Sitting Down with Steve Blank: Entrepreneurship in Philanthropy


(l to r) Steve Blank and Jeff Richard

Silicon Valley knows Steve Blank as a serial entrepreneur who has launched eight startups and as the creator of the Lean Startup movement. His books The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owner’s Manual have emerged as required reading for anyone launching a startup.

In other words, Steve is one of the country’s top experts on entrepreneurship. This is why I was so honored to have sat down with him recently on his SiriusXM radio program to talk about ways to bring the ethos of entrepreneurship to our work in philanthropy.

Throughout my career as a development professional, I’ve always strived to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to my work. Just like in business, when it comes to philanthropy, you must be willing to take risks, think differently, and dream big. Leaders must have a vision for moving the organization forward so that colleagues and staff can rally behind it. You don’t need all the answers because entrepreneurs don’t do things alone — whether they are working in the social or business sector — they need to create an atmosphere where everyone has a voice and everyone shares a common purpose.

Thus, effective development in philanthropy at its core is the same as effective entrepreneurship in the private sector: it’s about understanding your product and your audience in a deep way, developing a vision, and getting others to believe in that vision.


I am grateful to be surrounded by entrepreneurs as the Technion’s development partner in America. Israel is the start-up nation and the Technion is the beating heart of Israel’s high-tech economy. I get to experience the relentless drive and unique vision of each individual who works or learns at the Technion, as they advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

It is no coincidence that education receives the most support of any philanthropic cause, after religion. Recently, a Trust USA study on high net worth individuals found that 75 percent of donors give to higher education, more than half consider education their most important policy issue, and they give more to education dollar-by-dollar than any other cause.

The Technion provides a compelling example for this philosophy of giving. During the interview, Steve said to me, “This university in Haifa has a lot of reach.” It sure does. We reach across oceans and continents through our research and our alumni, and now through our campuses. We are the first Israeli university with foreign campuses and the first foreign university to offer degrees on American soil. The university is building new partnerships and important bridges for Israel all over the world, from New York to China.

When I told my parents that I was going to be a professional fundraiser—they said, “We taught you to give away money, not to ask for it!” I’m not just asking people to give away money, I’m asking people to share a vision for something better. I’m asking them to help us do good. I’m asking them to invest. I’m asking them to be a part of a powerful and effective way to improve the lives of people around the world.

If you’d like to hear more about entrepreneurship in the philanthropic world, listen to my full interview on “Entrepreneurs are Everywhere” with Steve Blank here.

Celebrating America’s First Technion Graduates

I am proud to share with you that earlier this week I contributed an article to The Times of Israel about Celebrating America’s First Technion Graduates.

This has been quite a historic moment as the inaugural class graduated from the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute.

If the past is any predictor of the future, Technion graduates in America will make a transformative impact, leveraging the unique skills and mindset of a Technion education. These innovators will join the ranks of others who have made cutting-edge drugs to fight cancer, and invented new ways to store and move data, which undergirds today’s tech revolution.

Read my full article posted on The Times of Israel
and please share it with your family, friends and network.



Zuckerman Scholars Program Promises to Transform Israel’s Science Landscape

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(l to r) Jeff Richard, ATS Executive VP; Boaz Golany, Technion VP for External Relations and Resource Development; and Mort Zuckerman

Fulbright. Rhodes. Marshall. These programs represent the pinnacle of achievement for young scholars, and have long served as a launching pad for many of the world’s greatest leaders and brightest thinkers. Late last month, I was proud to be present at a major ceremony in New York City as a new name was added to this prestigious international group – the Zuckerman Scholars Program – which will put Israel on the map in unprecedented ways for the most talented, up-and-coming American researchers.

The program is the brainchild of Mortimer Zuckerman – a renowned business leader and visionary philanthropist – who announced a commitment of more than $100 million to support scholarships for the highest-achieving American postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects. They will conduct research at four Israeli institutions: Technion, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute of Science. The program will simultaneously bolster Israeli institutions as world-class centers for research, providing significant funding to recruit Israelis doing research in the U.S. back to the faculties of the four universities, and to develop top-tier labs, projects and programs.

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Mort Zuckerman addresses the capacity crowd at the Harvard Club.

