Campus - 11.01.2023 - 10:34 

Young HSG entrepreneurs are getting inspired by "startup-nation" Israel

Nine founders with a connection to the HSG travelled to the "startup nation" of Israel and exchanged ideas with investors and young entrepreneurs. This happened within the scope of the "HSG Entrepreneurial Champions" program.

Israel is considered one of the most innovative nations: In the small country of nine million people, there were over 9,000 startups at the end of 2022 – the highest number per capita in the world. Nine founders with a connection to the HSG travelled there at the end of November and were inspired by this unique startup ecosystem. There they met young entrepreneurs and investors and visited universities and innovation centres. 

"My smartphone is full of notes and new contacts," said Bora Guden, HSG graduate and founder of Truly, after the trip. Like his fellow travellers, he was supported by "HSG Entrepreneurial Talents" in setting up his startup, which records CO2 emissions from companies. The "Talents" also qualified for the advanced "HSG Entrepreneurial Champions" program. 

Every semester, the "Talents" program supports ten young companies run by HSG students through coaching and startup financing. "The trip to Israel was the final and also high point of the funding program," says Diego Probst, Head of Startup@HSG. "During this intensive week we wanted to get some insight into what makes Israel so successful in the startup sector. And of course give the young founders the opportunity to network."

Israeli networking is different

In this area, the Israelis are completely different from the Swiss, says Christian Reich, founder of Visense. This startup wants to revolutionise the error detection of machines in industrial processes. "Israelis are very open when it comes to networking and simply pass on business contacts." As a young entrepreneur, he is convinced that people will ultimately benefit from this open approach to their own networks. For Reich, however, the storytelling workshop with communication trainer Lior Shoham was particularly formative: There, the young HSG founders learned how to pitch their business ideas to potential investors as successfully as possible. "We all reconsidered our pitches afterwards," says Reich.

In addition to this workshop, the nine startup founders also attended the Cell Entrepreneurship Programme at Reichman University in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzlia - a kind of Israeli counterpart to Startup@HSG. They were also given a tour of the Microsoft campus. The US software company maintains a state-of-the-art company building in Israel, which primarily works on innovation. In addition to this, they met several venture capital companies and Israeli startups, and also visited institutions such as the Peres Center for Peace & Innovation. 

"The goal of the trip was not primarily for the startups to find investors in Israel. That's difficult anyway, because Israeli investors invest almost exclusively in Israeli startups," says Probst. However, some of the founders had taken the opportunity to initiate individual talks with potential investors and partners on site.

Several of the young HSG entrepreneurs also emphasised how valuable networking among themselves was: "For problems in the future, this can be valuable," says Jeffrey Christen, founder of the startup Kiyo, which develops sustainable dental care products.

"Impressions made on site are irreplaceable"

At the end of the trip, the nine young HSG entrepreneurs were able to pitch their business ideas to a jury of Israeli experts for innovation and technology at the residence of the Swiss ambassador in Israel. In addition to Truly, Visense and Kiyo, the founders of Purify City, Mympact, Resmonics, SmartBreed, CareerLunch and Storabble also travelled to Israel.

As early as 2019, five young HSG entrepreneurs had travelled to Silicon Valley in California as HSG Entrepreneurial Champions, but no such exchanges were possible in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. "The insight we gained into Israeli culture - even away from the startup area - was very exciting," says Probst. Israel and Silicon Valley are already known as examples of outstanding startup scenes, "but nothing can replace the impressions you get on site," says Probst. 

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