We started our first full day based out of Haifa with breakfast at the Mount Carmel Hotel. After that, we hopped on the bus for a short ride up the hill to the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. Technion Alumni make up more than 50% of the founders of Israeli startups on the NASDAQ.
A variety of presenters spoke to us about what about how the experience as a student at Technion is different. We learned that, rather than a specific thing, there are variety of programs that make the institute different. First, the institute's ethos is focused on the application of science to solve real world problems. This philosophy translates to classes in every department on intellectual property issues specific to that field, a culture that encourages every student to complete 2 years of internships before graduation and a strong entrepreneurial club that organizes open discussions with successful startup founders in a local pub. Second, success has become a self-fulling philosophy for students. Many startups created by alumni return to Technion, after receiving funding, to recuit students who have a passion for the product, long hours and risk taking that are essential to employees of startups. Third, Technion is a lifestyle not just a school. The school provides all alumni with a directory to network with each other after graduation. In many cases, mentors seek out students to help or start ideas with other graduates with similar interests. They were all excited to spread the Technion name to U.S. with the newly announced campus in New York City.
Next, we met with Dr. Eran Feldhay, CEO of, the largest life sciences incubator in Israel, Misgav Venture Accelerator. He spoke about the how incubators take very early stage ideas and bring them to products. In addition, as a doctor, he said the there is an intangible benefit of helping medical solutions become to realizations.
Below is a video of one of the products that Misgav incubated. The EndoGrab reduces the number of laparoscopic incisions and hands required to work on a patient when an organ needs to be raised. Effectively, the EndoGrab is a retractor inserted through an existing laparoscopic incision.
After lunch, we made a stop at Kibbutz Hannaton on our way to the Church of the Annunciation. Kibbutz Hannaton is the kibbutz that Steve, our guide, lives within. Originally, a kibbutz was a communal society drawing on ideologies of Socialism and Zionism. Today only 3% of the population live on a kibbutz. However, many more spend some time living on one. Over time much modernization has happen to the kibbutzim. For example, Kibbutz Hannaton does not pay all those who work the same salary or pool all the earnings. Yet, many ideals behind the movement can be seen in society. I would argue that the nationalism and ambition we have found in the society is, to some degree, coming from ideas of returning to the land and working it as a community no matte how hard it may be. We also learned that it was Steve's birthday when his wife surprised us with a cake!
Kibbutz Hannaton was a short drive up the hill from Nazareth. In Nazareth we visited the church that Christians believe was the site of the annunciation(where angel told Mary, the mother of Jesus, that she would conceive the son of God). The Basilica of the Annunciation now stands where churches from the Crusaders, Byzantines and originally the Jews(in the form of a synagogue). Paintings of Mary with Jesus, from around the world, decorate the outer walls of the the church. Ironically, Nazareth, while the site of this important event to christians is the largest Arab city in Israel. We could hear the mid-day call to prayer when we walked out of the church.
On our return to Haifa, we drove from the sea up Mount Carmel. Along the way we saw The Bahá'í Gardens that stretch from the bottom to the top of the mountain. The Bahá'í are followers of yet another abrahamic religion. By my count, that makes four we have encountered so far(Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahá'í) -- not quite what comes to mind when one thinks about Israel. The shrine in the middle of the picture is the Shrine of the Báb(Bábism was a precursor to the Bahá'í Faith). Once at the top of the mountain, we took breathtaking pictures overlooking Haifa. We could see the Haifa port, city, ridge that separates Israel from Lebanon and the gardens below us. It was truly magical.
After a short break we had a panel discussion with Eran Alfonta founder of the 'If I Die' Facebook App, Nikki Avershal founder of Puzzle Israel, and Janet Sernack, founder of ImagineNation. The panel was excellent! It was interesting to hear from people who, not that long ago, were in our shoes today. Janet, who came from Australia, and Nikki, who came from America, were quick to point out many cultural differences in how business are run Israel. Eran explain that his idea for 'If I Die' came to him after and near crash in Italy. In the same way, he explained the inspiration for another business that he will release soon. After discussion, we headed out to Technion to meet some of the students.