Rank and File: Writing the Sequel to 'Start-Up Nation'

Writer Brian Blum looks under the hood of the failed electric car venture Better Place; Stage TLV performs “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”; and Sidney Shapiro honored by Telfed

"Totaled" author Brian Blum
"Totaled" author Brian Blum Merav Blum

‘TOTALED’ RECALL: When business and technology journalist Brian Blum and his wife Jody Blum bought a Renault Fluence ZE from Better Place in September 2012, little did they know the electric car company would go out of business within eight months.

“I thought to myself, How did I not see that coming? I’m a journalist. Research is what I do,” he recalls. That experience propelled Blum onto a journey that culminated with his new book, “Totaled: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World,” following the rise and fall of Shai Agassi’s startup. Blum says his book is kind of a sequel to “Start-up Nation,” which featured Better Place before its fall.

“The lessons in ‘Totaled’ are really applicable for entrepreneurs and execs in businesses of all sizes, not just the electric car business,” he notes. Blum’s book is available from online booksellers, while the Israel Story podcast will run a 45-minute piece on it for its September 8 episode.

SPELL-BOUND: The Stage TLV has opted for the comic musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” for its next production. “The show takes its audience into the lives of six adolescent misfits as they compete to become the spelling bee champion,” according to the theater group, revealing “their darkest secrets and fears, through song.” The show, which runs next Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at Tel Aviv’s Beit Yad Lebanim, also includes audience participation.

Director-actress Maya Ben-Yaacov, who studied singing in Philadelphia, will be working with The Stage for the first time, while Hana Wimberly will make her debut as assistant director. The cast, hailing from places like the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland and Israel, includes Allison Morse, Chaim Jacobson, Darren Glick, Idan Yechieli, Marlene Bacher, May Baum, Shiri Epstein, Shmuel Goldstein, Yaniv Rozenblat and Yuval Shwartsman. For tickets, visit www.thestagetlv.com/productions.

TELFED HONORS LONGTIME CEO: Sidney Shapiro, the longtime CEO of Telfed, the South African Zionist Federation, is to receive a lifetime achievement award – known as the Yakir Telfed Award – from the immigrant support group at a special ceremony on Wednesday. Shapiro served in several leadership capacities in South Africa in the 1960s, including chairman of Bnei Akiva in Cape Town and world vice chairman of WUJS. In Israel, he was a founding member of March of the Living, the Council of Olim Associations and Beth Protea.

Sidney Shapiro.
Dima Vazinovich

In addition, Josie Shlain will receive a Special Merit award. Shlain, who was born in Jerusalem but moved to South Africa in 1929 and returned to Israel as a Machal army volunteer in 1948, “founded Isrentco, a nonprofit company we use to rent out apartments to South Africans,” says Dana Ben Chail, Telfed’s head of volunteerism. “The proceeds from Isrentco help some 400 families in need,” she adds. To register for the ceremony, call Dana on 09-790-7805.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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