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Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict

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networking

To Be or Not To Be

Judging by the list of events and parties over the past month and the future one, it seems what the Israeli hi-tech industry is best at is – conventions, conferences, unconferences, more events, and parties. Just got a new invitation for an industry event last night, and as someone posted on Facebook – my calendar burst out laughing.

I wonder why this is. I mean, for me, an entrepreneur working on my own at home, every event is a chance to meet my co-workers. Same as you people, who work at your offices, get a chance to chat with the person sitting next to you in the office, or to go out for lunch together. I get this chance at those events, and sometimes much more.

About a year ago I’ve decided there are enough events offered so people like me, the bootstrappers, can settle for free events, and actually do some work between one event and the other. One filter applied. But it’s still hard to choose.

Some events seem more important or even valuable than others: You’ve got to show your face, make sure someone takes a photo of you, preferably in the same frame as someone “famous”, don’t forget to tag yourself on Facebook – that’s how your co-workers the other entrepreneurs, not to mention the surrounding industries, will know you are alive and kicking and just about to make your big announcement. Networking is a big part of any entrepreneur’s job. When the time comes to raise funds or launch, who your friends are might come in handy.

This week was amazing: I’ll start with the obvious – The Marker’s “com.vention”. Two great blogs posts were written about it in Hebrew immediately after the event. Yami Glik wrote on “The co.ils” a post title “a reason to worry” – about how small the local dot-com industry really is and how obvious it was in this huge convention, where every body who is any body had to show their face, but no real networking was possible nor the contents was of any real value or information to the dot-com industry members. Read it here.

Yuval Dror wrote about it a funny blog post – “A twitted summary of the com.vention” – which gives a pretty accurate impression of the event. Yuval didn’t attend the event this year or last year, but what he writes, (read it here ) makes a pretty accurate description of the trend.

The groupies trend.

An urge to see and be seen. To brush against the leaders. To have this important sense of belonging (“for those who missed #techonomy you missed out big time…”), not to mention the even stronger feeling of “being chosen”, preferred, favored, to participate in such events like Kinnernet or TEDx TLV, strangely enough filtered by the same figure, who’s groupies we all are. Or should better be, if we want to have any chance of success in the small, intimate, interdependent community of startups in Israel.

See you all at the next event.:-)

The Story about the Suspicious Man

“This is a suspicious man”, I told my partner as we were browsing through résumés of potential employees or co-founders for our startup. “How comes?”, said my brother, “he strikes me as an experienced techie, very impressive resume, mentions all the terms we need…”. “Yes, but I can’t find any social networking info about him. That’s suspicious”.

For a minute there was silence. If my brother was here, next to me, and not beyond the sea, in New York, he would probably be staring at me, with the look of “are you for real?” – one lifted eyebrow. But as he was at the other end of a transatlantic phone call I was spared the look.

The silence was disturbed as one of my Facebook contacts sent me an online message about a coming event. As I replied my brother said: “You know what, not everybody has the time to manage a proper online presence. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the professional for us”. “No way”, I said, “Our venture is all about social networking. If this person isn’t a social networking animal we are going to waste tons of time just explaining things to him”.

As this resume was dropped to the floor* and we moved to discuss the next candidate I started to think. Can someone looking for a job, especially technology or marketing related job, afford to not have a properly managed online presence? I can’t take seriously anyone from a tech related profession who isn’t taking part in any type of social networking. It’s like a thing of the past. Who wants a thing of the past when you are looking to move forward?

So here are some tips to job seekers, from someone who is a co-founder/CTO seeker, about some minimum social networking expectations and requirements:

1- LinkedIn – the number one professional social network. Put your résumé online, don’t forget to connect to colleagues, bosses, team members, clients and suppliers to create your work network. Make sure you connections are visible – what we look are mutual acquaintances. Make sure you do not connect with people who may speak badly of you. Try to get references from any connection who can speak nicely of you, first from those people who are widely connected and have strong network presence. Don’t forget to upload a photo. Yes, we do want to know how you look, so when we set up a meeting at a coffee place we can recognize you. The photo has to show your face clearly – a full body on a 40 pixel image is ridiculous – and it will better be up to date, not a 10 year old photo from when you were a lot thinner.

2. Facebook – yes the face photo is probably the first thing you should upload here. Your short version of a resume can also come here – but it’s not a must. The most important thing about Facebook is the connections, the social network you create. Don’t think “the more the merrier” because that’s not true. When I see people with more then 400 connection I doubt the quality of every connection on their list. Make sure you connect with those people who can reference you and even better – if you connect to people who can help you land that next job.

