Aleph VC firm trains new immigrants for jobs in high-tech

Venture Capital firm says its Aliya Initiative will help immigrants find employment and help local startup scene tap into skilled foreign language speakers

Aleph’s Job Fair Cocktail for Olim, June 3, 2018, part of VC fund's Aliya Initiative (Guy Keren)
Aleph’s Job Fair Cocktail for Olim, June 3, 2018, part of VC fund's Aliya Initiative (Guy Keren)

An initiative of Israeli venture capital firm Aleph VC is helping new immigrants find work in Israel’s booming tech sector, which is strapped for employees.

The Aliya Initiative, a free, four-session workshop in Tel Aviv, aims to provide olim, or immigrants, with the necessary skills to join the Israeli startup scene.

The goal, said Avigail Levine, head of Marketing and Community at Aleph, is to help grow Israeli companies. “That demands building strong sales and marketing teams,” she said. Immigrants are perfect for that role because of their strong language skills and knowledge of the foreign societies Israeli tech products aim at.

Israel’s thriving tech scene is feeling the pinch of a shortage of skilled workers as multinationals and startups all compete for the best minds locally. Players in the sector are trying to find ways to overcome this shortage. Training new immigrants is one creative way to do this.

Olim who took part of Aleph VC’s Aliya Initiative, at the Job Fair Cocktail for Olim, June 3, 2018 (Guy Keren)

“There are multiple roles that our Tel Aviv ecosystem needs filled. Sales development representatives, salespeople, customer success managers. Our fast-growing portfolio has an endless thirst for this talent as does our entire Israeli ecosystem, but there are not enough skilled people around. So, we have decided to do something about it,” Michael Eisenberg, a founding partner at Aleph and himself a former immigrant to Israel, said in an email interview.

“Aleph is a fund with a Zionistic orientation. Helping olim is part of our Zionistic agenda. We believe it is very important to help these olim find the right jobs in Israel. This helps both parties — the olim who are talented and find jobs that suit their skills, and the companies who need talented manpower.” said Levine.

The venture capital fund was founded in 2013 by Eden Shochat and Eisenberg. Aaron Rosenson, another immigrant to Israel, recently became the third partner.

Aleph’s first workshop, “How to Become a Killer Content Marketer,” taught participants how and why content marketing works and ways in which to create effective content for the public.

Aleph VC’s Michael Eisenberg speaks to new immigrants as part of The Aliya Initiative; May-June 2018 (Guy Keren)

The first Aleph Aliya workshop, which took place once a week for a month starting in May 2017, led to the creation of the Aliya job board, a spreadsheet aimed at finding jobs for immigrants. Job seekers put down their degrees and professional experience, while companies looking to hire list the positions they want to fill and the skills necessary for those positions. Aleph promotes the job board frequently on social media, seeking to make employment matches.

This past May, Aleph hosted its second workshop, this time concentrating on skills needed for sales positions in software as a services (SaaS) businesses. Topics in the seminars included sales development, using data for sales, learning how to interview, and negotiating salaries. The 35 participants came from newarly a dozen countries with a variety of educational degrees. At the end of the program, Aleph hosted a Job Fair Cocktail gathering to give participants a chance to find work in sales and marketing at Israeli companies.

Loni Schuman, an immigrant from Saint Louis, said she got the push she needed to succeed through Aleph’s Aliya Initiative.

Schuman, who in New York developed an app to help rising musicians earn money from fans, came to Jerusalem because she believed she’d find the startup scene to be more tight-knit and friendly than in New York. After a few months in Israel, she took a job in marketing at a Herzliya startup and decided to make aliya, and soon realized that Israel had a real need for a boutique marketing agency. “Not one where a company joins and you’re put in touch with an account handler… but [one where] you have someone that you can call whenever you need.” A boutique marketing agency is a smaller, more personal, and cheaper marketing agency than typical marketing agencies, she explained.

With these thoughts, Schuman entered Aleph’s first Aliya Initiative course. There, she and the 40 other participants heard from digital marketers and the heads of startups about goal-driven marketing techniques and how to create appealing content.

Olim attending Aleph VC’s Job Fair Cocktail for Olim, June 3, 2018, which was part of the Aliya Initiative (Guy Keren)

After the seminars, Schuman went on to start her own content and digital marketing agency. She said she has a lot of clients, because “they [the clients] have a full-time marketing person on their team without the need to pay a full marketing salary. It’s just easy and it’s an amazing option for an early stage startup.” The agency provides companies with all of their marketing needs, including social media presence, blog posts, and brochures, she said.

Schuman said the Aliya Initiative gave her “tons of confidence…to go out and do it,” and also introduced her to her first client at a job fair held at the end of the course. She is now looking to hire immigrants for her firm.

Elie Skolnick, a participant in this year’s workshop, had “little to no experience” with startups prior to Aleph’s course. For Skolnick, “everything that each speaker was discussing was very new.”

Skolnick, a 2017 Muhlenberg College grad, planned on working in public policy in the US. A few months post-graduation, Skolnick decided to make aliya, but realized that without Hebrew language skills, public policy would not be a viable career path in Israel. So, he decided to start networking in the high-tech world. When he saw on LinkedIn one day that Aleph was hosting a crash course for immigrants on Sales, he jumped at the opportunity.

In the course, Skolnick gained “insight into the entire process” of marketing and how to turn an opportunity into a prospect “all the way down to closing the deal.”

Now, Skolnick works at DealHub, a startup that provides a space for sales professionals to meet and engage with buyers, as a product consultant.

Though a date has not been set, Aleph is planning more workshops. As for measuring the success of the program, Levine said, “For us, placement of over five olim in startup companies is a huge success. We reached that milestone.”

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