The teams participating in the 2018 Summer Fellowship cohort have been hard at work all summer advancing their startups. Each team is unique in its vision and goals, and so with this post we would like to begin a team highlight series.
Snipit, led by recent UConn graduate Alexander Ciccio and UConn undergraduate students Andrew Burns of the School of Business and Vincent Turnier of the School of Engineering, is a mobile application that provides users the opportunity to efficiently discover and share new music.
Entrepreneurial lead Alexander Ciccio explains that Snipit’s mission is to serve as “a social platform that increases the efficiency and timeliness of new music discovery, as well as enables users to promote their own music or share songs amongst a supportive community of listeners.”
During Summer Fellowship, the teams are taught many lessons that help them clarify their goals for their company. We asked Ciccio what lesson primarily resonates for him, and he responded that he learned how “the process of starting a business is a lot more strenuous and time consuming than we initially thought.”
Although Summer Fellowship has shed light on some potential hardships of entrepreneurship, the Snipit team is undeterred by the challenge and is continuing to push forward and fulfill their dream of creating a mobile application.
The knowledge they have gained thus far in Summer Fellowship has led Ciccio and team to adapt their goals and acknowledge which specific knowledge sets they want to gain by the end of the summer.
“We hope to have a viable understanding of the detailed steps that we must take in order to see our product come to fruition and serve the market need that we intend to. It is important for us to be able to clearly identify the market we are trying to serve as well as the competition that will challenge us along the way.”
When asked what initially prompted Snipit’s desire to join Summer Fellowship, the team answered that, “we decided to join Summer Fellowship to support our growth as a business, both monetarily and educationally. We value the opportunities to work with other startups in similar positions as our team, as well as network and connect with experienced professionals who have knowledge regarding the various processes related to starting a business.”
Undergraduate student Andrew Burns joined the team once it was accepted into the Summer Fellowship program, and he notes that what he is glad he has learned from the experience is that although the teams are different, they all can learn from each other.
Our final day in Tel Aviv was bittersweet, as we knew our incredible journey was coming to an end. We started the day meeting at YL Ventures, a venture capital (VC) firm like many in Israel that focused on early-stage investing. I was astounded that while the US was trending towards less early/seed-stage capital and much more later-stage investments, Israel seemed to embrace their unique VC ecosystem. YL’s Head of Intelligence, Yuval Mond, said it best as I spoke with him walking out of their office. “Because startup companies in Israel focus mostly on the foreign market,” he told me, there must be a system set up that caters to helping these startups get through the countless foreign market hurdles. This allows for a collaborative environment in Israel where companies have to begin bringing their company to the foreign market very early on, where US-based startups have the luxury of often first focusing on their domestic market.
Following our meeting with the intelligent people at YL, our group walked to briefly visit Independence Hall, which was the location of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. As excited as we were to see this important place, our worn-out group was nearly as excited when we saw the Aroma Coffee shop at the corner of the street. Instead of refueling on caffeine at Aroma, we saw our trusty driver pull up across the street, and had to quickly head to our next location.
Our group next visited the Old Jaffa market and port. While some split off and went shopping, many of the students walked around and enjoyed the beautiful views of Tel Aviv, dodging numerous “gifts” from the welcoming pigeons on our way to one of the oldest known ports in the world.
Following the walk, we visited Phoenix Insurance Company, the 3rd largest insurance company in Israel, to check out their investment department and recent InsurTech initiatives. While meeting with many of their c-level executives, our group hopes to establish partnerships and apply what we learned to rebuild the city of Hartford.
Our final meeting in Israel brought us to The Junction, which is an accelerator program that had launched over 125 companies. We experienced the entrepreneurial spirit first-hand when we celebrated with a team who just finished raising $3M in seed money for their startup. You could feel the excitement and promise in the air from those working at the startup, and I realized that this feeling is often what helps drive some of the world’s most innovative people.
