Israeli students, Washington University students collaborate in startup business strategy
Students enrolled in Venture Advising collaborate with students from the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya to create professional-quality consulting reports for six startup companies.
The course, taught by business school professor Clifford Holekamp, is based on a similar program that has been offered for the past three years with businesses in Budapest, Hungary.
To get to know the companies, the students spent a week before the start of the spring semester in Israel interviewing executives of the startup companies and talking about strategies and issues that needed to be defined in the business plans.
“It’s a really valuable experience being able to talk to these guys firsthand [and] getting an inside look at a small startup and learning the issues that they’re confronted with and how to bring a new product to market,” MBA candidate Tim Federer said.
Though students had to pay their own travel expenses out of pocket, Holekamp said that the program tried to keep costs as low as possible with modest lodging.
Students in the program valued the experience of being able to work with people in another culture.“There have been challenges and frustrations [associated with working people across the world], but it’s going to provide me with great life skills for working with other types of people,” Missi Jacobson, candidate for a master’s in social work, said.
The completed consulting reports are due this Thursday, March 8. After spring break, the students from Washington University and the students from Israel will co-present their findings through a final presentation via Skype.
“One of the neat things to see is how seriously the students take their projects when they know that they’re turning it in to a real business who’s really depending on their findings,” Holekamp said. “The effort and the depth of their analysis and the richness of their findings is so much greater than I think it would be if it were simply an academic exercise.”
He noted that this would be an invaluable experience for boosting students’ careers.
“Any type of work experience in the world of venture capital is considered hard to come by. Courses like this give students the opportunity to highlight actual real business accomplishments,” Holekamp said. “I think that gives them an edge.”
Students in the class valued the real-world experience that they received from the program.
“It’s incredible the amount that I’ll be able to take away from this one course and this one experience. I really think that I grew from it as a student,” Jacobson said.
This course is cross-listed at Washington University and at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya. The twenty-four students are evenly split between the two universities.
Holekamp said that the program received more than twice as many applicants as it could accept.
Students were chosen based on prior coursework in entrepreneurship, good track records for completing independent projects, and their potential as good ambassadors for the University, he said.
“I was looking for an experience that would take me out of my comfort zone. I have a pretty strong interest in finance and entrepreneurship,” Federer said. “This class was a perfect marriage of the two.”
The selected group included both undergraduate and graduate students and represented not only the business school but also other schools.
Holekamp said that he expects interest in the program to increase in future years because of more advanced notice and previous participants recommending the program to others.
Though he expects the program to increase in popularity, Holekamp said that there are no current plans to expand the program’s size due to logistical reasons.
Holekamp stressed the importance of the program to the companies as well as the students.
“Students have an opportunity to apply a lot of the skills that they’ve acquired as students to real-life situations to firms who are actually going to implement those strategies,” he said. “Students have the opportunity to a make a serious impact.”