Can you teach someone to be an innovative entrepreneur or manager in the hi-tech world? Dr. Avital Regev Siman-Tov, Managing Director of MBA Program at the Technion, is sure you can. Dr. Regev Siman Tov, with others in the Technion, have started the Start-up MBA that aims to allow students to start their new start-up and study their MBA concurrently. The program is intended for those who are looking for a practical MBA from a top-notch university, taught by the best business professors in the world, hi-tech industry leaders, VC investors, and with practical internships and courses in Israel’s vibrant hi-tech scene. With all those - and more - in tow, the Start-Up MBA Program is definitely for you, as long as you wish to start your very own start-up company.
Professor Miriam Erez, the 2005 Israeli Prize for Management, concurs with Dr. Regev Siman - Tov that innovation can be taught and improved in people. In fact, according to Erez, who studies business and culture, innovation flourishes in ambiguous cultures and wither in highly bureaucratic cultures. “Unlike other peoples, Israelis feel very comfortable when things are unclear, in fact - we thrive in it. Israel is the culture of ‘it will be ok, trust me’. That’s one reason why Israel is such an innovation hub”, she explains.
Israel is indeed a leading innovation hub. In fact, Israel is the only place outside of the U.S., where all the leading technology companies have their own R&D centers in. Israel also boasts the highest per capita rates of patents, engineers, PhDs and scientific papers, and has the largest concentration of tech companies outside of the Silicon Valley. And right in the middle of all this creativity and innovation, is the Technion, whose impact on Israel’s hi-tech sector is simply staggering. According to MIT, the Technion is rated 6th in the world in innovation and entrepreneurship in the world, and in the last 11 years 3 of the Noble Prize winners came from the university. As far as the tech sector in Israel goes, the Technion stands at its very heart: Technion originating start-ups had a market cap of 28.4 B$ in 2010, and Technion engineers are responsible for creating 78,000 in the hi-tech sector in the state (not bad in a country of only 8 million citizens). Not convinced yet? OK, how about the fact the Technion’s MBA program is the only one from Israel that has been selected by Yale University to its prestigious Global Network for Advanced Management program? That means that all the crème de la crème of business institutions offer free week long seminars on courses on varied topics, free of charge to students who study in one of the institutions in the network. Put otherwise, learning in the Technion means that you won’t have to debate between studying and starting your own start-up.
Another criterion that has been linked to increased innovation and better economic results is a multi-cultural environment. A growing body of research conducted in recent years pointed out that people who grow up in - or work in - multicultural, pluralistic environment are more creative. Prof. Galinsky from Columbia Business School maintains that multi-cultural people are more creative because they realize that the world can be seen in other ways then their own worldview, and this helps them understands that everything can be looked at from several angles. As such, this helps them to reframe the question and to look for more diverse, and creative answers. To put in Prof. Erez’s terms, multi-culturalism decreases the hierarchy in their worldview, and opens them up to explore more ambiguity.
It is not surprising then, the Start-Up MBA places a lot of emphasize on creating a diverse, mutli-cultural environment. Even though the school campus is in Sarona, one of Israel’s most beautiful recreational areas located in the heart of Tel-Aviv, the program itself is taught in English. The students come from all over the world, and not just Israel.
The Start-Up MBA puts a lot of emphasis on practical knowledge. “It is not enough to have that great idea”, says Dr. Barak Ben Avinoam, a VC investor and a former hi-tech entrepreneur who made several exist and teaches at the program, “the idea is just the beginning. To manage and to get your idea from the ground and into a multi-million company, there is a lot of stuff that goes into it. I teach a course called ‘Meet the CEO’, in which we go over real life problems that CEOs may face, and then real life CEOs from leading tech companies come and talk with the students about how they confronted that challenge”, Dr. Ben Avinoam elaborates.
The Start-Up MBA program is a hands-on program, and during the program the students develop real business plans, starting from the idea and through the development stages. Ideas come either from the Transfer Unit of the Technion, or from ideas students come up on their own, as they are encouraged to do. Incredibly, 8 new - and successful - hi-tech companies have come out from the 18 first alumni’s of the program.
Shay Mamo, one of those 18 first alumni’s of the program, and an engineer by training, explains why he decided to join the program: “when you’re Jewish-American, there are only two ways to leave your family business: Make Aaliyah to Israel or go back to study. I decided to do both, and enroll for the program”, he says. That family business he’s talking about is a worldwide business based on his grandfather’s invention of a specific kind of drip irrigation system. Mamo, who served as the VP for Engineering in that company, travelled to developing countries to set up drip irrigation systems for the company’s clients, but was always drawn also to marketing and management. The decision to join the program couldn’t have been better, he says. “I know that I have a network of dedicated connections all over the world that I can use if I’ll need. You spend the entire program with the same people, and you really get to know and trust them. Plus, we got to meet, network and work with so many leading figures in the hi-tech world”, he explains. Mamo currently serves as the manager of Perrydigma Research LTD, a biomed company in Greater Tel-Aviv, and surely, that is just the beginning for him.