There’s a Chinese saying that goes, “行千里路，胜读万卷书。” (“Traveling a thousand miles trumps reading ten thousand scrolls.”) I’m happy to say I’ve fulfilled the first part of the saying by travelling 7,125 kilometers to Jerusalem, Israel for my internship at OurCrowd.
Who am I?
My name is Amy Sheng. I’m originally from Beijing, China, but I currently reside in New Haven, Connecticut, where I am a rising sophomore at Yale University. I devoted most of my freshman year to a year-long Humanities program called Directed Studies. I haven’t yet declared a major, but I’m considering a double major in Math & Philosophy and Computer Science.
I’ve been a globe-trotter since I was young, moving from China to the US at the tender age of 5, then bouncing up and down the Eastern seaboard each year, returning to China at the age of 10, attending a youth conference in Norway, then making my way back to the States for college. My newest destination? Jerusalem, Israel.
To explain how I made my way to Israel’s startup scene, I have to retrace my steps back to a tiny startup at a high school campus in Beijing, China.
When I was in high school, I founded a startup with some friends to attack the problem of cell phone waste. Many of our classmates would chase after new models and discard cell phones in perfect working condition each year. We developed a business model to buy back students’ cell phones and resell them online.
I wish I could say that the venture was a raging success and that we took the Chinese market (or even just the Beijing market) by storm, but the truth is… We pretty much failed. Our startup sputters along, yet to heave its last dying breath, but we know that only impending doom awaits our unsustainable business model.
Doom and gloom aside, creating that startup was an exhilarating experience. It was electrifying to build something of our own from the ground up, in a niche where no one had gone before. We had a clear goal we truly believed in throughout: minimizing electronic waste. Working towards this goal, on the other hand, was a chaotic mess of random obstacles popping up, drastically pivoting to survive, and scrabbling for answers to questions whose existence we weren’t aware of just a day earlier. It was exhausting, at times mind-numbingly mundane, often crazy…And I was hooked.
The Startup Nation
My passion for startups led me to the Israeli startup scene. Reading about the Israeli startup scene, particularly in Start-up Nation, I am astounded by the concept of ‘chutzpah’. When I was building my startup of sorts with my friends, I was terrified every day that we would fail and have nothing to show for all our efforts. The rhetoric I heard my first day on the job was so different than how I thought before. There was no, “What happens if we can’t achieve this?” Instead, what I heard was, “This is what we need to do. Here’s how to do it.” In the case of something not going well, I witnessed, “Well, what’s wrong? How do we change it?” In just a few days, I’ve learned a lot about this pro-active fearlessness of failure and willingness to learn from failure.
Within the Israeli startup scene, I was drawn to OurCrowd in particular. The high deal flow astounded me (20 deals in the past 8 months, averaging 2.5 deals a month, and still speeding up) and I jumped at the opportunity to research and interact with so many dynamic Israel startups. I am also excited to learn about the many sectors within OurCrowd’s diversified portfolio, including software, CleanTech, MedTech, and social networking.
The fact that OurCrowd itself is a new startup founded just last year sealed the deal. I identified with OurCrowd’s mission to become a pioneer in a new field. Furthermore I was fascinated by the new model of web-based crowd funding and venture capital that OurCrowd has built. Through this internship, I hope to learn more about this model of investing and help this dynamic startup grow.
The end of my long trip to Jerusalem just marks the beginning of my journey with OurCrowd. I can’t wait to see where it will take me.