If you want to recruit people as tech entrepreneurs, you’ve got to start them young. That’s the philosophy at venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners. And to encourage the Start-Up Nation’s young set and get their creative juices flowing, JVP last week held its sixth annual “practice session” for kids from Jerusalem-area junior high schools, on their way to the “Young Israeli Entrepreneur” contest, which will take place in June. The winner of that event will be sent to London to represent Israel in the Junior Achievement-Young Entrepreneurs Company of the Year Competition next July.
In all, 14 groups of ninth graders from a range of Jerusalem-area junior highs in the religious and non-religious sectors participated in the event. Students presented a wide variety of products and services, developed by the teams, together with their marketing campaigns, both required for the contest.
In addition, groups need to organize a business structure, with balance sheets, officers, and a business plan — just like a “real” business, and seasoned JVP consultants, who have years of experience working with start-ups, were on hand to offer the teams tips on how to organize the business, how to maximize their funding, how to manage expenses, how to market, and the myriad other details that young companies require to succeed.
The groups will continue to work with JVP for the next several weeks, as they get ready for the “big leagues.” During the Passover school break, the groups will get real-world business experience, selling their products at a special fair in Jerusalem’s Malha Mall.
Among the ideas presented: A round comb with a built-in mirror and a pocket for documents – a sort of wallet/comb-in-one. Another idea consists of a special “sock sack” for use in washing machines, ensuring that socks don’t get lost in the laundry – or “eaten up” by the machine. One group developed a special hammer tool to enable disabled people to hammer nails into a wall. An audience favorite was a special toothbrush into which users could insert toothpaste (much neater). Other ideas included a kit for applying chocolate spread to bread neatly, a running jersey with built-in headphones, and a better “pooper scooper.”
The groups are especially pumped about participating this year, after Israel’s entry in the European contest won second place. A group of students from Rosh Ha’ayin beat out some 200 other teams with its “Bezekalo” — a sort of shaker for flour that can be used by bakers to keep dough smooth.
Haim Kopans, JVP’s CTO and a partner in the VC, said that far from being a “community service,” JVP considered its involvement in the contest to be one of the most important things the company does. “Young Entrepreneurs is one of the most important projects in Israel to train the next generation of Israeli entrepreneurs, and we at JVP have taken it upon ourselves to do our part by helping and advising with the next generation of entrepreneurs here in Jerusalem.”