The idea began with two students at the University of Michigan: to start a club that would connect college students to Israel through its economy.
Seven years later, the pair — Sasha Gribov and Eitan Ingall — are immersed in their own careers, but the Tamid Israel Investment Group, the nonprofit they founded, has grown to 15 campus chapters throughout the United States, with some 350 students involved, and has hired its first full-time paid executive director.
Tamid has grown so much that running it had become unmanageable for the students, says Allison Berman, a board member who had been the volunteer executive director until Brett Goldman, 28, came aboard full-time last month. “In order to continue to grow, it needed somebody to be dedicated full-time to fundraise and dedicate time to make it as extraordinary as it can be.”
Goldman calls the position “the convergence of everything I’ve been working on and everything I’ve been talking about for a long time.”
A co-founder of the Philadelphia-based American Israel Business Lab, an economic development initiative seeking to commercialize Israeli clean-tech innovations in the US market, he has also worked as a consultant providing strategic, communications and business development support for various start-ups, including San Francisco-based crowd-funding website Rally.org, and nonprofits including the Mid-Atlantic Biosolids Association. He has close ties to Israel, having spent two years at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, getting his master’s degree in government.
Tamid has four components: an educational one focused on giving students an understanding of Israel’s marketplace and venture capitalism via lectures with Israeli and American Jewish business executives; a consulting practice, pairing students with Israeli companies (students, for example, might do a market analysis of a computer app); a student-run investment club that invests in companies listed on the Tel Aviv stock market, Israeli companies listed on NASDAQ and US companies that do business in Israel; and a fellowship that sets up students with eight-week internships in Israel.
Goldman describes Tamid as a pro-Israel organization that is neither political nor religious, although 75 to 80 percent of its members are Jewish. “We’re really advocating for Israel not by going the traditional route and waving the flag,” he says. “We’re saying, ‘Look at these great products, look at the great opportunities and, by the way, they’re from Israel.’”
“It’s just good business,” agrees Berman, although, in her case, the group was also an outlet for her to express her commitment to Zionism.
“I found the organization the second week of my freshman year” at Michigan, she says.
“It’s clichéd, but it was love at first sight,” adds Berman, who graduated in May. “It was something that combined everything that I was interested in and wanted to pursue,” allowing her to be with people who were interested in both business and in Zionism.
Rising Michigan seniors Merrick Jacob and Samuel Shapiro, both business majors, head the consulting projects nationally. “One of the nice things about the consulting is some of the students have the opportunity to work with the company the entire year, and then go on the fellowship” to Israel and continue working with the company, Jacob says.
One recent project involved the Israeli start-up that makes GetTaxi, an app to call a taxi without having to flag it down. The company was looking to break into the New York City market and engaged Tamid’s consulting services, which are free. The students identified two target markets — people at bars and clubs and the bars and clubs themselves. They also researched promotional items and recommended that the service put its logo on lip balm tubes for drivers to give passengers.
While GetTaxi, whose app is used in Israel and London, ran into some roadblocks with the New York City Taxi Commission, both the company and the Tamid team “pivoted and performed an analysis of the entire US market” to help the company determine whether operating in other cities would be feasible, Shapiro says.
“I was very impressed with the creativity of the students, and they were able to keep up with the pace of a fast-moving tech start-up,” Jing Herman, the firm’s US CEO, says in an email.
As part of the effort to make Tamid a professional organization, it has teamed up with the Israel on Campus Coalition. Although Tamid maintains its own nonprofit status, the group last year created a three-year memo of understanding with ICC, which provides organizational support and financial oversight. In addition, Tamid received a $125,000 one-year grant from the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation to help it get its professional footing.
“I just want to build a model that we can have sustainable growth and have projects that are of greater quality,” Goldman says.