Exploring the Israeli startup scene with The Chazen Institute

Chazen Israel

By Laura Kornhauser

Israel was in such high demand that Columbia’s Chazen Institute doubled down and created two groups for this year’s trip! It was a wonderful week long adventure during which we met with founders and executives of startups, Venture Capitalists, and leaders of the Israeli Government and Military.  These visits, combined with trips to the exceptional cultural sites in Israel (and a Dead Sea day party), gave us a strong and lasting impression of what makes Israel a magical country and an unique place to do business.

Our group started with a visit to Perion, a global technology company that delivers high-quality advertising solutions to brands and publishers, were we had a discussion with Perion CEO Josef Mandelbaum (former CEO of the American Greetings Intellectual Properties Group). Josef welcomed us into the informal Israeli business culture by immediately opening our discussion up with a lively Q&A where we discussed the differences in doing business in the US and Israel and how to best bridge the cultural gap to extract the most out of the different talent and styles in each country.

From there, we moved to Noble energy for an engaging discussion and debate surrounding their natural gas projects and assets in Israel and their current negotiation with the Israeli government and people over the future of their off-shore natural gas projects.

At the same time, our counterparts in the other group visited Caesarstone, a newly IPO’ed company specializing in high-end countertops founded on kibbutz, a collective community in Israel traditionally based on agriculture. This exposure to the unique Israeli social construct and the modern-day success of Caesarstone provided a fascinating contrast of traditional living style with the relatively new start-up culture of the country.

This action packed day ended with a trip to a new We-Work in Tel Aviv for a Venture Capital Panel featuring investors from Genesis Partners and Canaan Partners.  We also heard from the Israeli Ministry of Science about some of the programs sponsored by the government and private firms to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem and inspire innovation.  In particular, we focused on Israel’s current efforts to move from the “startup nation” to the “scale up nation”.

Additional trip highlights included a visit to Tulip winery.  Tulip is a boutique family winery focused on using innovation and creative to produce quality wines with social responsibility, as the winery aspires to enable members of the local special needs community to develop and realize their potential by offering them a business platform to integrate into the workforce.  Later in the week, we were given an inside look at Israel’s elite Air Force unit where a decorated Pilot shared his experiences.  He discussed and showed the methods they employ for constant review, validation, evaluation and improvement of military operations and the impact this has on the Israeli culture of innovation.  Upon return to Tel Aviv, we had an engaging visit from the Ministry of Finance where we discussed how he works to bring a business mentality to governmental organizations and their efforts to combat rising cost of living in Israel.  We ended the week with a  lovely outdoor reception with members of the CBS alumni community in Jaffa.

A HUGE thank you to Amir Hazan, Ezer Cherki, Hila Sarig, Michael Cherkassky, Idan Vlodinger, Prof. Netzer and Prof. Jick and all the organizers at Chazen for such an amazing and impactful week!

How can an MBA help you become a founder?

By Wendy Xiao, Co-Founder of CoHatchery, VP of Specialized Events of CEO


“Don’t get an MBA if you really want to start a company.” Many aspiring entrepreneurs have probably heard this just as I did when I was thinking about my next steps after management consulting. There is some logic to this argument: an MBA is expensive; you should be executing rather than studying; you can’t teach entrepreneurship… etc. However, (at the risk of sounding cliché) my journey with founding CoHatchery has taught me that specifically an MBA at Columbia gave me the exactly the right tools to get this thing off the ground.

