Here I am, enjoying the comfort of my couch at home in Zhuhai, China, a coastal city right next to Macao. I travelled for about 20 hours from my cozy little apartment on Ibn Gabirol St in Tel Aviv to my home in China. With a welcoming attitude since the beginning, Israel has given me nothing but a unforgettable summer. As I reflect on my journey in emerging into the local culture and exploring the startup scene, here are some of the things I have learned:
Just f*ing say it.
During the course of our Venture Creation class, each team has to present basically every single day. Before each presentation, we would have around 1 to 2 hours of preparation time. That means there is no time for chitchatting and that discussion within the team needs to efficient. And one of the problems reported by my teammates from before about me is that I don’t talk enough during meetings.
I guess the problem with me is that I was always afraid to say the wrong thing or that my idea is not good enough. After all of the practice and meetings with my team in Venture Creation class in ISBA, I have learned to step up and just f*ing say it. I am very grateful for all of my team members as they are all very professional and open-minded, and we were able to tackle the divergence of ideas quickly and respectfully. For example, I was very picky about keeping our slide deck’s color scheme and fonts consistent, and even though I was afraid to be the pain in the ass, I still said it. And our slide deck looks wonderful. 🙂
Sometimes my idea was awful. When we were coming up with our business model in the long term, my idea of coming up with our own database turned out to be near impossible. We eventually went for a different angle. But because I was digging up the wrong tree, I have learned so much. About why it wouldn’t work, about how it would work otherwise. Just f*ing saying the ideas I have (in a concise way) not only makes me more confident and clear in what I am envisioning, but also gives the team more options and opportunities to consider.
2. Think big, and boldly.
While we were in Jerusalem, we were honored to have Saul Singer speak to us. He talked
to us about the three big revolutions he sees to happen in the modern world and why he believes so. I am not saying that I agree with everything he said but it was fascinating to see how bold and forward his vision was.
While we were in Microsoft’s Research and Development center in Tel Aviv, Mr. Yaacovi, the general manager, was telling us how, basically, computers will take over everything we do and how the technology will become our second brain. I have to say that I was having a slight panic attack during that two days because everyone was telling me how computers will be the future of human race and that as a marketing and psych major, you are basically useless now.
As it turns out, different talent is still needed (thank god). But the bold visions given to me by different entrepreneurs and Israelis was just eye-opening. Truly, if a company can’t foresee the future market trend, it would be hard for it to adjust last-minute and stay in such a competitive environment. One of stories I heard often during this program is that when Ford asked people what they wanted, they said “a really fast horse”, and Ford gave them cars. No one can predict the future but it’s the visionaries who change it.
3. The best way to learn it is to do it.
“The best way to learn it is to do it.” This sentence was repeated to me time after time by different people during the course of the program. During company visits, during classes, and during my interview with Roy.
I was honored to have a chance to interview Roy Yanai in a team of two. Roy is currently the product specialist of AppsFlyer (a marketing attribution software company). He was the founder of Mego (an app that provides on-demand, self-scheduling delivery) and HackIDC (the first and biggest national college student hackathon in Israel). During the interview, he said “the best way to learn it is to do it.” When he was unsure how to settle down every detail in running Hackathon IDC, he just started it. Then he figured out a better incentive system to attract company fundings than asking participating students to pay while he was still in the middle of figuring everything out.
Lots and lots of entrepreneurs also said that sentence because a startup can’t success unless there is a market. And the best way to know a market it to sell to it. There will never enough market research data to tell you whether your company will work or not. You have to go out and start testing your idea. So if you have to start somewhere, why not here and now.
4. Outside of comfort zone is full of surprises
ISBA is a entrepreneurship program. I was never a entrepreneurship person. But I applied, I participated, and I learned so much.
I went into this program wanting to learn more about venture capital, as I honestly know nothing about it. During the program, I learned so much not only about investing but also entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship” has always been a very big and vague word for me, but after this program, after having gotten a taste of the ideation process, I am much clearer of what starting a company looks like and what are some of the critical components.
I never thought I would interested in working for a startup and learning the startup culture. But there are a lot of things that I have never thought of and they could be just equally fascinating. Outside of the comfort zone could be full of surprises, all you need to do it to take a look. Doesn’t hurt, right?
Shoutout to each one of them for being a wonderful team member. (Left to right: Ben, me, Blake, Zach, David, and Ron)