WHO IS HEN BEN SAADON?
“You can join [Unistream] but you can never leave. Like your family.”
Getting an idea off the ground is incredibly difficult, even when you have access to the right resources, tools, funding and networks. So what happens when you not only have none of that access, but the very place you live is known as an active conflict zone? Can entrepreneurship be used as a bridge to not only help people out of poverty, but also to change the dynamics of conflict?
My guest today on the 125th episode of the Terms of Reference Podcast, Hen Ben Saadon, believes this is possible. He is the Vice President for business development and operations for Unistream – an organization in Israel that empowers teens from underprivileged communities, and all walks of life, buy helping them to create their own entrepreneurial ventures.
You can connect with Hen here:
IN TOR 125 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- What it’s like to bootstrap teen innovation across a conflict zone.
- How “business language” can achieve political neutrality and eventually bring understanding.
- The perils of a VC and Startup boom that comes without proper entrepreneurial education and mentorship.
- How Unistream gathers resources and networks to put in the hands of people with the best ideas.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Rony Zarom
- Shimon Peres
- Israel’s Presidential Volunteer Medal
- United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)
- UNAOC’s Intercultural Innovation Award
- Startups: Accelerator, Incubators
- Startup Education
- Venture Capital
- Conflict Zones
- Mentorship, lifelong
- Computer Science, skills
- Leadership skills
- Multi-cultural business environments, understanding, exchange, democracy
- Political neutrality
- Haifa, Israel
- Tel Aviv
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Conflict Zone Startup Incubator
Unistream launched in 2001.
Its creator Rony Zarom pioneered mobile internet.
They work with entrepreneurs in “unprivileged cities” across Israel.
Startup centers around Israel, with hundreds of alumni.
Partnerships with the business communities and academia.
Peres awarded them the presidential medal.
Winner of Intercultural Innovation Award.
#1 Junior MBA. Practical methodology, build your own startup. Teenagers welcome
#2 Accelerator. Teenagers also welcome. Focus on responsibility and social impact
#3 Leadership programs
Lunchbox capsules. 3-year development, led by a 17 year old. Very honorable.
Another is an eyeliner, sold to London. The entrepreneur had was 15 when he started, 19 when he sold it.
Unistream made the connection to the partner, followed through on the stages and the final deal: deal, patents, the works.
Beyond the typical conflict zone social high tech teen startup incubator-accelerator
It is an educational program, focus on education comes second.
Candidates must sell themselves, not their ideas.
They guarantee a network.
Unilever wants to create role models. Keeps in touch with them, always seeing how they can help their ideas, their academics, their careers.
“You can join but you can never leave. Like your family.”
20% follow an academic degree during their time at Unistream and are encouraged to eventually follow one. They all go through technology classes within Unistream.
Going forward differently
Tech integration to give better, applicable tools for when they are starting up.
3D modeling and printing. Coding and Computer Science. Professionalization.
Unistream likes to invest where nobody has invested before.
Computer skills are it for investing.
Leadership skills to change Israel.
Target the young, since 14.
Democracy, organization, understanding.
All groups are invited: arabs, bedouins. They work together within the same center.
There are also exchanges between centers.
“It’s a complicated country.”
“The methodology of business is what wins for us. Diversity is an advantage.”
Conflict down to disagreement management
It’s covered as a business topic first. Then they try to reflect it inward, generalize it to their realities.
It does not extend to their families or parents.
Urban teens are more understanding, tolerant, multi-cultural.
Pleasant results: selection of leadership positions does not seem to focus on their personal ethnicity. “Jews choose arab CEOs and arabs choose jew CEOs.”
Unistriving to be apolitical
Unistream takes no sides. Business methodology is politically neutral.
There is no feeling of pressure.
Focus on equal coverage for groups across cities.
Presence in Israel Muslim strongholds.
Funding and all the other problems
“The most challenging thing, I think.”
“Like any association in the world.” Always pitching to non and for-profit funds.
Unistream enjoys a good reputation, as well as its business leaders.
Money tries to be representative.
“We think about out teenagers, they are the most important.”
Making people work and be constant is a struggle. Recruiting and management.
“We are not like Microsoft that has a lot of money.”
Innovation. “The program must be updated every year,” making it difficult to implement across centers and center leaders, often not from the business field.
Good managers are hard to find: good in business and good with teens.
“It is not easy.”
Israel VC funding is blowing up, but faltering on education, focusing too much on results.
Stephen: If everyone is a startup, no one is a startup.
Mentorship sorely needed, even for older entrepreneurs (which the Israeli VCs focus too much on).
Han Ben Addons
Israel and U.S. online economic magazines.
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