Thinking of – let alone creating – a new venture is hard. At least that is what I thought before attending the Venture Creation Crash Course at the prestigious Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Tel Aviv as part of the Frankfurt School EMBA program. In the space of just 5 days, Dr. Maaravi (or Yossi, as he prefers to be called) led us through the concepts and process of developing ideas from scratch to a convincing investor pitch for a lean startup. It sounds cliché, but once again I was reminded of how much can be achieved in a short time with the right guidance and mindset.
The first day started with a challenge: we were each to come up with 9 different ideas for an innovative startup venture by the next morning. How was I supposed to come up with so many ideas in less than 24 hours, when I had never in my life had a good idea which I had found worth developing? Well, it turns out that by really diving into the problems of people and organizations, possible solutions with current technical trends, and adding some ideation techniques, it is possible to easily come up with more. I must admit most of mine were not revolutionary, but there were a couple which I felt could be worth pursuing.
By the second day we had narrowed down the options and formed teams, each tasked with developing the business model canvas for their idea. We had value propositions, customer segments, channels, cost structures, revenue streams – the works! We believed we had the next big thing on our hands, and were set for life…
That is, until the validation. Who knew that many of the assumptions from a highly qualified team of EMBA students about a business could turn out to be so wrong? Don’t worry, Yossi told us. At least we hadn’t sunk nearly a billion dollars into the venture, as the Israeli company Better Place did some years ago before going bankrupt. This iterative validation process is critical to make sure that what you plan to devote your time to really has a chance at success.
Several validation and adjustment rounds later, after exhausting our professional network, cold calling many subject matter experts, researching academic papers, and making surveys, the teams finally had a start-up concept that could maybe, possibly work. Throughout the whole process Yossi coached us and also reached out to his formidable network for feedback. The late nights were then all condensed into a fine-tuned, 7 minute investors pitch presented to the class and senior faculty from the IDC, who then gave us expert feedback after having seen hundreds of pitches before.
Apart from the academic program, during the week we got the opportunity to visit fintech hub The Floor in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where the charming Alexandra showed us around and told us her inspiring story and that of the startups and corporations collaborating in the hub. We also received a visit and presentation from Guy, Operations & Product Chief and Co-founder of the international money transfer startup Rewire. Both Alexandra and Guy are graduates of the Zell Entrepreneurship Program, which gives the most outstanding students from IDC undergraduate programs the opportunity to develop a startup idea in the course of one year. Yossi even arranged an impromptu Q&A with Michal, Head of Innovation and Digital at Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank. That these talented people took time to meet with us and field all of our (sometimes indiscreet) questions is a testament to the tight-knit community of the IDC and the very open attitude of Israelis to the sharing of ideas.
In spite of the hard work, we still found the time to visit the old city of Jaffa, take a sailboat tour out to sea (thanks to Yam!), enjoy the culinary riches of Tel Aviv, soak up the sun in the beautiful beaches of Herzliya, and some even took a tour of Jerusalem. All in all, it is an experience which I strongly recommend to anyone, even if you do not consider yourself an entrepreneur. Just the academic experience would have been worth it, but when coupled with the intoxicating innovation spirit in the Tel Aviv air, it is priceless.
I still believe that creating a successful new venture is hard – very hard in fact. However, I also believe that after the week in Tel Aviv I now have the necessary tools to give it a shot if I wish, to better execute new ideas even inside a large organization, and to have a more critical and discerning eye when a new venture or investment opportunity is presented to me in the future.