Israel Lab – Team Windward Blog Post

Expectations before arrival

With most of our team members having never been in Tel Aviv, let alone Israel, the majority of our expectations were formed from the contextual reading and exercises during the Israel Lab sessions as well as interacting with Israeli students across the graduate programs at MIT Sloan.

Especially helpful here as the introduction using the software which categorized Israelis across five traits, namely a,b,c,d,e. The notion formed that Israelis are very direct in their approach, do not like talking around the point, and are very energetic when it comes to discussing an issue. These points have been further reiterated in Israel: A Start-up nation, the mandatory reading for the class. The book is laid out as a number of case examples illustrating vividly the dynamic culture in Israeli.

In addition, we prepared ourselves for the work with our host company Windward through a number of skype briefings with our mentor and Sloan alum Rotem. We laid out a work plan detailing our steps and met with a number of professors to leverage our MIT expertise. At the end of the autumn semester, we wrote down our preliminary findings in a research report that was submitted to our host company for further preparation for our arrival.

Hence, we came to Israel with a number of preconceptions but were all in all looking forward to what seemed like a culture that resembles a Cholent with the plethora of different ingredients coming from everywhere that make up the country.

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Our Time in Tel Aviv and around

Upon arrival, we found ourselves very lucky with the company as well as our apartment being centrally located in Montefiore street, Tel Aviv. A variety of bars, restaurants and clubs of all sorts as well as the recommendations given by our Tel Avivi friends in advance allowed us to enjoy a different spot in Tel Aviv every night.

Overall, we spent 15 working days with our host company. Windward is a maritime data and analytics company that makes sense of maritime data – over 100 million data points a day – for anyone impacted by ship and cargo movements worldwide. While already highly successful in the field of security, our objective was to assess the demand for aggregated data to allow for better investments in oil-related financial markets. While this task seemed difficult at first, we developed a better understanding with every interview we conducted and come up with a strategy for Windward to translate the value of its data into monetizable terms. We presented this strategy during the last week to the co-founders as well as the whole company during the weekly meeting.

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During our stay, we also got to take part in a number of activities as part of the Israel Lab. This included a one-day trip to the Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial located outside of Jerusalem. For all of us, this proved to be an unforgettable experience demonstrating the importance of the Israeli state in the global community. We also visited the Technion campus located in Haifa. During a number of lab demonstrations, we learned first-hand why the Technion is often referred as the MIT of Israeli. We want to use this opportunity to thank Igor Slutsker and the whole team for putting together such an amazing class and allowing us to have a once in a lifetime experience.

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Post-IAP thoughts

Being back in Cambridge, the whole team had a chance to let the experience pass revue. Discussing the time in Israel, there are a number of pivotal thoughts that we share as a team.

None of us have worked in a start-up before and thus it proved to be a revealing experience for all of us, especially at such a great firm such as Windward. It is great to see so many gifted individuals from different backgrounds come together to build a phenomenal product. The dynamic everydaylife at Windward is exemplary of the start-up nation and further encourages all of us to start a business ourselves at some point, following in the footsteps of the start-up nation.

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A blogpost about Israel would not be complete without mentioning the culinary experience that this country offers. Working in Israel, the greatest challenge proves to resist the many temptations at lunch that will surely result in unproductive food-coma afternoons. It seems to us that a main attribute of Israeli training is to be able to eat kilograms of hummus while being to work on the most productive level nonetheless. Nevertheless, from day to day, we were able to improve on this skillset.

Finally, what makes Israeli so great are the people living there. Despite the immediate hostile environment faced by Israeli, from our experience the people are incredibly welcoming and open to anyone and are going the extra mile to get to know you. Being able to interact with so many great people, inside the firm as well as in the wider community, was an eye-opening experience and lifts Israel from a country frequently mentioned in the news to a place full of fond memories and friendly people. We are all looking forward to revisiting Israel soon.

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Best,

Adrian, Marius, Tram, and Steven

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