An important tool on Facebook is the events. If you haven’t been invited to any event yet, go into the events application and look for friends’ events. Some might be informal like parties, drinks, breakfasts. Other might be professional – conferences, unconferences, workshops, and others might be social networking events like meetups and group meetings. Choose only relevant groups. Ask your friends for their recommendations. You can start with free events. There are plenty of those and they are not any less effective then paid events.

3. Status updates and Twitter. If you are unfamiliar with social networking or feel you don’t have the time – don’t do it. No status updates, nor Twitter. It’s not necessary. Start by simply following, about once a day, the various updates of your friends and their friends – your relevant network.

What are status updates good for?

You will discover that potential employers publish their want ads first as a status update. Sometimes your friends will re-publish, or re-tweet, a want ad by a friend.

You will also learn how to publish your availability to the potential audience. But don’t rush into it. First follow others to learn what sounds right and what sounds out of place in this new medium called social networking.

**PS: the story is half fictional, for my own literary pleasure I tend to exaggerate. However the guide is 100% true.

Curiosity Fed The Cat

Addressing younger Israeli scientists, Ada Yonath, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry said – curiosity was the key to scientific progress. “If one has curiosity, then one stands the chance of attaining a high level of scientific inquiry.”
Read more here.
I took this quote and asked my friends and colleagues on firesidelearning – the social network that’s doing conversations about education, what room is there for curiosity in the classroom.

Got some interesting replies, including a surprise visit from my 15 year old daughter, who was happy to share her view on this topic.

Ian Carmichael, from Tasmania, Australia said – “…So, in classrooms there needs to be space – and a record – for fruitful questions – and that means space for unprogrammed questions. There also needs to be space for the pursuit of those unanswered questions…” He then adds: “And if there’s no space for curiosity, fruitful questions and their pursuit, then my classrooms will contribute nothing to creativity, invention or understanding. I may have a future Nobel prizewinner pass through – but my classes will have added nothing to them.”

Mike from the US added: “For me…. CONNECTION is a key component to education vs factory schooling. It is next to impossible to connect with 140 kids a day…. that is an assembly line…. good for making cars…not being with people…”

The my daughter joined in and admitted: “Well, the truth is I like studying- I just don’t like to study at school. I’m just bored, and I think it’s hard for me to wake up in the morning not because I didn’t sleep enough, but because it happens to me too often that I sit in the classroom and think ‘what did I wake up for? staying in bed would be a better use of my time than sitting here and getting bored..’. …”

She goes on and amazes me with this: “I think of school and how we learn now, and it’s just amazing to think that what was said about education more than 2000 years ago is so true for today-Socrates thought that humans have a basic nature they are born with: curiosity. He thought it’s wrong that the education system, instead of developing and using this curiosity to teach the children, they kill this curiosity and instead of teaching they make the kids memorize, and while learning and understanding through thinking and researching will help the humanity develop, memorization is a great way for staying in one place.”

Are we staying in one place?

Following Mike’s questions she writes:  “It’s fun to ask questions and think about them, and finding the solution gives a good feeling – but after you find the answer, the only thing you can do with it is ask more questions.”

Well she refuses to stay in one place.

Ellen Pham, an elementary teacher from the US, suggests a more realistic view of this room for curiosity in the classroom, or lack of it. She writes: “…I don’t think the purpose of today’s public education is to develop large groups of free and creative thinkers. How would industry keep them in line for the menial tasks that await them? And in any system, these menial tasks have to be done by a large group of people. I think it helps the individual soul when these tasks are at least essential, and not just for making someone else profit.” And adds: “The way I see it is that realistically, in the system we have, it is up to the individual student to keep his/her curiosity alive. Parents, concerned teachers, and students can fight for more engaged and creative curriculum, but it remains an uphill swim.”

Latest input to date came from Janet Navarro, who teaches literacy education courses to pre-service teachers in Michigan and is a mother of 2 teenage boys. With an optimistic note she writes: “…I said to a friend, just the other day, that in my teacher education classes, if the only thing the students take from the class is the disposition to be curious (especially about the children they will teach) then I’ve done enough.
Bottom line, I said, it’s not really about the content I’m teaching: with curiosity, they can learn to teach children how to read strategically (it’s all in books and it’s all on the Internet). It’s about the development of a way of being in the world – the world we live in, the world we will help to create – or destroy – the world beyond the one in which we were raised, and the worlds of the children they will teach.
It’s better to be curious about whether or not you are teaching this child the things that will move him/her forward, whether or not you have the right books, strategies, tools set up for them, than to be able to pass a test on what those strategies are….
Yes – whoever coined the adage “Curiosity killed the cat” started us in the wrong direction. Maybe we could say, “Curiosity fed the cat!”…”

Oh, how I wish this cat is fat.