“Who knows what might emerge next from the unpredictable meeting of minds between Tel Aviv and New York, between Haifa and Harvard, between Yiddish and Yale?” asked Mr. Zuckerman at the ceremony unveiling the program – which was attended by a range of dignitaries, among them New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Technion President Peretz Lavie and other Israeli university presidents, Nobel Prize laureates, and a range of leaders from business, technology, politics, academia and the arts.

Sitting in the audience, I felt a surge of pride knowing the integral role that the Technion will play in bringing together these great minds to actualize the bold vision of this program in the coming decades. And I couldn’t help but imagine the range of discoveries – and millions of lives that will be changed – as a result.

Limited by funding, Israeli universities have long struggled to compete for the top postdocs from Western countries, particularly the U.S. This major influx of resources will level the playing field. The Zuckerman Scholars Program will enable the Technion to attract more postdocs like Dr. Beth Schoen, a native of Florida, who is now working with a joint team of Israeli and American cancer researchers. Last year, her team discovered a new way to use silicon nanomaterials and stem cells to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancerous tumors, avoiding harm to the surrounding healthy tissues.

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(l to r) Technion President Peretz Lavie and Jeff Richard

The program will also help the Technion and other Israeli institutions attract the best and brightest Israeli faculty, who are often lost to universities abroad. It will sponsor cutting-edge labs and funds for research to support the work of professors like Moran Bercovici in the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, who made the decision to come back to Israel after completing his doctorate at Stanford in large part because of the Technion’s state-of-the-art facilities. He is now developing next generation medical tools that could provide instant disease diagnoses, and revolutionize the way malaria and tuberculosis are detected and treated in developing countries.

The Technion has long been at the center of Israel’s emergence as a global research powerhouse. It is a focal point for the country’s most significant international research collaborations and has been the first to export Israel’s uniquely effective formula for higher education, opening satellite campuses at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in New York City ,and at the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Shantou, China. Last month’s announcement will accelerate this progress.

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(l to r) New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo; Prof. Daniel Zajfman, Weizmann Institute of Science; Prof. Menachem Ben Sasson, Hebrew University President; Mort Zuckerman; Prof. Peretz Lavie, Technion President; and Prof. Joseph Klafter, Tel Aviv University President

The relationships forged between American postdocs and their Israeli colleagues will continue throughout their careers, fostering a new network of collaboration, enriching the scientific communities of both countries, and strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance.

We do not yet know exactly what groundbreaking research and life-changing solutions will result from this exciting new partnership between the brightest minds in our two countries. How many innovative treatments for cancer will be developed? What advances in clean-tech will help to address global warming? What new technologies will be created to spawn new companies and new industries?

Only time will tell. Yet, one thing is clear to me: supporting Israel’s rapid rise as an international hub for science and technology is an investment that will yield benefits that extend far beyond the Jewish state to all corners of the world.

For even more about the Zuckerman Scholars Program: Read the full press release about the announcement, view event photos, and join the conversation online using the hashtag #ZuckermanScholars.

The Technion Breaks Ground in China

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(l to r) Technion President Peretz Lavie; People’s Republic of China (PRC) Vice Minister of Science and Technology Cao Jianlin; Israel Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis; Governor of Guangdong Zhu Xiaodan; former Israeli President Shimon Peres; Secretary of the CCP Guangdong Province Committee Hu Chunhua; Chairman of Li Ka Shing Foundation Mr. Li Ka-shing; PRC Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping

When one of the most prominent philanthropists in the world’s largest country wants to transform his hometown, where does he look? Thousands of miles away to a small Start-up Nation and a world-renowned university with a quickly growing global reputation for innovation and excellence. In other words, the Technion.

Last month, I had the privilege of seeing this remarkable story unfold up close as I joined lay leaders and senior staff of the American Technion Society on a delegation to Shantou, China for the groundbreaking of the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT). A partnership between the Technion and Shantou University, the GTIIT will be the first campus of an Israeli university on Chinese soil. It is scheduled for completion in 2017, with enrollment slated to begin next year.

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(l to r) Frank Sixt, Group Finance Director and Deputy Managing Director of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.; Larry Jackier, Chairman of the Technion Board of Governors; Ofir Akunis, Israel Minister of Science, Technology and Space; Eleanor Jackier; Jeff Richard and Peretz Lavie, Technion President

The GTIIT would not have been possible without a visionary like Li Ka-shing, who is one of the world’s most successful businessmen and generous philanthropists. His philanthropic work demonstrates the potential of a single person to change many millions of lives – from children with cleft palates and disabilities in China, to earthquake survivors in Nepal, to cancer patients in America.