Upon entering the J-term class of 2016, I had no idea what type of business I would start, but I started by joining every entrepreneurship club (including CEO, where now I serve as VP of Specialized Events) and taking all of the intro to entrepreneurship classes (Launch Your Startup and Intro to Venturing are both good classes to practice idea development). I got my feet wet and cold-emailed a NY-based startup for a part-time internship, where I learned that the GSB email opens many doors. Over the summer, I did a little soul searching in PLS (quite literally), and found my idea. I met my partner, Susann Friedrich in a brand building class where we practiced working together on a final project and liked the result. I learned about fundraising in Entrepreneurial Finance with Dean Hubbard, and customer discovery in Lean Launchpad with Steve Blank. We even incorporated through the law firm whose partner taught our Angel/VC Deals: Gut-driven Tech Investing and Entrepreneurial Law class. We practiced our pitch with our peers at our J-Term Pitch night and New Product Development. Through a CEO event, we met the founders of RentTheRunway who agreed to host a pilot with us in their offices. We also met with many executives in residences along the way and built a network of angel and VC investors through our classes and clubs. Seed Stage Investing with Angela Lee and VC Seminar with Will and Stuart taught us about the hard and soft sides of the investor ecosystem. One of our first formal advisers is our Real Estate Entrepreneurship (also great class) professor Joe Azrack, who also supervised our independent study project for CoHatchery in the fall. We applied to and were accepted by both Greenhouse and IE @ Columbia (but only joined Greenhouse), where we continue to learn from the amazing speakers from the wider NYC startup ecosystem. We are also contenders in Fall Venture Fair, Shark Tank, Columbia Venture Competition, Tamer Social Venture Competition, and the Spring Venture Fair…

This is starting to sound like a laundry list and I have not even comprehensively mentioned all of the resources we took advantage of here at Columbia. Truly there are so so SO many instances where Columbia has and will continue to support us and CoHatchery. If we weren’t a co-working company we would definitely be working out of the Start-up Lab next year.

CoHatchery is now more than just an idea. We have over 300 people on our wait list, and we are joining forces with co-working spaces across Manhattan to launch co-working with childcare. We have been published in the local press several times, and we are well on our way to launching our first full location by the end of 2016.

CEO’s 3rd Annual Shark Tank!

Shark Tank

The CEO 3rd Annual Shark Tank event this Friday was so well attended that we had standing room only!  Thank you to everyone who came out to support, and especially CommonBond and Millennium Technology Value Partners for their sponsorship.

The event was a live pitch event featuring 3 finalists from each of the Concept and Developed stage categories.  Each team was asked insightful questions by our panel of distinguished judges: Delphine Braas ’14, Salio; Dan Burnstein, Millennium Technology Ventures; Robb Granado ’10, CommonBond; Chitra Narasimhan ’99, Citi Ventures; Conner Wilson ’15, Thursday Boot Company.

The lively pitches led to a break during which the judges deliberated, and the audience cast their vote for favorites.  After a close race, we were happy to announce the winners:

Audience Favorite Awarded $1000 each: HotSpot in concept category; and Kheyti in developed category.

Judges Vote Awarded $6000: HotSpot in concept category, and L&L Foods in developed category.

Thank you again to all the teams that participated: GlobalLend, HotSpot, and Mentifly in concept category; Crnsy, Kheyti, and L&L Foods in developed category.

Columbia startup PiperWai lands deal on Shark Tank


PiperWai, which sells the first creme deodorant to use activated charcoal, went in the Shark Tank on Friday and came out with a deal from real estate entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran. Started by Sarah Ribner (Columbia Business School ’16) and Jess Edelstein, the  startup received offers from sharks Corcoran and Lori Greiner, ultimately counter-offering and landing a $50,000 deal.

The deodorant is currently available on PiperWai’s website and over 30 retailers across the nation. We hope they’re seeing a post-Shark Tank bump! Congrats to Sarah and Jess, we’ll be keeping track of PiperWai!

Here’s some post-show reactions from their newest partner and other sharks:

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Lion Hack – CBS and The School of Engineering bring Columbia together to Innovate

On November 20th, 2015 at Watson Library in Uris Hall, Columbia Business School and Columbia’s Graduate School of Engineering held its first cross-school business hackathon- Lion Hack.




Armed with technical advisors from Google and Venmo, drinks from Dig Inn, and caffeine supplied by Wandering Bear Coffee (a startup born out of Columbia Business School), the students raced to complete an MVP, a pitch deck, and a business plan within 24 hours.

By Saturday the dust had cleared and 5 judges from venture capital, the New York angel investing community, and Columbia Engineering gathered to judge the efforts of over 100 students from across the university.  Some had dropped out, but those that made it to present put forth ideas that ranged from energy to digital currency tools.