Facebook Therapy for Teens

I have a privilege. I am connected to so many young people, my kids age, around the world, and basically invited to peek into their lives. I am not involved. I dare not speak. But I look and listen and try to grasp their reality. I have an opportunity my parents never had.

So, first of all, I am flattered, of being trusted enough. Now comes the observation. What are they talking about? What is the mood? What impresses them or occupies them? How much of their social life is managed online, and how much is offline?

And when I am looking for the answer to this question, I wonder about the difference between online and offline socializing. What does online give, that offline can’t (there’s been enough talk about the other way around…).

There has been so much criticism about the online social life. About kids clinging to their facebook-myspace pages for hours a day. Fears regarding net-safety and cyber bullying. Scares about the re-wiring of these young brains. Talks about their physical shape, changed by the growing number of sitting hours that they spend each day.

But I would like to point out some really great things that the online socializing does and might be overlooked.

I don’t know if anyone ever bothered to run a statistics about the percentage of teens who kept a diary or expressed themselves in various forms of writing 10 or 20 years ago. But I do know they percentage of teens who do it nowadays is extremely high. According to a recent publication from PewInternet.org 93% of teens ages 12-17 use the Internet. 64% of teens are content creators. Writers.

What does it mean? And why is it of significance? I am thinking writing and biblio-therapy here. Venting.

I remember what it was to be a teen. Flooded with extreme emotions. Living a daily drama. Struggling to gain my independence, discover and re-shape my self. Wanting to do well at my studies, yet stay alive socially. I used to write a diary. I also wrote hundreds of poems. That was my way of venting. However, I didn’t have too many sharing options, and at times, the feeling you are alone, was the toughest. This sort of writing was more “for the drawer”. Looking at my kids I see something else.

What social networks give them is the opportunity for a natural support group. The discovery that they are not alone. This is a great social achievement.

So once we take a break from criticizing teens’ “inappropriate” online behavior, let’s talk about the cultivation of a new type of teen empathy. It might be difficult for them to note in the classroom that one of the students is ‘depressed’, but once he wrote it on his FaceBook status it generates a flood of comments. Suddenly the depressed is not alone, they “joined a club”. There is a kind of comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. That’s the start of therapy.
fbdperssd1
So I am watching with wonder and see the budding of empathy, caring, humor and intellect of the next generation. I am also seeing how different this blossom is, from any previous generations.

Kids Out of the Box

During the Purim school vacation I drove my 11 year old son with his classmate to the yearly conference of StartupSeeds. On the way the two boys spoke of their creative ideas, using phrases like “thinking out of the box” and giving a new meaning to fun.

I liked it. I like their creativeness, their openness and their ambition. The conference hosted some 80 kids or more. Formally it is directed at kids ages 13 and up, but there are individual cases where it appeals to younger kids too. The warmest part of the event for me was meeting Oz Ben-Hamo and Andrey Boukaty, two 17 year old kids, who started the http://joinmylife.co.il/en/ project during the last Gaza war. Their aim was to explain to the world what kind of life are the kids from southern Israel forced to live. I “met” them online, through facebook conenctions and gladly helped them translate texts and posts to English. The blog is still alive, though the frequency of posts declined and not all posts are translated to English.

One other story that came out of StartupSeeds and made headlines on the same week was the story of Yuval Shoshan, a 12th grader, who made his first ‘exit’. He started his web venture at the age of 14.5. He received mentoring through StartupSeeds from Yaniv Golan, one of the founders of Yedda, which was sold to AOL. Yuval’s venture is a rating site – www.opinion.co.il – allowing users to rate books, music, movies, blogs and restaurants. Users can sort opinions according to genres and rate the raters and the ratings. Shoshan sold the venture, among other things, because in a short while he will have to go into the mandatory military service for 3 years.

StartupSeeds is doing a great work, obviously. I just wish there was a growing awareness of the need to educate for entrepreneurship. Some kids have it like a natural gift, others need to learn it. But entrepreneurship is a must skill for life.

Two ideas at the cost of one

March broke of with a set of terrible storms. Winds, rain and very cold for this area. It went down to 9c degrees. I didn’t feel like going out at all. But on Monday having pre registered to attend the ISOC and GamesIS convention I have decided to ignore the storm and just do it.

And a good thing I did. Heard some interesting talks. Met interesting people. Some were contacts I have been meaning to meet for a chat for a very long time. So finally we had the chance to do it.