At our final dinner in Israel, we all reflected on everything we learned and saw while in Israel. Many of us had realized that Israel is not the country you hear about in the news. It is a country full of innovation and of people extremely prideful of their nation, of chutzpah and falafel. It is astounding that one of the most important areas in biblical times now serves an equally important role in the global innovation economy today.
I can say for myself that I was very moved by what I learned on the trip. It is an experience that I will remember for a long time. I was sad to leave such a beautiful country, but knew it wouldn’t be the last time I’d be in Israel. “Israel is your second home,” our tour guide had said, and boy did I feel at home there.
Post written by: Nicholas Wehrle
Nicholas Wehrle: I am a 5th semester student double-majoring in economics and psychological sciences, with a minor in business. I am passionate about the “business behind innovation”—the space where entrepreneurs and investors collaborate to grow an idea into a successful company. This past summer I interned in Life Science & Healthcare Venture Banking at Silicon Valley Bank. I am an avid reader of The Economist, and enjoy playing rugby at UConn.
Today was our second to last day of this trip. Heading out the hotel door at 8:30, we went to our first destination for the day, Caesarea. This is an ancient Roman and Byzantine city that was designed and created by Harrod. In it’s heyday, Caesarea was a majestic city by the sea with massive ports to allow for exchange of goods. While walking around the ruins, it was crazy to imagine what the city looked like at its peak. Our tour guide Yoram told us to take a seat at this one section of the ruins and most of us obliged just to find out that we were sitting in the ruins of the old bathrooms of the amphitheaters built in the city. We also had the opportunity to watch a short historical clip on the past, present, and future of Caesarea. We visited the ruins of an aqueduct that was used to bring water from the Mediterranean into the city. The city was an excellent example of how innovative and cutting edge technology of the time helped society flourish. On our way back to the bus, we encountered an entrepreneur who tried to sell us pieces from his extensive scarf and fur coat collection.
After our visit to Caesarea, we hopped back on the bus for a relaxing ride along the shoreline to Haifa, the third largest city by population in Israel. Haifa is known as a technology hub, with companies such as Phillips and Microsoft having offices there. We drove up the steep roads until we reached the Ba’hai Garden, an area preserved by the people who practice the religion Ba’hai. We looked down onto the gardens from above and learned about the importance of symmetry and of the numbers 9 and 19. They built these garden up on top of a hill and it is rumored that the hill underneath is actually a bomb shelter that the Ba’hai intend to use if the city of Haifa comes under attack. The city of Haifa as a whole is a very innovate city. It is known as a port city to the state of Israel, as it brings in imports that will later be distributed to the rest of the country. Unfortunately, Haifa is also experiencing increased pollution due to many chemical companies creating plants there.
Heading out of the city, we stopped at a rest area to check out the acclaimed Aroma, an Israeli coffee shop renowned for their iced coffee. There also ended being a McDonald’s at the same stop, and a few students decided to grab lunch there to compare and contrast an Israeli McDonald’s to that of an American one (also they just wanted a burger with cheese on it, which usually isn’t allowed because of the typical kosher diet).
Full from lunch, we headed to RAFAEL, the primary missile defense company for Israel. This was a particularly special meeting because we all needed background checks and security clearance, completed in advance, to enter the facility. We learned about the dangers that Israel faced as a nation due to its precarious position in the Middle East. As Yoram likes to say, “Israel’s best neighbor is the Mediterranean Sea”. We also learned more about the Iron Dome, a system that RAFAEL helped put into place to help detect missiles that are targeted toward the country. Learning about the company shed some light on the technology and innovation that Israel brings to the global marketplace. For one, the company has been very innovative in designing its missiles. In building one of their rockets, they ended up using the connectors from the Buzz Lightyear and Woody toys from Toy Story to help bring the cost down $4,000, without sacrificing the effectiveness of the missile. RAFAEL is also very collaborative with related companies in the United States such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing by partnering with them to bring technology to the US military. This global partnership and collaboration helps them become a leader in the field. The success of this company and the innovation of their technology is very much driven by their desire to make Israel the best it can be, a foundation that has also helped it become a “start-up” nation.
