The bustling beach metropolis of Tel Aviv attracted 19 HEC Paris MBA students for a week-long trek. Organized by S18 Israeli students, the trip provided the perfect opportunity to meet with a range of startups, unicorns, innovation centers and big tech players all founded in Israel.
We packed our schedule with nine company meetings and six socio-cultural events, which made for an incredibly informative, fun and eye-opening experience!
Tel Aviv’s appeal
Tel Aviv has evolved into one of the world’s leading hubs for technology and innovation. Ranked as the world’s leading startup ecosystem outside of the United States, the Nonstop City offers a well-developed infrastructure and a multitude of business opportunities, making it well worth considering for post-MBA life. That’s even without mentioning its history, beautiful beaches, great culinary scene and crazy night life.
We kicked off our week at Houzz – an online community and marketplace for architecture, interior and landscape design, and home improvement. We met with Hila Halpern, a Product Design team lead, and Guy Shaviv, who leads mobile development and manages the Tel Aviv office. Under Guy’s leadership, Houzz won “Best App” at the inaugural Google Play Awards in 2016, and was a launch partner to Google ARCore and Apple ARKit. We learned about new features using AR, in which users can imagine their homes with different layouts and furniture. Needless to say, Houzz’s offices are beautiful!
We moved on to Argus Cyber Security, where we met Yoni Heilbronn, CMO. Yoni shared how Argus protects vehicles, fleets, connectivity platforms and dealerships from cyber attacks. Along with discussing the company’s market strategies and growth potential, we watched a live Car-Hacking demo!
Finally, we ended our first day with dinner and drinks in Jaffa’s most famous restaurant, where we enjoyed delicious, fresh Israeli-Mediterranean cuisine.
During today’s visit to Natural Intelligence, we discussed product and innovation, and company culture and values. The marketing company specializes in identifying high-intent users while simplifying the decision-making process, building brand consideration and delivering a strong ROI for its brands. A big thanks to Yoav Tzuker, Head of Innovation, and Tomer Fuss, VP Product Management, for presenting NI’s vision with us.
Our second stop was at Monday.com – a team-management startup that recently reached Unicorn status. We met Omry Sitner, Academic Partnerships & Business Development Manager, who showed us how Monday’s tool helps promote team collaborations in over 200 industries. As a bonus, he gave us a tour of their liquor room, massage rooms, private movie theatre and panoramic-view gym & fitness center.
We especially liked the numerous screens located literally everywhere that showed live company KPIs. What a great way to promote a results-driven approach! No wonder Monday.com was the world’s fastest growing startup for 2019.
Our next stop on this very busy day was to EverCompliant to discuss cyber security and money laundering. We met with Ohad Zadok, VP of Technology and Innovation, who shared how EverCompliant allows acquiring banks and payment-service providers to manage merchant-based fraud and cyber risk. We discussed their range of solutions designed to give acquirers the necessary information to check ongoing and newly boarded merchants, while guiding them through the process of managing online risk and detecting transaction launderers, hidden transaction tunnels and fraud. Needless to say, that was one fascinating conversation!
Finally, it was time to relax and get to know Israeli society a little bit better. Hosted by l’Institut Français Tel Aviv, we held an intimate and (very) candid Diversity & Inclusion strategies panel. We met with MK Idan Roll & Gal Uchovsky, two of Israel’s leading LGBT public figures, for an open discussion about diversity and acceptance in Israeli society. The panel was followed by an HEC Paris MBA Afterwork event, which brought together the whole spectrum of HEC’s Israeli community. In all, about 40 people socialized against the stellar backdrop of Tel Aviv’s skyline.
We kicked off the day with the stories of two groundbreaking female leaders, Miri Eisin and Yasmin Dunsky, presenting different strategies of promoting women into leadership roles and overcoming inequality in society. We then met Keren Hananel, a professional guide, who took us on a fascinating 4-hour tour of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
Next, it was time to meet another hot FinTech Unicorn: Lemonade! Hosted at their beautiful Sarona campus, we met Michal Ston, Head of Global Talent Acquisition, who shared with us her experience of recruiting worldwide and maintaining the company’s culture and DNA while expanding. We also met with Ori Hanani, VP European Operations, who told us more about Lemonade’s expansion to new markets. Finally, to make sure we all become lemonade makers – we got some cool T-shirts!
We started our day at AstraZeneca, meeting with Ohad Goldberg, Company President for AstraZeneca Israel. He talked about his own post-MBA career transformation, Israel’s unique healthcare system and big-data opportunities in the Pharma industry. We then met with Guy Shauli, Director of Global Digital Partnerships, who gave us a sneak peek of “BeyondBio” – a program for investing in Israel’s digital health sector.