I met a colleague who asked me why I came. I said I like these events because they usually get the wheels going. It’s always a push, no matter where you are. He was surprised. In his view this was too much an official venue. You need some letting go, some nonsense atmosphere, don’t you?

Well, apparently, I don’t. Not that I mind doing the unofficial events too, but I was really happy when at the end of the day I knew I had a new idea for a startup, and I also knew what is the next step on my current startup idea.

Of course, this has some good sides and some bad sides. I almost dared to think that perhaps I should avoid such inspiring events so that I don’t get distracted and can keep on my track, my current startup idea. Why did I have to get this diversion now? I was almost sorry.

But then, having a new idea is exciting. So you can’t stay “sorry” for very long.

So, now what?

Beware the Social Networks!

About 12 hours ago “The Mail Online” has published an article titled: “Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist“.

The top neuroscientist quoted is Lady Susan Greenfield. She is an amazing 59 year old woman and a specialist on the physiology of the brain, a professor at the department of pharmacology at Oxford university in the UK.  A serious, serious academic.

I am dedicating this post to her achievements and to the Ada Lovelace day, and to this pledge.

I had to read the article several times to try and understand what she is saying. After all, she is a top neuroscientist. You can’t simply dismiss what she says. Being a mother of 3 children – I want to know.

I am already poisoning my kids with un-organic food, we live in a polluted city, there are cellular antennas in the neighborhood, not to mention their personal mobile phones. Am I doing some more damage to their brains by letting them have a Facebook account??

Anxiously I was looking for scientific hints in the article. The research conducted… the methods and subjects… anything to learn a little more. But the most scientific reference I found was: she “believes repeated exposure could effectively ‘rewire’ the brain”.

OK.

The article quotes her saying “Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centered” and then adds the quote “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”

Last month, the same lady, who is a member of the house of lords said “I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues…, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf,” arguing that exposure to computer games, instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites “could leave a generation with poor attention spans”.

Well, hello and welcome to E V O L U T I O N.

Indeed not all evolutions do well for the specie. Think Mammoth for instance. Perhaps we are doomed.

But, does this mean we have to exclude all new media and stick with the old ways? Is preserving the current wiring of the brain more important than developing and arriving at new, yet unknown, places?

Here is something to think of. My 9th grader told me about her new History text book. Text books are rarely noted or gaining any sort of comment from a teenager. But she actually pointed out that this is a rather good book to study from. The book’s uniqueness is by adding several different fields of information into each page. Allowing the students to follow the main text while absorbing other types of information, some are minor others are accented.

When I encountered this fantastic presentation by Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins – things fit. I already wrote about it here.

I am not a scientist. But I believe that Lady Susan Greenfield is right. The young brains do go through some re-wiring. Sarah Robbins is right too. Students today are capable of handling a lot more information then students in the past. Call it “poor attention spans” if you like. I actually think it’s rich attention span.

I know that my Kids find it easier to absorb and process several sensory and information sources at once. They are certainly more successful at it than most adults I know and I believe they are better at it then I was as a student. Excuse me for not crediting social networking or penguin club with these achievements. I give most of the credit to the environment they are growing into and the future they are naturally preparing for.

Some of the many comments made to the article on “The Mail” try to dismiss everything as an oldie attacking the younger generation. Which makes you wonder really, about how society related to various media changes in the past century, or better yet – from print, through phones, to mass and digital media.

Still one question remains: can we really fight it, or should we find a way to use it to society’s advantage?

A Global Game Jam

It was the first time I joined The Global Game Jam and a new discovery for me.
The first discovery was that of the location. It was my first visit to “The Garage”. Literally a garage, located in an old building, among other garages and storage rooms. Oil and tools, peeling walls, and rusty metal gates. The Garage must be one of the most famous locations among the Israeli Hi Tech industry in the last several years. A group established around it, “The Garage Geeks“, has been hosting various hi-tech events there.

I didn’t verify statistics, but we were told that our Israeli Game-Jam group was one of the largest groups. We had close to 60 participants. Unfortunately, less than 10% female presence, though.

The garage was packed when I arrived Friday morning. People brought folding tables inside, so they will have a proper sitting area, and it was so crowded we could hardly move between the tables. Seems like most of the people knew each other, or at least there were groups of people who know each other. Yuval Sapir who organized it with people from the Israeli chapter of IGDA like Oded Sharon and the Garage people like Rafael Mizrahi,  spoke on behalf of the Global Game Jam and ran their introduction including the constraints and guideline for the creation of games. That’s when the wheels started to move and people began pouring their game ideas.

