“Ayla Matalon is the executive director of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel and lectures on high-tech entrepreneurship and business development at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center… She serves as a consultant to a number of Israeli start-ups and early stage companies and holds a number of board positions…” (Professor Bachenheimer’s write-up about her, included in our syllabus)
She is our academic associate in Israel and will serve as our liaison to the Israeli business and academic community, translator enabling us to communicate with those (rare) Israelis that don’t speak English, and tour guide navigating us through the Israeli entrepreneurial scene. Before we left the Stock Exchange building, she graced us with a brief introductory overview to Israeli entrepreneurialism.
One of the many reasons that the Israeli start-up scene has been so successful is the government’s role of starting useful initiatives and ending them when their usefulness expires. One of the greatest examples of a government initiative that went well is Yozma (hebrew for “initiative”). Yozma was a government sponsored venture capital fund which awarded money to qualifying, fledgling companies with an innovative idea. Yozma would match any VC money the company was able to raise. If the idea turned out to be a success, the company would pay back the amount of money invested plus interest (a relatively nominal amount). If, however, the idea didn’t pan out, the company would not owe the government anything. This provided an extremely significant “safety blanket” and gave many promising entrepreneurs the ability to work on their innovations. The rationale behind this idea is similar to the grading process for this journal: In an attempt to receive creative material the professor is marking this on a pass/fail basis; this removes the pressure for students to modify and restrain their thoughts so as to comply with what they think the professor thinks that they think that he thinks they should write. That’s a surefire way to squash creativity and the Israeli government wanted to remove similar financial uncertainties from the innovative pool.