InterviewBack to School: Serial entrepreneur Ori Allon donates NIS 2 million to TAU Innovation Center
Back to School: Serial entrepreneur Ori Allon donates NIS 2 million to TAU Innovation Center
Discussing the troubling trend of young people running to make it big in tech and giving up on academia, Allon said: "You don’t need to just pursue exits. Academic education brings you much further”
“We were in a period when the only thing that mattered was growth and I hope we are entering into a new period where you look at a real economy that places importance on profitability,” Ori Allon, one of the most successful Israeli entrepreneurs, told Calcaist in an exclusive interview. Allon sold companies to both Google and Twitter and held senior positions at both, then went on to found Compass, which was issued on the Nasdaq. About a year-and-a-half ago, Allon left Compass and currently advises entrepreneurs. In Israel, Allon is well known as one of the former owners of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team. Now Allon is announcing a donation of NIS 2 million (over half a million dollars) to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of Tel Aviv University.
In an exclusive interview with Calcalist, Allon says, "Since I left the Compass board, I have been mostly In Israel and involved in all kinds of activities. I invest in companies and like to work with young people.” Allon believes many young people are rushing to make an exit in high-tech and giving up on academia. "You don’t need to just pursue exits. Academic education brings you much further, even in not so good times - and even in these times. A lot of young people have approached me and said that academic studies do not prepare you for real life and entrepreneurship. So I turned to the university and told them that they know how to impart theoretical knowledge but not how to prepare students to also be entrepreneurs.”
Allon believes that despite the difficult period ahead, this is the right time for a program that will teach entrepreneurship. “Think about undergraduates in computer science. They will establish new and amazing companies after they go through the training we provide for them.”
Allon has seen for years that the industry has created a lot of problems. “There was inflation of prices and value, and it is good that there is from time to time a substantial change of the market. I believe that now there will be more focus on the foundations of a company beyond the growth that has been glorified all these years. The change that the market is going through is important for growth to continue, but for mature people now it is important to give them the basic principles on how to start a company and how to be an entrepreneur. Being a scientist is not like being an entrepreneur. I was not given all these tools in all my studies, even in my doctorate studies. I got lots of good advice along the way but not something methodological and organized.”
As mentioned previously, Allon decided to put his money where his mouth is and donate from his capital and time for the education of academics in entrepreneurship. "The university has tools and I am committed to the next three years. I am hoping they will use my funds and resources I allocated to them well. We do very interesting courses on entrepreneurship and we will choose the most interesting people. We offer a complete program for students in Tel Aviv University who will get a full course that deals with entrepreneurship, how to become an entrepreneur, and how to do the first things required to succeed.
“It’s mind blowing for me to hear that people who have graduated know nothing about entrepreneurship and value and capital raising - and in this program they will get very good tools.”
Allon's contribution will enable the university to expand the activities of the center, with an emphasis on making it accessible to researchers and students from all disciplines on campus.
Allon’s support will launch three new projects at the Entrepreneurship Center: a track that will offer entrepreneurship courses for students in all areas of knowledge, with an emphasis on undergraduate degree students. A track that will feature an annual hackathon for finding quick and multidisciplinary solutions for a variety of social and environmental challenges, and more, and a new program to promote entrepreneurship among women on campus in order to increase the participation of female students in a variety of degrees in the business world and entrepreneurship.
Allon believes we are facing a significant change in the industry. “In the last year and a half I have met entrepreneurs at the beginning of the road who talked about very high values, $50 or $100 million already at the seed stage, which is unbelievable. Until now the world was in a very specific place in terms of value and what do you do to stand in the way? It reminded me of the 2000s. There is now a comprehensive understanding that we are moving from a world of growth and revenue to forecast for profit. Even if you make $50 million, they ask you what the quality of income is and whether it is income that generates profit or income that relies on raising capital. A lot of companies are putting more emphasis on profit, even the giants are all trying to improve profitability."
“When I was at Twitter they only looked at growth and no one thought about profit. Everyone believed that someday we would get to it, but first we focused only on users and advertising. But the world is going somewhere else today. Even at Compass, where I am just a consultant today, they are working very hard to show they're on the road to real profit and the market is looking at it very closely. And there are very good companies that are on the verge of profitability, but that is not enough. This change is good and healthy.”
As part of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center's program, a committee will be established that will include representatives from the foundation of Allon and experts from all fields at Tel Aviv University. This committee will accompany the candidates and project-winners in the various tracks - and will cultivate the next generation of Israeli entrepreneurship.
Prof. Moshe Tzviran, Director of Entrepreneurship Innovation at Tel Aviv University, said that, "Dr. Allon's contribution will enable the university to leverage the activities of the Entrepreneurship Center of the university, which was established with the initial support of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, and to expand its activities by teaching and imparting knowledge to all students and researchers with the aim of increasing exposure for entrepreneurship and innovation across campus.”
First published: 14:58, 30.06.22