This creative session was one of the best parts of the game jam. Game developers can be technical people, programmers, or writers – narrators, graphic designer, or animators, not to mention music composers. Some see games through numbers or command lines, some through words, there are those who visualize games and those who can hear them. It is a multi-disciplinary industry, which makes a creative session incredibly interesting. Ideas started to shoot and people contributed each with their own view-point to all game ideas. For the next 36 hours people formed groups and started to work on their games. Some members contributed to more than one group. Seems like graphic designers were needed the most and programmers also exchanged information and helped each other. Narration was less needed for these 5 minute games.

On the second day, games were already taking form and sound. By the evening of this day uploads started. The Israeli session had to cut in shorter than others, as by Sunday most participants have to go back to work.
ggj
The Israeli Game Development industry grows steadily over the last few years. Several years ago one of the colleges opened a program for certificate in Game Development. IGDA, the International Game Developers Association has an active chapter in Israel, and people are trying to create collaborations with the international game developers’ community through various channels. However, Israel does not stand out in the global community. Here, it is still considered to be a developing industry. Venture investments in games in Israel if made, concentrate on supporting technology, and not content. Successful Israeli game developers who “made it”, had to make it in the US, with companies like Oberon Media and Impact Games.

The global digital games industry is growing steadily for years now. It’s one of the very few economic segments that are, more or less, recession-proof.
Games supply the most accessible and one of the cheapest channels of entertainment. With more people at home and less money to spend, experts predict a change in the industry, but certainly not a fall like in other industries. Some even predict a positive impact in the coming year.

So here we have a young industry, with lots of room to grow to, with good timing, relatively to other industries, yet, no interested investors. Game developers I spoke with suspect this lack on interest by potential investors may be due to their lack of understanding in the industry, others seem to think that even the well-known-risk-investors are looking for safe harbors nowadays, not to mention quick return on their investments. Not all games are that quick. So Israeli game developers are forced to look for investments abroad. Placing a question mark over the future of this industry in Israel .

The LinkedIn Connection

At the beginning, there was LinkedIn. One of the first social networks. One of the first business social networks. Definitely my first social network.

While the idea of networking was made quite clear by LinkedIn right from the beginning, it didn’t feel like much of a social tool. Everything was so still. It wasn’t until the dynamics of Facebook took over, that the LinkedIn people started to evolve.

So after expanding my business social network greatly through Facebook and Meetup, crowning the Ning networks as best sources for what I needed, ignoring the not very useful (for me) Xing, looking down at the snobs’ network ASW which won’t endorse socializing, toying a little with Twitter and trying to figure out why Pulse, I came back to LinkedIn.

Inch by inch they adopt more and more ideas from Facebook. One of the best adoptions – the groups. Early on I established the “Israel Hi-Tech Entrepreneurs Wherever” group and it’s got some really interesting members now, all willing to share their experience in establishing hi-tech global companies, being Israeli, here or there.

Unlike Ning, where every group sharing an interest is a totally separate network, with different site structure and members, here, on LinkedIn, all the groups do belong to one big network – the LinkedIn. All groups look the same, and surprisingly, the fact that they are not personalized (other than the group’s logo) actually helps to manage with several groups:
All relevant messages go into the same LinkedIn inbox. It’s on the same site that I can find pretty comprehensive and relevant information about the people who contribute from their knowledge to the groups’ discussions.

The best thing, really, is the ability to connect with total strangers not for the sake of creating the Guinness-Book-Of-Records longest contacts list, but for real relevant professional exchange of information, knowledge and expert opinions.

So I joined a couple of new groups, got replies to really important questions, and found some new friends from really ‘exotic’ countries, whom I never could have found had it not been for this groups method.

(More about my new found friends will follow)

New year, new hopes and wishes

The Hebrew year 5769 has just begun. With it began a new and a crucial year in the life of the kids4kids venture I am leading.
Kids4kids is the temporary name I had given to the network I established on ning. Its purpose is to connect kids from all over the world to help each other complete their homework assignments in a fun way, a networking way.

So what are my wishes for the New Year?
That it will be a year of networking happiness and knowledge. It will be a year for growth and achievements. This will be a year for new global friendships.

The Best Networking Startup Competition

Am I in the right neighborhood, or what? I know all startups who won the TWS2008 Promising Israeli Startups Competition, held yesterday by “the.co.ils“.   I feel very “in”, to find out I am networked with the selected.

All 10 finalists have been networking intensively and efficiently. You’ve seen the people or the company at every relevant event, on or offline. As all companies are web related, the web, especially the web 2.0 tools, are the main channel of promotion and an essential ingredient in the company’s strategy.