At the end two winners emerged and were fast tracked to participating in the presentation rounds of Columbia Business Schools I.E. Program:

MemorEyes – a new web app in the educational and productivity business. We are a startup company that aims to help students, actors, or anyone memorize vocabulary, poems, lyrics, lines, or anything else. The user inputs everything they want to memorize, by word or by line, and we match each segment with a specific picture with varying colors and shapes.

Sierra Leone Solar Corp. (SLSC) – a social venture with the aim of reducing energy poverty in urban and peri-urban areas of West Africa, especially Sierra Leone. To achieve our goal, we are targeting under-served market segments by providing cheap, clean and reliable solar energy to our customers. We overcome the hurdle of high upfront cost by offering lease-to-own and pay-as-you-go payment plans for solar lamps.

Congratulations to the Winners! While the event was not without it’s hiccups, reactions to the hackathon have resulted in demand for a spring version of the hackathon from students. Investor have been overwhelming positive and they are excited to participate in further events geared toward getting students to launch businesses.  Lion Hack has been officially added to CEO’s recurring events so look out for the next hackathon in Spring or Fall of 2016.

CEO partners with Techstars to host successful networking happy hour!

CBS at Techstars NYOn Friday, March 6, ten selected members of CEO headed to Techstars’ midtown office and it was just about what you’d expect for a typical Friday 6pm happy hour at Techstars. Entrepreneurs were chatting in corner sipping on kegs of craft beer and chomping down pizza, while others batted it out on the ping pong table a few yards away from team members at their desks locked face deep in code. The CEO members who attended were those who expressed specific interest in one or more of Techstars companies in their current “cohort.” Techstars Director KJ Singh (CBS ’11) addressed the group and toured them around the office before pairing them off with the companies. Our students matched up with bentobox, provider of mobile-optimized websites and digital marketing tools for restaurants, Cartesian Co , enabler of rapid electronics prototyping with our desktop 3D printer for circuit boards, DataCamp, an online data science school that uses video lessons and interactive coding challenges, Goods of Record, an online marketplace for artisan men’s goods, made only in America, irisVR builder of software to share, edit, and visualize 3D models in virtual reality, Keymetrics a software-as-a-service monitoring solution for Node.js, Localize translator of your website with one line of code, Pilot, a new kind of internet provider, LSQ a rapid software development platform for Node.js, Spoon University a food network for the next generation, Stream is a web service for building scalable newsfeeds, and UniqueSound is a marketplace that helps brands, ad agencies, and video producers to get original and affordable music directly from composers. These companies, some of which may turn out to be household names, were eager to meet with CBS students for support with part time work, summer internships, and finding full time positions before they head into demo day to seek their next round of funding. After demo day, these companies head out of the Techstars into various office spaces or co-working labs across the city and we hope some of our folks will be joining or supporting them as they grow!

Conversations with CommonBond at CBS


In a joint event held at Columbia, CEO and CommonBond cohosted Conversations with NYC Startup Leaders on February 4th. Six leaders from the startup community held intimate talks in a round-robin format with current MBA students. The following guests attended the event:

Students were able to learn about various roles in the startup space, and heard about the each leaders’ backgrounds, paths to their current roles, and future ambitions.

Rent the Runway at CBS

Rent the Runway fireside Chat at CBS hosted by CEO

Rent the Runway fireside chat with Jennifer Hyman at CBS hosted by CEO

On November 18th, CEO and CWiB cohosted a fireside chat with Jennifer Hyman, CEO and Cofounder of Rent the Runway. The talk was moderated by Brandon Holley, former Editor in Chief of LUCKY & GM of Yahoo! Shine, and current CEO of Everywear. Jennifer inspired attendees at the sold out event with stories about founding RTR, from the initial concept to fundraising to exceeding yearly projections in the first week of business to running the sophisticated logistics operation the company is today. She also spoke to social media’s impact on the fashion industry and the future direction of her company, which is in the process of opening several retail stores in the US.