Seeking a partner institution of higher education to develop a world-class research university in the Guangdong province, Mr. Li chose the Technion.

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A rendering of the GTIIT campus. Photo credit: Guangdong Nan Ya Construction Engineering Design Co. and Mochly-Eldar Architects

Like many others around the world – including the City of New York, home of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech – China’s leaders are now actively looking to build strategic partnerships with Israel. They see how the country has become a powerhouse of science and technology, attracting more venture capital and launching more startups per capita than anywhere else on the planet. There is no doubt that Israeli educational institutions – the Technion in particular, which Mr. Li described as “Israel’s greatest treasure” during his remarks at the groundbreaking – are at the center of this success.


Former Israeli President Shimon Peres

After more than two decades of extraordinary growth driven by industrialization, China’s leaders recognize that developing human capital is key to their country’s continued economic expansion. GTIIT’s three academic departments – engineering, physical sciences, and life sciences – will equip graduates with the powerful knowledge and knack for out-of-the-box thinking that comes with a Technion education. This investment in the Chinese people will spawn new companies and drive economic activity in Guangdong, while advancing solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing the country – from reducing air pollution, to developing alternative energy sources, to addressing health crises like cancer and lung disease.

The groundbreaking at GTIIT also represents an important step forward in the development of Israel-Chinese ties. On hand to mark the moment was former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who established official diplomatic relations with China as Foreign Minister in 1992. He spoke about the vast potential in the emerging relationship between the two countries.

As Technion President Peretz Lavie said during the groundbreaking, combining Israel’s innovative spirit with China’s scale and resources will produce a powerful partnership. The new institute’s Chinese faculty will spend their first year at the Technion campus in Haifa, where they will develop classroom materials and launch new research collaborations with their Israeli counterparts. GTIIT will also provide a strong basis for business collaboration, including plans to build the China-Israel Innovation Industrial Park in Shantou.

The GTIIT will also yield benefits that ripple far beyond both countries and extend to all of mankind. Science is not a solo sport. Bringing together the most talented researchers in Israel and China will advance progress on challenges from fighting cancer to developing clean energy technologies that could change the way we live.

In so many ways, the great promise of the GTIIT brings to life the truly transformative power of philanthropy. Our whole delegation came home incredibly proud of our organization’s many decades of support for the Technion, which provided a crucial foundation for the university to grow into the world-class institution it is today – and attract investments and partnerships with visionaries like Li Ka-shing. Together, we will continue to strengthen the foundation of science that propels the Technion – and Israel – to the forefront of the global stage, offering light to nations everywhere.

This Hannukah, Let’s Tell the Technion’s Story Across America

It’s undeniable. The Technion is driving transformative change well beyond Israel. More than ever before, the university’s impact is being felt and seen here in America. This Hannukah, as we gather to bask in the glow of friends, family, and menorahs, I invite you to take a moment to consider – and if you are so inclined, to share with others – how the Technion is serving as a light all over the world.

Take cancer, which claims the lives of one in every five Americans. At the Technion’s Integrative Cancer Center — led by visionaries Nobel Laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover and Dr. Ze’ev Ronai — an unparalleled approach to multidisciplinary research is uncovering revolutionary treatments for this deadly disease.

Researchers in disciplines from computer science to chemistry, from biology to industrial engineering are working together in this Center, harnessing the tools of human knowledge to push the boundaries of medicine. For instance, in the lab of Professor Ester Segal, researchers have discovered a way to use silicon nanomaterials to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancerous tumors, with less damage to the surrounding tissue.

Like Professor Segal, many Technion experts are showing the world that the biggest scientific discoveries of our time are likely to come from the smallest of places. The Technion’s Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute is pushing the boundaries of quantum science, providing new insight into the most minute particles in our universe. This research holds vast potential to revolutionize fields from communications, to medicine, to security.

Yet, it’s not only in labs where the Technion is driving the development of solutions. This clear truth was on display in Washington, D.C. in late October, as we gathered for the American Technion Society’s Presidential Forum, where Technion alumni shared their stories about their products, patents and companies that are shaking up fields from pharmaceuticals to fashion.