So let me show off and present a partial summary of my networking with these great companies :

Worklight – the natural connection is the Founder and CEO, Shahar Kaminitz. He has one of the best blogs I am following. I met him at his offices about a year ago, learned about his startup strategy and management perception, and understood at once the meaning of investment in people. Shahar, of course, has a distinctive presence on Facebook and Linkedin. Hadn’t seen him in many events though. Worklight is well covered by all web media and was featured on the 2007 Demo in the US. (It was called serendipity at the time).

Nuconomy and Yosi Taguri. I am not sure which is more familiar. Yosi lives and breaths the web. Nuconomy, based in Tel-Aviv and San-Francisco, already got coverage at TechCrunch, ZDNet, Crunchbase, Venturebeat, Readwriteweb, SiliconAlleyInsider, Ynet and many many more. The company was chosen to take part in the IsraelWebTour held last February in the Silicon Valley. Yosi is a compelling web-celeb. He always seems to me like having a blast-in-and-out of parties kind of guy. We met on several occasions including the Eurekamp, a fun get together for the finest web minds in Israel, organized by Roostam Tiger. At every web/industry/entrepreneurs related event I participated I met him: From Meetups to Jeff Pulver’s events, to MashBash and more. One of the promoting agents working for him is the light, humoristic, web-tv program he started to make with Lior Zoref from Microsoft on December 2007. Titled “experimental broadcasts” (Shidurei HaNissayon) it talks about industry news and, well, who doesn’t want to be in these news? Needless to say Yosi can be found in most social networks and is twittering vigorously.

Mo’minis and Aviv Revach can be found almost at every event Taguri is attending. Great minds think alike, don’t they? I first met the very tall Aviv Revach at the Tel-Aviv-Yafo Entrepreneurs Meetup Group I organized. Then we kept meeting at the same events: the Pulver breakfasts, conventions, MashBash, and so on. I was flattered to be invited to his birthday party! Aviv is a warm and smiling guy. His height gives him an advantage, as there is no way he will attend an event and won’ be noticed. Needless to say we are connected on facebook and linkedin and probably several more networks. He and Mo’minis, his company, have great coverage in all blogs that count.

WIX ‘s CEO, Allon Bloch was interviewed on several blogs just recently. Among them VCAFE and TechAddress, CenterNetworks, TechCrunch sited VCafe, even on empowerwomennow.com the company has received coverage and at least 90 more blogs wrote about the WIX offering only in the past 2-3 months. But let’s socialize: Allon Bloch is a member of linkedin, of course. I found him in the NY Israeli Entrepreneurs Meetup Group. On facebook too. The mutual contact is Amit Knaani, who is a product manager at wix. Amit and I connected on thecoils, and our paths have crossed on many networks and events since. We’ve been net-friends by public exchange of views and opinions, experiences and mutual friends, without ever having a proper meeting.

Qoof, located in Bet-Shemesh and Manhattan, was founded by Richard Kligman. I first “met” him online when he requested to join my Linkedin group “Israeli Hi-tech Entrepreneurs Wherever” last March. The company was founded nearly two years earlier. I got to see the people in the flesh at the MashBash event in Tel-Aviv last month.

Dapper is one more fantastic winner. They probably spend some effort on SEO to be first on a 9 million Google results for the word dapper. Eran Shir, CEO, has co-founded the company with Jon Aizen, CTO at the end of 2005. Both have nice presence on Facebook and linkedin. Jon Aizen joined my linkedin group last February. Shir hasn’t made contact, yet.

Kaltura is located in New-York. It was founded about two years ago by Ron Yekutiel, Shay David and more. All have nice presence in social networks. Shay is a member of the NY Israeli Entrepreneurs Meetup of which I am also a member (you never know…). His call for voting from December 2007 is still posted on the message board of our group.

I could go on to unveil the roots of connections to HiveSight, Mocospace and WikiAnswers, but I think I have made my point: None of the winners of the TWS2008 were new to me. And that’s good news to these companies (and to me). These guys network! And networking is one major task on the CEO/Founder’s desk today. Can’t lead if you can’t network.

Congratulations!

networking

The lone consultant

Being a consultant can sometimes be really, really lonely. And this is true even on the busiest days.

As I write this I am sitting in my office, at home. A small fridge is tempting me, but I can stay glued to my chair for hours, unless I have meetings outside. I got back to work today. Obviously, a busy day. I had one early meeting out of the office, many phone calls to return, email messages and social networks I need to keep alive. All this while I need to complete another proposal and finalize another project. Had to create a small power point. Update an excel sheet….