[Repost] Columbia Startup Lab

Here’s a repost from a blog Delphine Braas ’14 wrote for Voices of Columbia Business School about all the great things happening at CSL !!! Enjoy …

For you aspiring entrepreneurs, business school is the best place to start a venture — you have access to amazing resources, mentoring, and people who are excited about new ideas; and it doesn’t end at graduation!

My years at Columbia Business School were two of the best of my life — having time to focus on your goals is a precious gift—and I spent them dedicated to entrepreneurship. Between the incredible classes, the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization, events, networking, and being in NYC, I was pretty busy. I worked on two different startup ideas, made fantastic friends, and learned that a successful startup isn’t only about having a killer idea but more importantly about picking the right people to start it with.

A few months before graduation, my friend Adrian asked me for coffee to chat about his startup, Sailo, a peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace that connects boat owners to licensed captains and renters. I had just abandoned startup idea #2 and was curious to hear about his project. Little did I know that our discussion would be the first of many! I spent the following months working with him and his Cofounder, Magda, getting to know the business and team. I confirmed that this was the right idea, the right time, and the right people for me. By graduation, I had joined as Cofounder, and we’ve been working together ever since!

We were accepted into the Columbia Startup Lab (CSL), the new and beautiful co-working space for recent Columbia graduates at WeWork Soho West. In addition to having a stunning work area, event space, and conference rooms, CSL also organizes workshops, mentoring, and office hours for coaching. Most importantly, the Lab is full of incredible people and companies. Everyone is super helpful! From giving pitch deck feedback, SEO advice, or just sharing a beer, we’re really part of a close-knit community, which feels very much like when we were students. I like to call it my 3rd year of B-school (minus all the exotic travel…). To learn more about CLS take a look at the video above.

Being a part of the lab has helped us grow quickly: Sailo went live in mid-August and by September 4 we opened the site for bookings in New York! Our Florida launch is planned for mid-October, and CSL helped us get press and access to investors and mentors. We are so excited to be where we are now and feel so very grateful to Columbia for this fantastic opportunity to work out of such an inspiring co-working space!

Follow Sailo on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on our progress!

CEO’s First NY Startup Trek – Media

On Friday, October 3rd, CEO held its first NYC Industry Trek, with the theme for the week of Media. We visited two incredibly interesting and up-and-coming New York startups in this space: Trustpilot and Bloglovin’. Both companies provided valuable insight into their companies and what it takes to build and grow a startup.

We started off the morning visiting Trustpilot in their offices on 5th Avenue near Madison Square Park. We got a tour of their lively office space (keggerators and ping-pong tables included!) and then got a chance to hear from three different early employees about their roles and the company itself. Trustpilot is an open, review-driven community connecting online consumers with the companies they buy from. It is almost like Yelp for online merchants. The company started in Denmark, and developed a massive following in Europe. Since launching in the US, the team in New York has grown to 55 members, and the company has a goal to reach 200+ members by next summer. Two key takeaways from the visit were: (1) The most important part of building a successful company is building the right team that is best equipped to execute the company’s strategy; and (2) When sourcing new employees, make sure to understand exactly what it is that you need in that role, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and then go out and find the right person for the job.

Afterwards, we all grabbed lunch, and of course went to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park and devoured some delicious burgers!

Next, we walked to our final destination to visit Bloglovin’, who are located in the Betaworks space on Little West 12th Street. We started off getting to hear from Kamiu Lee, a CBS ’14 grad, about her experience working at the company. We then got a chance to speak with three of the company’s co-founders, a group of young and dynamic friends. Bloglovin’ allows users to aggregate all of their favorite blogs into one convenient feed that automatically updates each time one of their bloggers writes a new post. The company was started in a shed in Sweden by five friends who had just finished high school and decided not to go to college. After two failed attempts at starting companies that involved two-sided marketplaces, the co-founders finally realized they were onto something when they started Bloglovin’, and have been growing tremendously ever since. Two key takeaways from the visit were: (1) Don’t build something that you “think” customers will want; solve a pain point for customers and iterate quickly based on customer feedback; and (2) Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to bring in someone more senior than yourself to help run the business.

We hope to see many of you at our upcoming treks throughout the semester!