Coming in as a Marketing and Research intern before my final year of University in the states, I had little exposure to the startup industry and even less to the Israeli ecosystem. I was immediately thrown into a slew of projects: the entrepreneurs trusting me with crucial market research and Leetal Oknin (SigmaLabs Partnership & Operation Manager) assigning me tasks for the accelerator. I realized how much I had learned during my time here – from doing and from watching – when I encountered topics equipped with a new understanding.
I came to Israel with the ‘Princeton startup immersion program’ (PSIP) and every week, the program invites experts to lecture our group on a wide variety of topics related to Israeli startups. When a partner at a VC outlined his guidelines for evaluating a startup, I realized I had experienced this whole process at SigmaLabs. First, in SigmaLabs, we had a mini-workshop for the interns explaining the general criteria and the focus points for due diligence. We practiced rating startups using the applications from the last round of applications. During the Selection Committee, I saw the process in action, live and interactive, and compared my opinions with the experts in the room like Eran Bielski, Ran Achituv, Avi Eyal and others. While my fellow students learned from a PowerPoint about the evaluation process, I had already learned from attending 2 days of pitching by 16 teams and of discussions between 30 judges.
When we heard from a lawyer about the hi-tech law, I already had a 1-on-1 tutorial through an interview I conducted for the SigmaLabs blog with Chen Manzur, a partner in GKH law firm who are SigmaLabs partners. The visitor explained the various legal stages of the company, and I saw and/or heard of these in action from the teams in Wave 7. Not only had I asked Chen questions about theoretical legal issues in early stage startups, but he also recounted first-hand experience of disagreements between founders and problems with funding.
When we heard a lecture on pitching a startup, I had already seen the SigmaLabs teams train endlessly for Demo Day with all mentors. I had watched each team pitch and get feedback and make a new deck and pitch again – over and over. I had watched with pride when all 4 absolutely nailed their pitch in front of almost 100 investors.
When an entrepreneur outlined the challenges of selling your startup, I had already experienced this process first hand from conducting market research for and comparing go-to-market strategy options with the startups in the accelerator.
When a guest explained what makes a good startup team, I already knew 4. I had met and had worked with and had been caught in the Nerf-gun-war-crossfire between close-knit and driven groups of founders. In my eyes, I had seen them succeed and celebrate together, and I had seen them endure stress and obstacles together. I knew how important trust and dedication to each other was – not because the lecturer told me, but because these traits sit at the desk next to mine.
I am grateful to the teams in the accelerator who included me in their journey – listening to my opinions on research and engaging me in their discussions of goals and strategies. I am grateful to the accelerator team for taking the time to teach me new concepts and to involve me in important operations. And most of all, I am grateful to all of SigmaLabs – from gurus to mentors to entrepreneurs – for tolerating my lack of Hebrew and inviting me to lunch anyway. Although I am many miles of ocean away from the US and all that is familiar, I genuinely feel I have found a family at SigmaLabs.
This blog post was writing by Jessica Nyquist, a student at Princeton University.