Disrupt, Build A Strong Team, Shrug Off Rejection: Top Advice From Innovators At Forbes Under 30 Summit In Tel Aviv
Almost a decade ago, when the head of a burgeoning Israeli GPS software startup was putting together a team and asked for a $5 million investment, world-reknown Israeli entrepreneur and investor Yossi Vardi recalls that he said no.
“Now that Waze is a billion-dollar company, I realize my mistake,” he joked during a panel discussion this week on “Startup Advice” at the first Forbes Under 30 Summit Global in Tel Aviv, bringing together hundreds of young entrepreneurs and disruptors for game-changing ideas and collaborations. Waze, after all, was acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported $1.3 billion.
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Waze co-founder Uri Levine, sitting next to Vardi at the event, laughed and shrugged off the moment, chalking up rejection to being a part-and-parcel of building a product.
“Raising capital you deal with a lot of people that tell you no and you overcome that,” he told the crowd of young entrepreneurs this week, on the second day of the four-day Forbes convention.
While learning to deal with “nos” from potential investors was certainly a prevalent theme running throughout the day’s discussions, so was inspiration, motivation, passion for product, and building the right team.
As the Startup Nation, Israel knows how to deal with all of these issues and more, says Randall Lane, chief content officer at Forbes and the man behind the Forbes Under 30 event, it’s third, but the first gathering entrepreneurs from all over the world instead of regionally.
This year’s conference is bigger than ever, Lane tells NoCamels. With over 700 people from 38 different countries, it’s the first time Forbes is doing an Under 30 global summit featuring young entrepreneurs from the US, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
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“Most of these entrepreneurs have never been to Israel,” he says, “It’s eye-opening for them. We hope they are going to be inspired and have the week of their lives.”
The summit brought in a range of speakers, including entrepreneurs like Vardi and Levine, but also model and Israeli icon Bar Refaeli, professional basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, Monday.com’s Head of Startups Lior Krengel, and venture capitalists like Jerusalem Venture Partners’ Dr. Erel Margalit, Bessemer Venture Partner’s Adam Fisher, and General Catalyst Partners’ David Fialkow, who is also a producer of the Oscar-winning documentary Icarus.
On the first day of the conference, Refaeli joined the women of various Under 30 lists around the world to ring the bell at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The event celebrated strong female entrepreneurs and kicked off the multiple day conference.
Participants made up of passionate innovators also listened to sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, widely known as Dr. Ruth, who held couples therapy sessions for startup co-founders live onstage, advising more time together and less distractions in the bedroom. The participants also sat in on panels featuring both Israeli and global entrepreneurs, discussing broad ideas like profit, purpose, action, bootstrapping, and dealing with failure.
On the third day of the summit, international VCs were on hand to listen to pitches from startups, share their experiences and offer advice to budding entrepreneurs at the event. That afternoon, the entrepreneurs were whisked away for tours in Jerusalem where they would spend the night ahead of the fourth day, spent with Jerusalem Venture Partners touring Jerusalem and Palestinian city Rawabi.
Thanks to our awesome VC panel experts in Tel Aviv today, @dfialkow, @ErelMargalit, @AdamRFisher, @lonnej, @jennykaehms, @Candice_Lo, @getgili, @natasharatanshi, Oliver Heimes and Pahrada Sapprasert! On to Jerusalem… #Under30Summit pic.twitter.com/RTbS5jgc20
— Alex Konrad (@alexrkonrad) May 8, 2018
“We’re looking for young people who will change the business model and circumvent the incumbents,” Dr. Margalit told NoCamels during the event, “We want them to cut through the bureaucracy. We are looking for groundbreaking ideas that will change the world.”
The importance of building a team
“When you go out on a journey, always make sure you have the right people with you,” said Krengel, head of startups for project management tool Monday.com (formerly dapulse), during a panel called “From Idea to Profit.”
The importance of building a strong team and a solid company culture was touched upon repeatedly during the event, with Levine, Vardi, Stoudemire, Fialkow, and entrepreneurs like UK-based Silas Adekunle, the founder and CEO of Reach Robotics, weighing in.
“You will spend a lot of time [in your place of employment,]” Levine explained, “you want it to be the place of your dreams.”
Later, the Waze co-founder who is no longer at the company, but currently investing in eight new startups as part of a new Israeli fund with Ayalon Insurance and Halman-Aldubi Investment House, says Waze was the best working environment he was ever part of.
— Forbes Under 30 (@ForbesUnder30) May 7, 2018
Celeb entrepreneurs share their wisdom
One of the most attention-grabbing figures during a morning panel was NBA star-turned-entrepreneur Stoudemire, who stands at a staggering 6 feet, 10 inches tall and calls the Old City of Jerusalem home. While Israeli innovation is not what brought the professional basketball player to Israel, he says, he used his surroundings and the high level of innovation around him to establish his latest venture.
In February, Stoudemire launched a limited-edition three-bottle collection of kosher-for-Passover wines which include two red wine blends and one Cabernet Sauvignon produced by the Tulip Winery on its vineyards in the northern town of Kfar Tikva. Stoudemire claims to have hand-picked the grapes himself. The winery produced only 100 bottles of the Stoudemire Private Collection, with each bottle at $244.99. The wines were distributed by kosher beverage company Royal Wine Corp and launched in New Jersey and New York.
During the panel “How To Create Your Second Act,” Stoudemire told the entrepreneurs to “always study what you’re involved in” and used his wine collection as an example. Later, Stoudemire, who was jet-lagged having just returned to Israel from the Israel Summit at Harvard University in Boston, a student-organized conference that showcased Israel’s achievements around the world, sat with NoCamels to talk about the day’s event and the blossoming young entrepreneurs around him.
“They are taking the world by storm,” he told NoCamels, noting the event was packed with “young, intelligent millennials focusing on today’s society.”
Israeli model, actress, and businesswoman Bar Refaeli also spoke of her journey to become an entrepreneur, telling Forbes’ Senior Social Content Manager Emily Drewry during a discussion, but that she had to learn to say no to offers that didn’t fit what she felt was right for her.
“I got a lot of offers from a lot of startups. You know in Israel we have a lot of startups and a lot of ideas that people are developing and many times I got offers to be a part of it,” she explained. “I never felt it was right.”
— Forbes (@Forbes) May 7, 2018
One brand she did feel was right was eyewear brand Carolina Lemke Berlin, part of an Israeli retailer group of four companies: Hoodies, TopTen, Carolina Lemke, and Accessories London. It was acquired over a decade ago by Israeli retailer Castro. Refaeli became a business partner of Carolina Lemke in 2013 and owns a 5 percent stake in the company, according to a report in Hebrew-language business daily The Marker.
“I went with my intuition, with the people behind the brand,” she says, telling the crowd that she “fell in love” with the brand, the idea of it, and the people behind it. “I really believe in it,” she said, adding that the brand would soon partner with US celebrity Kim Kardashian for a new campaign.