Immersive Field Course: Israel; Startups and Venture Capital - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Immersive Field Course: Israel; Startups and Venture Capital

Course Number 6048

Professor Paul A. Gompers
Four on-campus sessions on Wednesdays from 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm on September 11, September 25, October 16, November 20, 2019
Travel dates: January 4th-16th
Program fee & travel costs: See details on Course Credit and Fees
Credits: 3.0
Enrollment: 45


The Israel IFC will provide students with an opportunity to work with venture capital-backed companies on key go-to-market projects.  The IFC will be based in Tel Aviv with project partners within a 30 minute radius of the city.  Companies will be in a variety of industries including network security, consumer Internet, enterprise software, precision medicine/life science, and the social sector.  The Israel IFC will meet three or four times in the Fall Semester to provide a context for the projects and work in Israel.  Teams will prepare for the work in January through several video calls with their company sponsors in the Fall.  Students will be required to be in Israel from January 5th through January 17th. .  In addition to work with the company, the Israel IFC will have a variety of events with prominent business leaders and key government officials.  Students will also participate in excursions to many of the prominent historical sites in Israel.

Israel became a country in 1948 within a landmass slightly smaller than New Jersey.  The country had almost no natural resources and poor infrastructure.  Despite these challenges, Israel emerged in the 1990s and 2000s as a high technology powerhouse, becoming known as “Silicon Wadi.”  By 2016, Israel had the second most amount of venture capital investments after Silicon Valley.  There were more Israeli companies, chiefly in the high-tech sector, that were publicly traded on national US stock exchanges than any other foreign country other than Canada. 

Several factors converged to create innovation in Israel leading to the technology boom.  The Israeli government invested billions of dollars in military R&D to achieve an independent military technological advantage. To promote and accelerate Israel’s economic shift, the government nurtured innovative companies by engaging in capital risk sharing (funding of up to 85% of R&D costs) and promoting cooperation between military, academia, and industry.  International programs encouraged other countries to participate in Israel’s technology revolution through contributions of funds and/or research.  Multinationals were supplied incentives (e.g., tax and customs benefits) to encourage foreign direct investment and knowledge transfer from conglomerates to Israeli nascent industry.

Socio-cultural factors were also important aspects in the growth of a high tech sector.  Post-Cold War military cutbacks, along with the influx of 750,000 Russian immigrants, many of which were educated in the sciences, pushed the government to focus on the technology sector to create jobs and harness the talents of this new labor market.  Israelis were also fast adopters of new technology. Compulsory military service for men and women fostered skills in teamwork, risk-taking and creative problem solving.  It also provided a way for high tech people to meet and share ideas that they later implemented in the civilian market.

Israel’s high tech core was highly concentrated, located in five cities (Haifa, Herzliya, Jerusalem, Rehovot, and Tel Aviv) whose area was not larger than 6,000 square kilometers, half the geographic size of Silicon Valley.  Social mobility and advancement within Israel also influenced Israeli opinions towards risk-taking and entrepreneurial ventures.  Israel was a young country and almost all of its citizens were immigrants.  This sense of starting anew and coping with change, in both military and civilian ranks, enabled social mobility and advancement through the military and civilian markets.  Together, these cultural influences created what some referred to as an Israeli “psyche” described as a mix of entrepreneurial spirit, team work, calculated risk-taking and creative adaptation, that all formed the ingredients necessary to succeed in entrepreneurial environments.

The Immersive Field Course Model

Immersive Field Courses are designed to offer second-year students an off-campus, experiential learning opportunity during the January term. A cornerstone of these courses is the expertise of faculty, who develop course content focused on teaching objectives that are met primarily through student-centered active learning opportunities including project work, site visits and participating in discussions with key contacts. As such, these courses provide students with an opportunity to apply first-hand the knowledge and skills gained from their on-campus MBA coursework in an off-campus setting.

Due to the nature of Immersive Field Courses students may be required to sign legal agreements requested by project partner organizations.  Additional requirements and documentation may also be requested of students by organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this course (including required participation in all on-campus sessions during the Fall and Spring terms) will earn 3.0 course credits.

HBS will provide logistical support for this course (including hotel accommodations, select meals, and local on-site travel arrangements). Students will be charged a course fee of $3,500 towards defraying a portion of these costs. Students who have an existing financial aid application on file may apply for additional financial support to participate in this course. Please see the Financial Aid website (login required) for more information on financial support for Immersive Field Courses.

For detailed information about what the course program fee includes and excludes, as well as information about student accommodations, please visit the GEO website.