Back from the whirlwind, ever eye opening Zell study trip abroad. This year we broke ground by going West to the Bay Area in addition to our usual romps. Last year we broke the third airport barrier by visiting the Oracle of Omaha….this year we headed all the way to the Cali coast.
Traditionally and at the insistence of our generous donor,Sam Zell, the yearlong Zell Entrepreneurship Program culminates with a study trip to the US in order to broaden horizons of the students to the opportunities of the US corporate and economic environment. To do this, the study trip includes specially designed study modules at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business;meetings with entrepreneurs, including Sam Zell; and visits to a wide variety of companies in New York City.
As the program evolves and veers more and more to new media ventures, the idea of getting to Silicon Valley to round out the experience and make it even more relevant has developed and finally grown to fruition this year.
To keep to the 12-day framework, we needed to trim a bit of the rest. In Chicago the leeway is limited. We took a two-day study program and met with Sam Zell to present the ventures to him and Ellen Havdala, his colleague and senior partner at Equity Group Investments and the “fairy god mother” of the program. Ellen hosts us every year for a great dinner. This time at Balsan,the restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria, recently purchased by Sam Zell. An amazing evening that started off with cocktails hosted by Helen and Sam Zell at their incredible home.
In New York we traipsed uptown and downtown (and uptown again) for two full days from 8am until midnight, at BBDO (visiting with former CEO Allen Rosenshine), Estee Lauder (touring Estee’s office and meeting with VP of the travel retail group), Goldman Sachs (hosted by Nadav Glucklich, who arranged a tour of the trading floor and meeting with the power house Orit Friedman), Two River Group (with a lecture on failure by Peter Kash), Graj & Gustavsen (to understand branding and design with Ray Graj), Getty Images (where we met CEO Jonathan Klein and alum Offir Gutelzon of PicScout now there after their sale to GI and Eyal Gura who joined us as chaperone), Dream It Ventures (where two of our alumni are spending the summer working on their couples app: Wheesh) and rounded out the visit circuit with our annual Entrepreneur’s War Stories Session with Yaron Galai, our advisory board member and CEO of Outbrain. This year David Kostman of Nanoosh, joined us as well at Loeb & Loeb hosted by Lloyd Rothenberg for the inspirational and meaningful feedback session.
Following a five-year tradition, we also got to present ventures at Tech Aviv New York, and Roomer, the secondary market for hotel room reservations won! Incidentally, at a dinner in Chicago hosted by Lowell Kraff of Trivergence, all the teams presented and Roomer also took first place with a gift of 18,000US from Kraff and his partners.
We also celebrated with alumni at a drinks event at IDC alum, chef and entrepreneur, Eran Elhalal’s Saro Bistroin the Lower East Side (also brother to Maya Elahlal of Zell1). Locals Irit Anavim (Zell 3), Yuval Refua (Zell 5), Karin Levi and Ofir Beigel (Zell 10 at DreamIt) joined. As did Dror Ceder and Daniel Tal (Zell 7 and founders of Wibiya bought by Conduit last year). Dror and Daniel joined Eyal Gura throughout visit to NY and Bay Area…(just shows that a once in a lifetime trip can be had again!).
After two grueling days in NYC some of the student’s were heard complaining that it was worse than reserve duty (tired, hungry, uncomfortable clothes, endless walking, no girlfriend…), but we had an amazing respite at Idit Caperton’s home for a magical generously and graciously hosted Friday night sushi meal.
Saturday was an off day and students rested, shopped and went to a Euro League friendship soccer match…for dinner we headed to New Jersey and had Havdala service and a lovely dinner in the beautiful home of Erica and Mark Gerson.
Sunday we headed to the Golden State! We landed late and started early the next day with a bus ride to San Jose. We started at eBay, (arranged by our alum, Ron Gura, whose Gift’s Project was sold the eBay last year), had lunch and a talk and tour with Ran Makavy of Snaptu, sold to fb and then went for a speed date session at Innovation Endeavors, where Anat Binur and Dror Berman rounded up angel investors and entrepreneurs to give insights and feedback to each of the teams. We topped off the evening on the amazing roof of Innovation Endeavors with beers and yummy fruit and snacks.
Tuesday westarted Khosla Ventures, with a talk by partner Andrew Chang joined by Vinod Khosla who inspired the students to think big. Wecomtinued to Google, where toured, ate lunch and presented our ventures to Leor Stern who hosted us graciously. From there we headed to Ideo hosted by Keren Amit to see Design Thinking in action and SRI International hosted by Dror Oren to think about future technologies. After that, we continued for a fireside chat on the quad at Stanford Graduate School of Business with angel investor, Oren Zeev.
The teams presented at Tech Aviv Palo Alto, and Roomer won yet again! But the feedback to all of the ventures was great! From there we went for beers with our friends from Gil Ben Artsy and Shuly Galili’s UpWest Labs and finally headed home. Filming impersonations of each other and faculty all the way (can’s wait to see that!).
Sunday we kicked off the day at Fortress Investments, enjoying the talk by Peter Briger and the incredible view of both Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge from his office. Then went downtown to Mission St. to the event venue of True Ventures, where we were warmly hosted by Raanan Bar Cohen of Auttomatic. Raanan spoke about WordPress and the very unique corporate culture at Auttomatic and had some friends come by to hear the student pitches. We then headed to the last official meeting of the trip to Kenshoo…and from there to margaritas at Tres and the Giants game, all organized to perfection by my college roommate and good friend Andy Rogers. I could not tell you for the life of me who they played…and we seem to have opted out to a bar about ten minutes before the game became history…as “the Perfect Game”…but as I see it, game not with standing, it was a perfect end to an amazing trip…an end that for the new graduates of Zell 11, is of course, just the beginning…