. Twelve percent are non- Jewish minorities, 43% are
immigrants and 28% are women (the national average is 21%). We believe the
psychometric and matriculation exams are biased, so we allow applicants to be
accepted not on the basis of those tests. After their first year, we reevaluate
if they can continue their studies,” she said.
When she arrived at the
college two and a half years ago, she started to think about what sort of
competitive advantage she could give the students.
“They come from the
South, there’s little access to higher education and they can’t move to the
center because they’re generally older with children and families. The answer
was entrepreneurship,” Yemini said.
“Entrepreneurship for marginalized
populations enables them to break through the glass ceiling, to decide on their
Even an engineering education is no longer enough of an
advantage, according to Yemini.
“You need to be able to multitask in this
global world. The human capital that knows how to solve equations is not enough
and hasn’t been enough for a while,” she contended.
It seems that others
are convinced that Yemini knows what she’s talking about. EIC has received
funding from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry for its program. Even more
gratifying for Yemini and EIC, the ministry has decided to recreate the program
exactly as is in the North.
EIC has also received international
Last year, it won a 1 million euro grant from the European
Union’s Tempus Project and the lead role in coordinating an international study
project with four other colleges here and academic institutions in Cyprus,
Poland, Italy, England and Germany.
Thanks to video conferencing and an
insistence that courses be taught in English, SCE students learn parallel
curricula together with their European counterparts. Apple, SIT, the Council for
Higher Education and the Young Entrepreneurs Association also have a role in
developing the curricula and carrying it out.
The program offers tools to
budding entrepreneurs but is also useful in any business environment, Yemini
“We teach out-of-the-box thinking [as] engineers are generally very
square. We also teach teamwork, since all of the work is done in
multidisciplinary teams. And we teach them to get their message across
effectively both in Hebrew and in English,” she said.
HISHAM ALHALIM, 22,
a software engineering student at SCE and a graduate of EIC’s program, said
there were no other courses like it at SCE.
“Nowhere else are we taught
business or entrepreneurship,” he said. Alhalim is working at a software company
doing programming, but said that the program gave him some good ideas for the
future. “I need to gain some experience first [before thinking about
establishing my own start-up],” he said.
Yemini outlined the ideal end
result of the program.
“The utopian dream is for our graduates to create
a start-up here in the South and then hire other graduates of SCE,” she
To enable that, in addition to the course work, EIC facilitates
contacts with industry leaders from the center of the country. The leaders come
down to teach courses, for conferences and networking
“Entrepreneurship is about knowledge, contacts and capital,” Amir
Raveh, who sold a hi-tech startup in 2003 and then founded MG Equity investment
house after seven successful years in London, said by phone.
teaches at EIC and also provides mentors to the students through his nonprofit
Building a Future to encourage entrepreneurship in the periphery. He was a
natural fit for the program and when Yemini reached out to him, he gladly joined
Raveh taught two days a week at the EIC this past semester. He also
helped organize a conference a few months ago that brought 100 veteran
entrepreneurs to network with the students.
“We brought 100 innovators,
investors, factory owners in the South, and members of my organization for a
panel and mingling.
There are even two student entrepreneurs who are in
negotiations for funding as a result of the conference,” he said.
idea is to create a real connection between experienced businesspeople and the
periphery, he added.
“The innovators come to a conference and you can see
the sparkle in the students’ eyes. Maybe it’s as simple as giving them the
self-confidence to push forward,” he said.
Alhalim agreed that the
courses and program were a valuable addition.
“They were interesting and
gave you a point of view and global outlook. Giving courses in the Negev is also
important because the industry is not like in the center of the country,” he
Alhalim was given the opportunity to represent the country at an
international conference in Cyprus. He and Yemini traveled to the conference on
integrating educational systems across Europe to enable students to study
anywhere on the continent.
They talked about the mix of Jewish, Arab and
Russian populations and the difficulties when Hebrew is not your mother tongue,
During EIC’s program, students are broken down into teams
and have to create a product. They need to create a business plan, protect their
intellectual property and carry out other tasks. In addition, all of the
projects have to have some sort of environmental aspect to teach them that part
of the value of their education is to give back to the community.
of the program, the students have to teach about entrepreneurship to local high
In that way, the current generation of students is
beginning to train the next generation. The Beersheba Municipality funds that
aspect of the program in recognition of its value.
“What we’re trying to
get across is entrepreneurship and innovation as tools for social change,”
For Yemini and EIC, it’s not just about making money, but
about creating products that assist society and becoming engineers who work to
make the world a better place.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!