When I arrived at Harvard, I thought I knew it all about Israel: I was well-versed in my Jewish heritage and had toured, visited family, and studied in Israel several times. Then I attended my first TAMID meeting and realized I was missing a key element of Israel’s story.
TAMID Group is a national organization with chapters on 46 campuses that engages almost 2,200 college students interested in Israel’s dynamic hi-tech start-up culture. As a TAMID member, I have consulted pro bono for Israel-based start-ups, learned how to present stock pitches, and managed investment portfolios involving numerous Israeli companies. I have also participated in the TAMID summer fellowship, where I gained experience in marketing and coding at a Tel Aviv-based video game start-up, participated in a speaker series, networked with hi-tech professionals, and traveled throughout the country with my peers. Interning and meeting Israeli entrepreneurs helped me understand the unique entrepreneurial culture that characterizes Israel’s burgeoning economy. I returned to campus eager to serve as the recruitment chair for the Harvard TAMID chapter, and have since been elected co-president.
This semester, I was fortunate to attend a panel co-sponsored by TAMID and the Israeli Consulate in Boston featuring the PresenTense Israel accelerator. PresenTense is a non-profit that promotes entrepreneurship in underserved communities in Israel. In its mission statement, PresenTense notes that only 15 percent of the Israeli population actually benefits from the country’s technology revolution, and its mission is to ignite the power of innovation so that 100 percent of the population can enjoy its benefits. Coining the term “Ground-Up Nation,” PresenTense has opened the first co-working hub in Israel; established the first accelerators for various Israeli minorities; and helped launch over 350 businesses, impacting thousands of lives.
We also had the privilege to hear from three individuals who benefited from support by PresenTense. Tomer Shor is the CEO of TuneFork, which makes smart devices accessible for those hard of hearing. He shared that he was inspired by his father, whose hearing was damaged during his IDF service. Drawing on his training in the elite 8200 intelligence unit, Mr. Shor developed an app that optimizes the audio output of any mobile device to the user’s personal hearing. With the help of PresenTense his idea became a reality, allowing countless veterans and other hearing-impaired individuals to use smartphones with ease, a luxury that most of us take for granted.
We also heard from Michael Nachtiler, a Haredi Jew and CEO of Aguda Achat (“One Society”), which promotes initiatives to help the Haredi community adapt to modern Israeli society while maintaining Haredi values. The Haredi population is the fastest-growing demographic in Israel, and because of its religious observance struggles to incorporate and benefit from the technology revolution. Aguda Achat could have an enormous impact on Israeli society by promoting the integration of Haredi Jews into Israel’s modern economy. The passion with which Mr. Nachtiler spoke, and his motivation to succeed in the face of detractors from his own community, was inspiring. I believe that his innovation will ultimately produce long-lasting and positive results in the Haredi and larger Israeli communities.
Finally, Dr. Shady Hassan, a member of the unique ethnic and religious Druze community and CEO of Healthymize, discussed his voice-monitoring technology that tracks changes in the condition of people living with chronic voice‑affected disease. The complexity of his idea and his true hunger to help others around the world was remarkable. Using PresenTense as an initial platform, Dr. Hassan has grown his company to the United States and plans on continuing his expansion.
Reflecting on the diverse panel of speakers, I realized that TAMID should strive to support a larger and more varied group of innovators. Israel is home to a diverse population filled with great thinkers of all races, religions, and ethnicities. All Israeli citizens deserve an equal opportunity to realize their potential in the Start-Up Nation. PresenTense is a revolutionary organization that is providing a platform to make this a reality, to ensure that everyone in Israel can grow their ideas to improve society. The values of social justice and coexistence underlie all of PresenTense’s work, and I hope that TAMID can be part of that.
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