I came away from the presentation of Yael Vizel — an alumna and former IDF Air Force officer who founded the startup Zeekit — feeling like I’d just watched the Jetsons go shopping. Her company has developed image-processing technology that allows online shoppers try on clothing “virtually,” using an avatar of their bodies on screen.

In the medical device space, companies founded by Technion alumni have saved thousands of lives by turning conventional wisdom upside down. For instance, Dr. Eitan Konstantino, the CEO of QT Vascular, shared with us how his companies – which hold more than 50 patents – have reinvented approaches employed by cardiologists for more than four decades. His company’s medical devices have been used to treat and manage blocked arteries in the heart and legs for more than half a million American patients.

Another Technion alumni, Professor Emeritus Yoram Palti, spoke about NovoCure – a company he founded that is saving thousands of lives with its novel approach to treating tumors with electric fields. Approved by the FDA in 2011, NovoCure filed for a $300 million IPO last September and is quickly gaining international renown as one of the most innovative contributions in the global fight to cure cancer, treating 3,000 people with brain tumors previously thought untreatable.

In years to come, the Technion’s public visibility will only increase as it opens new international campuses in New York and China. On every visit to the the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in New York City, I am amazed by the incredible progress our students and postdocs are making — launching the companies of tomorrow. In a few weeks I will travel to China to witness the groundbreaking of the the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology, which will become a nexus of cooperation between Israeli and Chinese academics and industrialists. By exporting the best practices of Israeli innovation and education, the Technion promises to inspire, entice, and engage people across our country and beyond.

Our organization is introducing Israel’s greatest institution of science and technology to a much broader segment of the American public. There is simply so much to share with great relevance for our communities. This is why I recently launched a new Facebook page and Twitter feed, taking to social media to offer my perspective on these exciting developments.

I invite you to do the same. Click here to connect with me on Facebook and click here to follow me on Twitter. More importantly, join with us in sharing the Technion’s powerful story with your own networks, whether you are on Facebook, or around your dinner table. Together, we can make the Technion a household name like never before – and, in doing so, make a tremendous difference for Israel, America, and the world.

I wish you and your family a happy Hanukkah.

Diversity is the Lifeblood of the Technion

The Technion is far more than a university. It’s an institution on a mission to make Israel – and the world – a better place for all. Whether it’s pioneering desalinization technology to turn droughts into water surpluses, or using stem cell research to treat cancer – the university has a remarkable knack for finding creative solutions to great challenges.

However, this visionary leadership extends well beyond the classroom or the laboratory – and into the diverse society that makes up the State of Israel. Where there are social gaps in Israel, the Technion seeks to create ladders of educational opportunity, equipping all members of Israeli society to thrive and lead. Where there is division, the Technion seeks to bring together Israelis, who might never otherwise interact, in the joint pursuit of knowledge and progress. I’ve seen firsthand – at the highest levels of the university – a profound belief that the Technion is an important vehicle for promoting tolerance and social mobility within Israel.

Take, for example, the university’s growing number of Arab students. In the 1990s, Arabs made up just 5% of the Technion’s student body. Today, they are 21% of Technion students, which corresponds to the percentage of Arabs living in Israel. The university is not only enrolling more Arab students than ever before, it’s also retaining them in unprecedented numbers; the dropout rate of Arab students has been reduced from 73% eight years ago to 12% today. This is the result of a number of bold outreach and empowerment programs, including “Generous Hands” – the first of its kind in Israel – which supports outstanding Arab undergraduates in pursuing graduate degrees, and helps them transition into the Israeli job market.

Arab women have found especially spectacular success at the Technion. At this year’s medical school graduation, where more than half of the newly minted doctors were female, one in three of those women were Arab. As they go out into the workforce, these Arab doctors will fill a critical need for their communities. Last February, the Technion launched a project that successfully assisted Arab female entrepreneurs in developing their own companies. Some participants in this program will join other Arab Technion grads – both male and female – who are building a vibrant start-up scene in Nazareth, which holds great promise to provide new economic opportunities for Jews and Arab Israelis alike.

Yet, this work extends far beyond the Arab community. During my visit last month, I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful microcosm of Israel’s diverse and dynamic society represented in all corners of the campus. I met religious and secular students working together as Engineers Without Borders to bring life-changing solutions to communities in need. In research labs, faculty lounges, and pickup soccer games, I saw Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, women and men, new immigrants and fifth-generation Sabras – all learning from each other and dreaming together of new possibilities for expanding human knowledge.

