Israel entrepreneur at UN: Key to success is ‘not to accept status quo’

Adi Altschuler speaks at panel promoting entrepreneurship as a job creator.

ENTREPRENEUR ADI Altschuler (center) addresses a panel at the UN November 3 (photo credit: ISRAEL MISSION TO THE UN)
ENTREPRENEUR ADI Altschuler (center) addresses a panel at the UN November 3
(photo credit: ISRAEL MISSION TO THE UN)
NEW YORK – Adi Altschuler was a teenager when she started her first entrepreneurial endeavor, Krembo Wings – a group that matches teenagers with physically and mentally disadvantaged kids all over Israel. Now 27 and boasting a TED talk, a second start-up on her roster, and a job at Google as a lead for education in Israel, Altschuler told a panel discussion at the UN on Monday that being an entrepreneur was about choosing not to “accept reality for what it is.”
As entrepreneurs, she said, “we have committed to live our lives as artists, and we have to work to paint the lives around us.”
Entrepreneurship and working in the start-up world have become familiar themes for those speaking about Israel, and Altschuler has become identified with the trend. Time magazine named her in September as one of six international “Next Generation Leaders.”
In December 2012, Israel scored a major victory in the UN General Assembly with the passage of its resolution on “Entrepreneurship for Development” in the developing world, which promoted the idea that individual entrepreneurship can be the key to lifting an entire nation out of poverty. The resolution is biennial, which means that Israel must re-propose it to the General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee every two years, and the GA must then vote on it again.
Representatives from 40 different countries attended Monday’s panel on “The Power of Entrepreneurship,” which the Rwandan Mission to the UN co-sponsored with Israel.
“Entrepreneurship can be the key to unlocking the world’s most pressing problems,” said Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor in his opening remarks. “In Israel, we say that ideas are worth a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post after the panel, Altschuler emphasized that Israel was not just known for its innovation in the technology and business worlds, but was one of the world capitals of social entrepreneurship as well. She also recognized that its mentality of “just try, and it’s okay if you fail” was not something that every culture had. Israel, after all, has a huge immigrant culture, and Altschuler pointed to the strong correlation between rates of immigration and entrepreneurship.
Immigrants were willing to give up everything and take a huge risk in moving to another country, she said, similar to the risk one has to take on a new endeavor.
“It’s all about the way you think and the way you live your life,” she said. “Most of my life, I had failures. You have barriers from the outside. It can be government bureaucracy, or people not believing in you, and there are inside barriers, too. But as long as you persist in what you believe in and you have a sense that you serve a higher purpose, then I think every barrier and every challenge can motivate you to continue.”
For people in countries or cultures that are not “entrepreneurship cultures,” or in places where starting a new project is particularly hard, the key is “not [to] accept the status quo,” she said.
“I’ve met lots of entrepreneurs around the world, coming from different cultures and mentalities,” she went on. “What keeps all of them going is, they don’t want to accept the reality they’re facing. They understand they can change what’s going on around them.”