Just before 14:00 my 10 year old got back from school. This was an opportunity to see another human face and also have lunch. I don’t always use this opportunity. Sometimes the 16:00 deadline, when I need to go pick up my youngest from the nursery school, is too intimidating and I use every last minute I have in my study. Sometimes, I continue even after I get the kid home, when he is only too happy to play peacefully in his room.

It’s not an easy thing, to be a sole consultant. It has some advantages, like: No traffic to the office. No office politics. I run my own timetable – and can be flexible when necessary. I don’t have to take every project landing on my table. I can say “no”.

But there are faults too, like: there is no “work day” or “work hours” or “office time”. The office is at home so there is no escape and no real method to disconnect for hours. Without colleagues, partners or help – availability is a requirement. And without a boss that defines deadlines or demands or a company framework – I need to create the structure by myself and the motivation. I feel especially lonely when I need someone to brainstorm with.

So I thought of various options for strategic alliances. My services can complement those of graphic studios who offer visual branding, various web services companies who offer anything from site development to SEO and web marketing. I can join hands with advertising companies or PR firms as well as other consultants.

But then I found out that Israel isn’t a place for real collaboration. It seems every man fends for himself. Some do not want to encourage cooperation because they fear their alliance may turn out to be a competitor. Some find it a difficult sale: It’s hard enough to convince a client of your own value, why should I bother with someone else’s value? The fact that the joint value may actually be a lot higher is often ignored.

I still think that alliance is the way to go. This is one of the reasons for my vigorous networking. I need someone to talk to, to brainstorm with, and to throw my ideas at. I need someone who will keep me alert and laughing and provide that social and professional camaraderie that will maintain my sanity as a consultant.

There is also one other need. I discovered that I really don’t like the sale process. The whole bonding-presenting-proposal-closing circle is not it for me. However I am in love with the project process. I love every minute of analysis, decrypting the correct strategy, finding the name, the answer, the solution, creating a new business directions. I love it!

Clearly, to succeed, my consulting business would need to align with a professional who can complement my skills. Be the sales mensch, while I get into the details, and still be a partner enough to brainstorm with. But where can I find such a partner and how can I know if this can really make a fine partnership?

Can the network do it? Peace on Earth?

I recently joined a social network called mepeace.org. This network, built on my favorite NING platform, suggests a platform for peace making in the Middle East. Let’s start by communicating, says Eyal Raviv, a relatively new immigrant from New-York and a former Yeshiva student who established this network about a year ago. The network now has 843 registered members to date and a nice regular rate of page hits a day.

Communicating is indeed one of the key factors of peace making. Without it there is no way for one party to understand the hopes, fears and constraints of the other side, both of which form the agreement environment.

Peace is a good, solid agenda. Not to mention sexy. In fact, world peace, and the Middle-East peace specifically, are so attractive that there are about a million web sites who offer various platforms for connecting Israelis, Palestinians and others for an open dialogue of some sort or method, aimed at reaching understanding or cooperation, which will lead to a peace agreement. Some of the sites offer online conversations while others only raise money and awareness online, but manage the dialogues in conferences, lunches and events, preferably further away from Sderot or Gaza.

Here are some examples randomly picked from the Google search results:

“The Middle East Peace Dialogue Network Inc” is a company founded by Richard C. Goodwin who was born in Philadelphia and lives in Snowmass Village, Colorado. His business is building, but he founded the organization, that according to their site  supports over 65 Israeli and Palestinian groups to promote peace.

“Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” is another Pennsylvania based organization with an interesting board of directors.

The Carter Center offers “conflict resolution” programs all over the world, including the Middle East. “One Voice” is an organization offering a little more content online. You can read about it here . Unlike other organizations they state: we are not a dialogue group. We are action oriented.

“Search For Common Grounds” was established in 1982 and aims at various conflicts resolution around the world. They have an office in Jerusalem. They have been active in the area from 1991 and increased their actions since 2000, especially through development of independent media solutions. Read here.

Facebook offers hundreds of groups dedicated to peace making in the Middle East. Some link to other sites like the pro-pro-pro group, with its 1739 members linking to http://www.btvshalom.org/, an organization with chapters in America, but not in the Middle East. Some are simpler groups like “This group supports peace between Israel and Palestine” with its discussion board open for its 850 members. There are groups who have thousands, tens of thousands and even more than 177 thousand members, all using the peace as an anchor.

Other groups who use peace as their key words are the hate groups. When you search Facebook for peace related groups you encounter many of those. No dialogue invitation there. A one sided collection of hate declarations and calls for violence, killing and destruction – and that’s it. The amount of hate promoted on Facebook questions this specific medium as a peace promoting environment.

