Brandeis International Business School

Innovation for the greater good

Hassenfeld trip immerses students in Israel’s thriving tech, venture capital sectors

Students pose together in the town of Caesarea, Israel.

Students pose together in the town of Caesarea, Israel.

A whirlwind tour of innovative Israeli tech startups led to a moment of quiet inspiration for Alexander Bespalov, MSF '20.

One day after landing in Jerusalem, Bespalov visited OrCam — a tech company that produces, small, wearable AI cameras that read text and recognize faces for the blind and visually impaired. It was here that the aspiring entrepreneur from Moscow experienced a breakthrough about the impact business can have on the greater good.

During the recent Israeli elections, OrCam partnered with the Central Elections Committee to make their devices available at polling stations so blind voters could cast ballots unassisted. That feat — leveraging technological innovation to help real people solve real problems — left quite an impression on Bespalov.

"Their hard work, desire to help the world and revolutionary vision are inspirational," said Bespalov. "I too want my business to be a positive force in society."

Bespalov was among 29 Brandeis International Business School students who capped their spring semester by participating in the Hassenfeld Fellow Overseas Immersion Program. Their eight-day tour of Israel’s thriving tech and venture capital sectors also included stops at many of the country’s cultural treasures, including a walk through the breathtaking Baha’i Gardens and a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The trip — and Bespalov’s spark of inspiration — embodies the mission of the Hassenfeld program: enriching young business leaders by exposing them to the economy and culture of key overseas markets.

Below are photo highlights from the 2019 Hassenfeld trip to Israel.

 Students attend an OrCam presentation.

Hassenfeld fellows toured OrCam, a tech company founded by the developers of the AI sensor Mobileye, which is standard equipment in most new cars. OrCam’s primary product is a wearable camera that reads and recognizes faces for the blind and visually impaired.

Students smiling and posing for the camera.

After dinner, some of the fellows explored Jerusalem’s nightlife.

Students present their projects at Ben Gurion University.

At Ben-Gurion University, the fellows wrapped up a major project in collaboration with MBA students from BGU. The students split into 10 mixed teams and triaged the problems of a real digital marketing startup. The project, which began early in the spring semester, required plenty of virtual collaboration between the Brandeis IBS and BGU students. Each team presented their solutions to a panel of judges that included BGU’s business school dean.

Students trek through the Baha'i Gardens.

The fellows stopped for a visit to the breathtaking Baha’i Gardens, comprised of 19 terraces that climb up the slope of Mount Carmel overlooking Haifa.

Students discuss startups at MassChallenge Israel.

The challenge at MassChallenge Israel was for students to rate two startup proposals, pitched by the hopeful entrepreneurs themselves, and decide whether they would provide hypothetical funding. They also got a real-life look at the venture capital funding process.

Students visit the DellEMC offices.

Managers and executives from Dell EMC, digital security firm RSA, and venture capital company Magma Ventures gave the students an inside look at the thriving Israeli innovation and tech economies, as well as the venture capital that makes it all possible.

Students floating in the Dead Sea.

The fellows visited the Dead Sea, the world’s saltiest body of water with shores that lie at the lowest point of any dry land on the planet. The salt concentration of the seas is so high, “swimming” is basically limited to floating.

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