U-M Investment Group TAMID Introduces Students to Entrepreneurship, Israeli Startups

11/18/10

[Corrected, 4:40pm. See below] Last month, Jon Medved, the founder of Jerusalem-based Israel Seed Partners, a multi-million dollar venture capital fund, came to the University of Michigan to give a lecture on high-tech development. But Medved wasn’t there to talk about Silicon Valley or another U.S. startup hub. Instead he was meeting with a group of students to discuss the future of Israel’s high-tech economy.

Medved’s visit to Michigan was made possible by TAMID Israel Investment Group, an organization founded three years ago by two U-M students. The goal of the group, which has already expanded to a handful of campuses across the U.S., is to give business-minded students a way to connect to the Israeli economy, according to TAMID’s executive director Brett Siegal, a senior in Michigan’s business school. [An earlier version of this story reported that Medved had visited UC Berkeley, not Michigan. We regret the error---Eds.]

Though there are hundreds of campus organizations that connect Jewish students to Israel through cultural or academic activities, Siegal says that before TAMID (which translates to “always” in Hebrew), there was no outlet for students to make connections in a more business-oriented way.

And through a three-phase program, the group’s members get to do just that. The students get a crash course in important business concepts, and the chance to invest the group’s fund of Israeli securities or to do consulting work for a variety of Israeli companies. In addition, TAMID sends the students to Israel—and pays many of their expenses—for internships with Israeli companies or multi-national corporations with offices in the country.

Though the group works with companies ranging from a startup focused on solar housing to big firms like Thomson Reuters, Siegal says the nature of the Israeli economy means that much of TAMID’s work is focused on startups and the high-tech sector. “It’s about a 30-year-old economy, essentially, as a developed economy,” Siegal says. “The economy, for a number of different reasons, sort of spawns a lot of startups.”

According to Siegal, the Israeli government sponsors about 20 startup incubators and also participates in institutionalized venture capital programs that match private investments.

Though Israeli government involvement plays a large role in the proliferation of startups in the country, Siegal says the nature of Israeli culture also helps to foster self-starters. Compulsory military service “creates these very self-motivated people,” Siegal says. In addition, many of the immigrants that came to the country in large waves from the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s were scientists in their home countries, and the Israeli government attempted to help these immigrants commercialize their ideas.

It’s for all of these reasons that Israel “has the highest level of startups outside of Silicon Valley,” according to Siegal. In addition, the country is home to between 3,000 and 4,000 high-tech … Next Page »

Jillian Berman is an intern for Xconomy Detroit. Follow @

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