Back to Mepeace. On their homepage you can find a calendar of peace related events in Israel, Palestine and the US. Following is the list of forum discussions started by members, called here “peacemakers”, who try to keep an optimistic air, in spite of difficult events that take place daily.

mepeace homepage

Of the recent forum discussions I especially like that little bit naïve, but so straight forward discussion  started by Marwa Yassine. She is a 22 year old student from Canada, who was born in Iraq, raised in Lebanon, never was in Israel or Palestine, and yet has a complete Palestinian identity based on the fact that her grandparents used to live in Haifa. This open communications, revealing thoughts and feelings of “the other side” does reach. I am not a political person. Can’t define a specific line of views. But communicating with Marwa and her friends makes a point: It’s time the Israeli and Jewish recognize the “Palestinian Zionism”. It’s exactly the same emotion that brought my ancestors from Poland, Russia and Germany to Israel at the beginning of the 20th century, after 20 centuries of exile. It doesn’t go away.

The big question is, can web 2.0  really contribute to advance a solution? Or are we aiming at web 21?

Never take a candy from a stranger!

Isn’t this the first lesson a parent gives his kids? I was reminded of it earlier, as I watched the Frontline show “Growing Up Online“, thanks to a post by Steve Hagardon.

If someone had asked me, I’d have to admit that I more easily identify with teens on the story than with the parents we’ve seen. I sometimes feel torn between the parental obligation and the general tendency to get involved and have my say, and the very strong knowledge that you can’t go on controlling your offspring’s lives. You must allow them to find their own way, operate their wits, develop their street wisdom. And my oldest isn’t even 14.

In my view, one of the most important facts this story revealed was, that teenagers are net-savvy not only technically. They know not to take a candy off a stranger. Some teens there say: “well, if a new network friend suddenly asks me where I live – I’m going to shut him off. What business is it of a stranger to know where I live?”.

Cyber safety is one of the main obstacles standing on the way of technology, mainly web, to education. Both parents and teachers are concerned about child safety on the internet. But researches quoted on that story claim that kids today are a lot net-smarter and won’t fall that easily. Unless they want to. That’s a different story.

The other fear delaying technology in education is of the net-savvyness of the students as opposed to their teachers and parents. While I watched the interviews with the teachers on the Frontline show I realized a whole generation (or two) of teachers may find themselves outdated if they don’t adjust to the new world, and fast. Let me stress that this is not an age thing. Teachers who want to teach will learn to use every tool that allows them to better communicate with their students. Some teachers want to teach but cannot grasp technology. They can be the best teachers in history, but without the means to communicate with their students, they won’t achieve the same title in the future.

In the meantime, the evolution in education is supplying us with technology VS. technology with solution like plagiarism.org and the turnitin.com. Some teachers simply ask their students to go back to pen and paper “technology” with their projects. And Sparknotes? Well, on the bright side, students can now be exposed to a lot more literature, if they can finish off Romeo and Juliet in an hour or two.

The Evolution of (my) networking

As early as 1996 I downloaded and installed ICQ on my PC. Got a 6 digits user ID, and am pretty proud of it. This was my debut at the online networking experience. This was the debut of the online networking. That was the beginning of transferring real life relationship onto the World Wide Web platform. We invited our friends to download and register and slowly added to our list of contacts. Some were colleagues, some were friends or family. In a collectors trans we sometimes added people with whom we wouldn’t have necessarily kept in touch without this little client.

 

About two months ago I have decided to catch up on my online networking. I dedicated a complete working week to joining or updating my profile on: Facebook, Xing, Ning with several relevant sub-networks, Spoke and Spock, Friendster (joined and left), A small world, 2 Yahoo groups, several Facebook groups, 3 Meetup groups, Plaxo pulse, and even Bitwine and Kasamba.

 

It took precedence over the long due update of my business web site. Actually, last week, I worked on the creation of my blog, which also seemed a more valuable event for my business networking than the update of the official business web site.

 

This is a strange, yet a refreshing trend, bringing more reality into the virtual. It seems that there is a better chance of my potential client encountering my profile on Facebook and reading my blog, than of any potential client locating me through relevant key words on Google and going into my official web site before checking out the rest.

I mean, I check my potential clients too. I google them then I try to look for them on any available social network to see what they are saying about themselves, and more importantly – who are they connected with. If they have more than 300 contacts on any single network, they are classified as “contacts collectors” and that list is rendered totally insignificant to estimate who this person is. Unfortunately, some people will reduce the significance of my network if I am connected to a 300+ contacts-collectors…

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