YOSI ATIAS SPEAKS TO THE ISRAELI INTERNATIONALIST ABOUT HIS UNIQUE BACKGROUND IN KENYA, THE 3 DAY START-UP EVENT DUE TO TAKE PLACE NEXT MONTH AND THE ISRAELI ECONOMY.
Yosi Atias, Co-Founder and Head Organizer of “3 Day Start-Up Tel Aviv” (3DS), is in many ways not your typical Israeli. Although born to Israeli parents, Atias grew up in Kenya until the age of 18, then went to study in the UK for three years before finally returning to Israel just six years ago.
“In Kenya I grew up in an environment dominated by business”, begins Atias. I attended an International British School which often played host to numerous social events featuring prominent ex-pat personalities and local businesspeople. This meant that from a young age, my experience was that the social and business spheres were often intertwined. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think this prepared me very well for the intensity of the business and start-up culture that exists here in Israel.”
After completing university in England, Atias found that his passion for technology led him back to Israel and its vibrant high-tech sector. However, he also felt that he needed to strengthen his understanding of finance at all levels, from seed funding for startups to nostro accounts in trading rooms. “When I got to Israel I took a job in Software Financial Services so that I would be able to combine these interests and kill two birds with one stone.”
While having the right contacts and knowing the right people is clearly important in any country, Atias explains that in Israel it is virtually indispensable. “People talk about networking all the time, but you can’t emphasize enough how important it is, in all fields and industries your real value is your networks and reputation.” This is perhaps one of 3DS’s most important selling points. “There is no shortage of groups and organizations out there involved in helping start-ups” says Atias. “But 3DS is different because it gives young student entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop their sense of high level networking while also practicing what it is like to take a lead role in a start-up from its inception. Essentially 3DS has two main goals,” continues Atias, “Priority number one is to give students the opportunity to learn by doing, and number two is to expose students to networking at an early-stage.
For those concerned about 3DS’ intense deadline of just three days to produce a fully formed pitch to real potential investors, Atias has a swift and detailed response. “Its enough time to create a pitch that will be your make or break first impression to investors” he insists. “It’s a well-known principle in business that investors get sold on first impressions. The students get support from mentors who have had experience working in start-ups in the past and will guide the students during the three days, making sure that they don’t stray from the most important priorities. Also, one week before the actual event, a ‘boot camp’ takes place where the candidates receive guidance in forming their initial ideas and developing the tools they require. Because of all this, the students come to the three-day event prepared, having already completed serious ground work.”
3DS therefore seems to offer clear added value, enhancing Israel and Tel Aviv’s reputation as a hotbed of start-up activity. A reputation made even more famous by Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s bestseller, “Start-Up Nation”. But what does this mean for Israel’s economy as a whole and how can Israel continue to compete in a world where natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce and important for economic development? “Although we have some natural resources in Israel, such as gas reserves off our coastline”, replies Atias, “our greatest resource remains and will always be our people. Israelis have tremendous talent due to their entrepreneurial nature, and as a result today Israel is a major exporter of innovative technology in numerous fields. Our main focus should continue to be on maintaining this strength and preventing the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’ whereby our best and brightest are tempted to leave the country for supposedly greener pastures elsewhere.”
In terms of the future, for Atias, 3DS does not stop at Tel Aviv. He plans to expand the organization throughout Israel, holding at least three events per year and giving other towns and cities in the North and South of the country the opportunity to be part of the 3DS initiative. And for him personally? “I believe that my main strength is in business development. Actually, I have just recently taken up the role of Vice President of Sales and Marketing at an up-and-coming financial-technology start-up which will no doubt help me to develop these skills further.”
With an infectious passion for his work, a willingness to innovate, and a determination to succeed despite difficult odds, perhaps Yosi Atias fits the stereotype of a typical Israeli after all.