EMBA alum Gleb Chuvpilo, WG’17, talks about three things that make entrepreneurship in Israel unique and what he took away from a deep dive into this high-tech entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As an EMBA student, Gleb Chuvpilo, WG’17, took a deep dive into Israel’s high-tech entrepreneurial ecosystem through a Global Modular Course that allows students to experience Israeli innovation firsthand.

“When Prof. Ziv Katalan, the managing director of Wharton Global Initiatives, asked if I would come back as a TA, I jumped at the chance,” said Gleb, who is now a venture capitalist. “Israel went from being a war-torn agricultural nation to having the highest concentration of tech startups in the world. It’s a goldmine for entrepreneurs to learn from some of the most interesting startups in the world. It’s also a great place to build relationships and connect with entrepreneurs.”

The Richard A. Sapp Professor of Management David Hsu and Prof. Ziv Katalan, Managing Director for Wharton Global Initiatives, listen intently to student presentations on their startup experience.
Prof. David Hsu, the Richard A. Sapp Professor of Management,  and Prof. Ziv Katalan, Managing Director for Wharton Global Initiatives, listen intently to student presentations about their startup experience.

When Gleb took this course as a student, three things stood out, which made him want to come back as a TA:

  • Knowledge — “It’s easy to talk about innovation, but very hard to relate to it. Being able to see first-hand how entrepreneurs work in this country and hear founders and VCs tell their stories is very valuable. Israel is a place to continue going back to. It’s like a Mecca for entrepreneurs.”
  • Access — “Wharton’s name provides tremendous access to top VCs and entrepreneurs, who are excited to engage with students. As a VC, I wanted to come back and meet more entrepreneurs, so I can possibly invest in their startups.”
  • Making Connections — “This is an opportunity to build relationships with students from across Wharton’s campuses as well as students in Israel. As an alum, it’s exciting to continue making those connections. I also enjoyed finding interesting projects for the course and helping students make their own connections.”

Getting Practical Experience and Perspective

Joining 25 EMBA students from both the East and West Coast campuses, seven full-time MBA students and two undergraduate students took part in the year’s GMC in Israel — a program offered to all Wharton students. The Wharton contingent was joined by business students from Tel Aviv University.

“The course is an opportunity to put together theory and practice. Students apply what they’ve learned in school to work as a team on a real problem for a real startup in Israel,” Gleb said.

Final presentation of a student team wearing t-shirts of the Israeli startup they were working with
A student team who worked with minute.ly, a video optimization technology company, gives their final presentation wearing T-shirts from the Israeli startup.

After spending time with a company, the students settle in for a week-long immersion in Israel, where they continue working. Finally, the teams present their recommendations in-person to the startup leadership.

The project is a key part of the course, which begins weeks before students go to Israel. “Essentially, students act as VCs who are dispatched to a portfolio company to figure out what isn’t working and try to fix the problem using their Wharton education,” said Gleb.

For example, one team worked with an automotive startup seeking to provide technology for electric vehicles and self-driving cars. The team explored the technology and its alternatives, evaluated the startup’s competitive position and unique differentiators, and outlined issues for further focus. The team recommended how to better leverage the startup’s value propositions, such as its consumer electronics and automotive security partnerships.

The course also features talks with faculty, entrepreneurs, and VCs throughout the week. During Gleb’s most recent week in Israel, students spoke with leaders developing cutting-edge technologies, such as the CEOs of OurCrowd, Twiggle, Lemonade, Healthy.io, Corephotonics, Seematics, and Nexar. They visited startups like Argus Cyber Security and innovative multinationals like Applied Materials, as well as the multidisciplinary Weizmann Institute of Science.

Top Israeli venture capitalists share their insights in a fireside chat with students.
Top Israeli venture capitalists share their insights in a fireside chat with students.

“It was exciting to see the full spectrum of what it means to be innovative in Israel,” Gleb said. “This course is a huge learning opportunity because you can take these lessons home and apply them to your own venture. This course was one of the most transformative experiences of my time in school.”

3 Strengths of Entrepreneurship in Israel


“Entrepreneurs in Israel often go against the grain and they don’t take no for an answer. This requires what they call ‘chutzpah.’”

A Strong Network

“Israel requires both men and women to serve in the military, which teaches them how to work in teams and provides a ready network when they launch a startup. As a result, team building is easy to navigate.”

A Foundation of Grit

“While many people were born in Israel, there are people from all over the world who came to that country to build a better future. This takes sheer grit, which is also required for entrepreneurship. You need to deal with failures and keep going.”

Posted: March 8, 2018

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