Philanthropic support – particularly from the American Technion Society – has played an essential role in making the university the center for diversity that it is today. Our members are a vital source of funding for the William and Cynthia Marcus Family/New England Region Center for Pre-university Studies, which prepares young Israelis from developing, poor and immigrant communities for the rigors of the country’s preeminent university. We have also supported the Leaders of the Future program, which offers Israelis with Ethiopian origins a leg up in attending college.

Most recently, the ATS has committed to raise funds for the construction of new undergraduate dorms – a project that will play an important role in the Technion’s continued efforts to foster campus diversity, providing housing options for those who can’t afford to rent an apartment in the surrounding area, where prices are rising rapidly. As you can imagine, this additional housing stock will create new opportunities for Israelis from a range of ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds to come together and live, quite literally, under one roof.

As the Technion rises in the global ranks of research universities, it will continue to lead Israel upward on a path of inclusion, equality and opportunity. It will continue to draw incredible strength from, and give incredible strength to, all of the communities that make up the rich tapestry of Israeli life. Together, the brightest minds of all of these communities will join with the Technion to shape the future of Israel – and, I’m quite confident, change the world in which we live.

An Unprecedented Gift Heralds a New Era for the Technion

Unprecedented. This was the word that seemed to echo throughout the Technion’s Board of Governors meeting this month. We heard Technion President Peretz Lavie describe the university’s rapid rise in international standing and the exciting growth of its global partnerships. We listened to faculty and students offer insight into the school’s development of extraordinary solutions to pressing global problems. And we witnessed Dr. Andrew Viterbi announce a $50 million gift to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering – the largest contribution ever directed to the Technion’s Haifa campus from an American donor.

Receiving such a major investment from Dr. Viterbi – the co-founder of Qualcomm Corporation and a visionary leader in the field of digital communications – speaks volumes about the Technion’s tremendous potential at this moment. An Honorary Doctorate Holder and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Technion, Dr. Viterbi understands deeply why his historic gift will leave an extraordinary mark. His roots at the university date back almost 50 years.

Let me share three observations about what his major investment represents for the Technion, Israel, and the world.

First, the Technion’s elite Electrical Engineering Department will rise to new heights of excellence. For years, the department has ranked among the top 10 programs in the world. Yet, its student-faculty ratio is presently more than three times higher than America’s top private universities. Now the department will be able to bridge this gap. The funds will be used to retain and attract world-renowned faculty members, recruit the brightest students, and upgrade the school’s research and teaching infrastructure.

Over the course of many visits, I’ve seen firsthand that the members of Technion’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering are too passionate to rest on their laurels. They are too curious to stop seeking answers to the most difficult questions. And they are too talented to put the future of the Startup Nation in anyone else’s hands. With this great infusion of resources, they will be able to venture into totally unexplored areas of research, which promise to do nothing less than profoundly change the world.

Second, a gift of this size signals that the Technion is entering a new era of global importance. It’s become very easy to make the case that Israel’s universities – and the Technion in particular – warrant international investment on the same scale as the most prestigious institutions in any other corner of the planet.

A 2009 Evaluation Report by an International Review Committee found that both the students and faculty in Electrical Engineering at the Technion are “among the best that can be found in a top-ranked educational institution anywhere in the world.” According to a recent international survey, Israel ranks second in the world in computer science research, fourth in space science research, and sixth in life sciences research, despite being a tiny nation with only 8 million people and a fraction of the research budget of other nations.

The list of accolades goes on, but the pattern is clear: Israeli universities, and the Technion specifically, are trailblazing across all fields of science and technology. They have proven to be uniquely adept at maximizing the impact of each research dollar. Gifts like Dr. Viterbi’s indicate that the world has started paying close attention.

Third, this historic gift illuminates the truly transformative power of philanthropy in the field of higher education. Each dollar invested in the Technion’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering will generate countless more in the form of life-changing technologies and knowledge, new companies and jobs, and a much healthier human family. By partnering with the Technion, our organization continues to empower the greatest minds of our generation to address the greatest challenges of our time. It’s clear to me that there are few investments more critical for our future.

I am proud to be a part of the organization that helped make this gift possible, and look forward to guiding the ATS during these unprecedented times.