Ben Rudin,,Orbital Insight
Class of 2011>>
What I did before the program?
I believe my journey to TAU was a little less traditional then most, however, I feel very fortunate to have attended the Sofaer International MBA program as it has been instrumental in my professional career and allowed me to achieve the professional success I have had thus far. It is for this reason that I feel responsible to share my experience with others.
I was approached by a professional basketball agent to play professional basketball in Israel, following my senior year of college. That was the beginning of my 5 years in Israel in which I played professional basketball, received my MBA from TAU, served in the Israeli Army and then ran the North America business of an Israeli hi-tech startup.
Before TAU, I graduated Middlebury College, with a major in History and I also played on the Varsity basketball team. I found success on the court, including being named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year in my freshman year and in my Senior year, in addition to being named Captain, I won NESCAC Player of the Year and became the school’s first ever basketball All-American.
Following Middlebury, I was signed by the team Kiryat Ata, which is a remote town in the Northern Israel, and played in the Israeli Basketball National League. It was during my time playing basketball that I was introduced to the Sofaer program.
How I found the program?
I found the program through a good friend, fellow Israeli professional basketball player and entrepreneur, Jordan Fliegel (Jordan has gone on to build several successful ventures, including founding CoachUp, which considers Steph Curry and Julian Edelman partners). It was clear after speaking with Jordan and doing my own research, the Sofaer program was the right next step in building my entrepreneurial career.
Why I chose it?
My choice was relatively straightforward. I was looking for both a program that was known for its entrepreneurial curriculum and that was internationally recognized and respected, as I believed I’d be working in other countries, outside of just Israel. It is the only Israeli academic institution to be awarded the international accreditation of the Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
It was appealing to me that I receive my MBA in Israel, as Israel is a world leader in high tech, innovation and entrepreneurship, even earning the nick name “Start-Up Nation”. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the U.S.) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America. Israel is, and continues to be a, leader in innovation.
Regarding TAU itself, some recent statistics on the entrepreneur hub, that is Tel Aviv University, explains all that you need to know about the Universities focus and excellence in entrepreneurship. In PitchBooks 2016 Universities Report, Tel Aviv University was ranked 8th globally among universities whose graduates founded companies that managed to make large exits, a total of $5 billion exits during this period. In addition, Tel Aviv University was ranked 9th in the PitchBook Universities Report, which ranks universities according to the number of graduates who founded venture-capital-backed startups. Tel Aviv University is the only non-US university in the top 10. 515 entrepreneurs who graduated from Tel Aviv University founded 429 companies and have raised over $5 billion.
What it gave me?
I owe a great deal to the Sofaer iMBA program for putting me in the professional position that I am in today. I have a History undergraduate degree from Middlebury College and this program provided me with the underlying, core competencies and skillset of running a business. However, that was just the beginning of it. Israel fosters a culture of entrepreneurship unlike any other country – the structure of the Sofaer iMBA program captured this same spirit and energy. This out of the box international MBA experience taught me not only to truly understand what it meant to be an entrepreneur, but gave me the passion to become one.
A large part of what contributed to building this entrepreneurial culture of the program, was the diversity of our class. My class of 51 was comprised of bright individuals from 27 different countries. The dynamics that takes place when working in a group consisting of 5 different people from 5 different countries, is truly enlightening and teaches you how to work with all different types of people, not to mention, helps build an international professional network.
What I had learned at TAU was extremely important for my next job, in which I ran the North America business for an Israeli hi-tech start-up company. It was similar to running my own business - within a business - so I had to implement everything that I had learned in the program.
What do I do now?
I currently work for the hi-tech, early stage company, Orbital Insight. We use the combination of satellite imagery and machine learning to glean insights about the economy. We also use machine vision, deep learning and data science to process geospatial imagery at scale. In June of 2016, we raised a $20M B-round from Google Ventures (lead), Sequoia Capital, Bloomberg Beta, Lux Capital, CME Ventures and In-Q-Tel (venture arm of CIA). We current have over 45+ employees with offices in Mountain View, CA, NYC and Washington DC. Our clients include Large Multi-Strategy Asset Managers, World Bank, World Resources Institute and the Government.
My focus is on the financial services industry in which we sell our data to money managers, such as hedge funds, that use our unique data sets to give themselves an edge.
It’s very important to note, if I had not moved to Israel, continued my education there as well as began my professional career there, I would have never landed at, in my opinion, one of the most innovative companies today, Orbital. The reason being, the company I had worked for in Israel was in a similar industry as Orbital, in the sense that they used machine vision and satellite imagery to glean insights about the commercial sector. Israel is a world leader in machine vision, originating from its use in their elite military.