Next came our visit to the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. Founded in 1996 by the late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, the Jaffa-based center develops impactful programs with a focus on promoting a prosperous Israel, creating shared-living between all of Israel’s citizens and encouraging lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Their “Dream Big” sign says it all, and we were deeply moved by what they are trying to accomplish.
Afterward, we experienced firsthand Israel’s budding reputation as a wine producer during an afternoon apéro and wine tasting at one of Israel’s finest boutique wineries, Bravdo Winery.
The family who currently owns the winery began growing grapes 120 years ago, but the cool summer nights and the limestone-rich soil at the estate have been known to produce fine grapes since the time of Solomon’s kingdom.
To make this magical and oh-so-tasty afternoon even better – we got HEC TLV trek hoodies! These came in handy during our last stop of the day – the Judean desert. We headed down south and spent the night at Kfar Hanokdim. This beautiful oasis allows visitors to fully experience desert living, from camel rides and a taste of Bedouin lifestyle, to an evening bonfire and sleeping in a desert “sukkah” lodge. Simply amazing.
Another jam-packed day awaited us. We left our desert oasis for another magical spot – the Dead Sea. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the lake’s saline water insures that no fish can survive—thus the name. Still, the Dead Sea is renowned for its health and healing properties and one can float naturally in its waters. Words cannot describe this experience. Instead, take a look at us covered with therapeutic mud and floating!
Early that afternoon, we headed to Jerusalem, where we visited MassChallenge, Israel’s largest and most international accelerator. There we met with Shai-Shalom Hadad, Director of Business Operations for. Since its launch in 2015, MassChallenge has accelerated 150+ companies.
Next, we were ready for a night out! We had dinner and drinks in one of Jerusalem’s best restaurants, where we coincidentally met Erel Margalit, Founder and Executive Chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), one of Israel’s largest VCs. Erel generously extended a personal invite to visit JVP’s new offices in Paris!
We spent the weekend in Jerusalem, arguably the world’s religious and historical epicenter. This vibrant city is holy to over one-third of all the people on earth, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. Beyond its religious and historic significance, Jerusalem is the capital of modern-day Israel and has to be seen to be believed.
We had a moving visit to Yad-Va’shem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. We then toured the Old City of Jerusalem, a one-square-kilometer walled area full of historic and religious sights. We visited the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. We then followed the path in which Jesus died, was buried and resurrected. We got a great view at the Dome of the Rock, the Islamic shrine which makes this city the third holiest for Muslims. We also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Coming from a diverse, international program like the HEC Paris MBA, it was enlightening to witness the four quarters of the Old City: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. Each section has its own unique feel, yet what remains bizarrely constant is the way in which residents of this surreal place rush about on their daily business.
We spent the morning on the picturesque Mount of Olives, and ended the day at the amazing market in the Muslim quarter, where we enjoyed some last-minute shopping and much-deserved Falafel – the best we have ever had!
It was now officially farewell-time. Goodbye Jerusalem, Le’hitra’ot Israel.
The HEC Paris MBA Trek to Tel Aviv was not your typical business trek. Instead, it offered a rare opportunity to learn about innovation & entrepreneurship from an informal and candid perspective. We designed this trek so participants could meet real people, listen to real stories, witness real challenges and learn from real successes (or failures).
One participant said it best: “This special experience let us realize once again that the future of mankind will always lie in technological development, cooperation, and peace. I hope that we can remember the lessons of history, give up prejudice and fixed thinking, and focus on the right side of everything.”
A special thanks to HEC Paris MBA students Asaf Goldberg and Chen Kossover for organizing this trek!
Text by Asaf Goldberg
Asaf Goldberg (MBA ’20) started his journey in the real-estate value chain as a Tel Aviv-based architect specialized in residential development. With 7 years of experience in the Construction & Real Estate industry, he has led multimillion dollar construction projects as Bat Yam Municipality's Public Buildings Department Manager. His passion for parametric design and integrating data and technology into real-estate development made him pursue an MBA at HEC Paris with a specialization in Digital innovation.
Ultimately, his goal is to help owners, developers and builders achieve maximum value in their construction projects by successfully implementing innovative digital solutions and streamlined workflows.
As a student at the HEC Paris MBA, he served as the Vice President of Communications (marketing, social media and partnerships) for MBAT, and actively participated in the Marketing Club.