(photo credit: REUTERS)
This summer, I decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
I quit my job and took a leap of faith on a Birthright Israel Program that looked promising enough to change the course of my career. That’s right, I said Birthright.
You’re probably thinking of the well-known, free 10-day trip through Israel; you’re close but not exactly right. This Birthright trip is different. This program, called Birthright Excel Ventures, is a 2-month long crash course on startups and entrepreneurship with a bit of Israeli chutzpah thrown in. The cohort I joined was comprised of 18 people (half of which were Israeli) whose ages ranged from 20 to 29. None of us had ever met each other before, but were nonetheless brought into Tel Aviv to begin working together on building innovative companies from scratch.
Having paid for our flights, accommodations, and most meals, Birthright allowed us to relentlessly focus on our day-to-day work and initiatives at scale. In addition to the rigorous, yet creative workweeks, we were introduced to what seemed like the top 100 most influential people in Israel along the way. We met with the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office (the US equivalent of chief of staff), the inventor of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System, the biggest angel investor in Israel, the CEO of a top Israeli bank, the country’s former president, and the CEO of Google Israel just to name a few. The networking was out of this world. We have just a few weeks left in this program and things have been getting more and more incredible as the days pass by. The startups conceived from this program vary across a myriad of different sectors. To share a quick example, my team is creating a mobile application to help people improve their English/American accents while, at the same time, lowering the language barrier for multinational corporations (check out Speakeza.com
This experience has brought my connection with Israel to a whole new level. It’s no longer just a heritage or religious affiliation that I hold with the country. It’s now a much more practical one. The lectures I’ve participated in here have taught me best practices and quick iteration for business operation. I learned how resilient the Israeli entrepreneurial ecosystem is.
Communities here simultaneously realize the gravity and opportunity of a failure. There’s something to be said about a country that has had to rely on brilliant creativity to solve its problems at the risk of ceasing to exist. These unique strategies are woven in the DNA here and it is palpable.
Throughout this program, I’ve obtained an arsenal of tools for high-growth strategy, an amazing network of people who are changing the world, and an attitude for tirelessly pursuing my passions. After having seen the potential that this group of Birthright Excel Ventures entrepreneurs has, it’s safe to say that this is just the beginning.
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A bit about the author
Name: Jonny Basha
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Current Education: MBA Candidate @ Arizona State University, WP Carey School of Business
Undergraduate Education: B.S. Finance + B.S. Management @ Arizona State University,
Previous Employer: Nextiva.com
Favorite nonprofit besides Birthright: MoisheHouse.org
Other community involvement: Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix Board of Directors, NowGen Giving Circle Donor
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