Our busy day concluded with a visit to a local winery called Jezreel, which specializes in producing Israeli wine. The winery is very young, founded in 2012. It arose due to the founder’s need for wine that fits the Israeli people’s cuisine, climate, and personality. Like many other Israeli companies, this one found a niche in society and capitalized on it. We had the opportunity to learn about the wine making process and ended our tour there with a wine tasting.
We had an extremely busy and productive day. From visiting traditional tourist locations such as Caesarea and the Ba’hai gardens to visiting RAFAEL, a place that most Israelis will never visit in their lifetimes, and a start-up Israeli vineyard, we learned more about Israeli culture and the entrepreneurial spirit that has helped them become such a successful nation in less than 75 years.
Post written by: Amisha Dave
Amisha Dave: I am a senior biomedical engineering major in the Honors Program and plan on attending medical school next year. I am pursing minors in computer science, information technology, and bioinfomatics and through taking classes for minors, I have found myself getting more and more interested in both healthcare technology and startups. In addition, I have been looking study abroad for the last three years and found this to be the perfect opportunity to visit a unique country that integrates many of my interests. I can’t wait to exploring both the historical and entrepreneurial culture of Israel and start off 2018 there!
As our sixth full day in Israel comes to a close, I find myself already reflecting on the trip two days before we fly home. Being here has opened my eyes up to not only the differences between the United States and Israel, but the similarities we share as well.
We started off this morning with the Palestinian Internship Program (PIP). This is a nonprofit that is dedicated to providing young Palestinian professionals with high-level internships at leading companies with the aim of PIP graduates using their experience to contribute to the development of Palestinian technology and innovation. We spoke with program director Jesse Divon, as well as his successor Anna Gol, about the goals of PIP. This was particularly interesting for me, because as the trip has gone on, I have begun to focus my research on whether business ties have the power to ease tensions in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For some, this has been seen as an optimistic dream, but with this program I see the possibility in it becoming a reality. It makes me proud to know that the US is funding this initiative, bringing innovation and technology into Palestine.
After PIP, we traveled to IDC Herzliya, a nonprofit private research college located approximately forty minutes outside of Tel Aviv. There we met up with Professor Levi Shapiro, whose class we would be attending. After we ate lunch in the outdoor student cafeteria, Shapiro met us at the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship. We were each given the opportunity to meet with a group of ten students to learn more about them and their final projects in the class, where they had to create a Wikipedia page for an entrepreneur who didn’t have one. Not only was it interesting to hear about their personal interests in entrepreneurship, but being able to have a conversation with people close to my age from a different culture. As I have been reminded many times on this trip, our two worlds are not so different, as we shared common thoughts about education, music, and more. I even had one person in my group who was familiar with Connecticut and where I was born in Chicago as well.
Finally, we ended the day at the Pearl Cohen law firm in the Azrieli Sarona Tower, the tallest building in Tel Aviv. Arriving at the top floor, we were welcomed by the warm sunset overlooking the city and the Mediterranean. There we met with partner Joel Stein and senior partner Anna Moshe. They spoke with us on the about the importance of understanding the process of creating a start-up instead of just knowing in stages. It was interesting to get a lawyer’s perspective of a successful start-up, as well as listen to their thoughts of why Israel is a “Start-Up Nation”.
This trip has been truly eye opening to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Israel, as well as the ties between the two nations that have been here all along. I look forward to continue learning about entrepreneurship not only throughout the rest of the trip, but back in the United States. I will never forget the experiences I have had and the things I have learned here in Israel, and I am excited to bring these experiences back home with me.
Post written by: Mia Jensen
Mia Jensen: I am a sophomore majoring in Political Science with a minor in ASL/English Interpreting. I am participating in this trip because I have a passion for learning, and am fascinated by the rapid growth of Israel. I am looking forward to discovering how the political climate between Israel and the United States affect business relations, and in turn, if business relations have an effect on the political climate.