Student investment group connects to Israel’s startups

By Brittany Cheng

After a semester studying abroad at Bar Ilan University in Israel, Caleb Koffler was inspired to get involved in pro-Israel advocacy when he returned to the campus in spring 2012.

But the government and politics and Jewish studies major ​​was not interested in starting another political or religious advocacy group. He wanted something different, something apolitical and non-religious.

So Koffler, now a senior, helped establish in fall 2012 the Maryland chapter of TAMID Israel Investment Group, a student-run multidisciplinary organization that connects business-minded students to startups in Israel.

“We work with Israel because it makes sense,” said Koffler, president of TAMID.

He called the relationship “mutually beneficial” because the startups need help getting off the ground and students get hands on experience that they might not get from a traditional classroom environment.

Companies in Israel also make the ideal partnerships because the region has the second highest number of startups per capita in the world — second only to Silicon Valley, said Eitan Kahn, TAMID’s director of consulting.

“The less glamorous part of the business when you’re looking at startups … is the finances,” said Kahn, a sophomore finance major. “Something that has to back that up. Someone has to procure the funds; someone has to manage the cash flow.”

That’s where TAMID comes in, Kahn said.

Teams, led by a project leader, of four to five TAMID members partner with a specific startup to help meet the company’s needs. Kahn, as director of consulting, supervises all teams and maintains relationships with the companies they partner with.

TAMID National Student co-chairs Jared Fleitman and Dan Smith, National Managing Partners for Expansion and Consulting Phil Nydick and Joseph Tuchman, chapter President Caleb Koffler and Executive Director Brett Goldman at the TAMID student breakfast during AIPAC policy conference. Photo courtesy of Tamid.

TAMID National Student co-chairs Jared Fleitman and Dan Smith, National Managing Partners for Expansion and Consulting Phil Nydick and Joseph Tuchman, chapter President Caleb Koffler and Executive Director Brett Goldman at the TAMID student breakfast during AIPAC policy conference. Photo courtesy of Tamid.

TAMID worked with five companies this past semester, including MobileOCT, which uses cell phones to detect cancers; Yalostar Holdings, a company that helps kickstart enterprise projects; and Mobideo, a software company.

Like other pre-professional groups on the campus, the student-run group also offers members the chance to sit in on networking and often brings in guest lecturers and professors at the business school to teach seminars, Kahn said.

As an aerospace engineering major, sophomore Adam Zwick hasn’t been able to take many business-related courses at this university. So the lectures and seminars he has attended in his first semester with TAMID this past fall have been invaluable, he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed learning about different aspects of a business and how to analyze a business as a whole,” Zwick said. “It’s something that I definitely don’t learn in any of my other classes.”

One special program that is open to only TAMID members is the national organization’s summer fellowship, a competitive program that sends only five to six students per campus chapter to Israel for a summer to intern with a company.

Kahn, who went this past summer, worked at Biocatch, a cybersecurity firm that works to prevent online fraud. He said that although he had no programming skills, he still was interested in working for a tech startup and Biocatch gave him tons of experience.

“I was doing business development, helping with marketing cases, writing proposals for government contracts,” he said.

To keep the quality of the work they do high, TAMID requires members to undergo an application process and limits the number of students they accept per year.

When they first started, the chapter had — at most — 15 to 20 members. This past fall, they accepted about 30 students, about half of those who applied, Kahn said.

Koffler estimated that about 80 percent of TAMID’s current membership is Jewish. But applicants don’t need to be Jewish, nor do they need to be in the business school, Kahn said.

“We actually believe that a variety of majors can really enhance the success of the projects we’re working on,” Kahn said. “Each student brings their own unique perspective.”

Said Koffler: “Our goal is to deliver the best possible product to our clients and we want the best and smartest people to join our organization.”

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