Despite some concerns lately about the global impact of the leaders of tech companies, I strongly believe that the principles of tech entrepreneurship can foster the kind of leaders our world needs, in any field.
Here are the skills which are at the center of tech entrepreneurship: being open-minded, being critical thinkers, not taking anything for granted, always challenging the status quo, iterating fast and trying different things, failing fast (don’t spend years building something that doesn’t work) and being data-driven instead of just trusting your own beliefs. And what all of these deliver is a much higher speed bar and the ability to rigorously move forward toward your goals.
The value of these qualities is very apparent in tech startups disrupting incumbents – startups who can rely solely on the capabilities and attitudes of their employees and managers. But the same applies for any company in any industry. Netflix disrupted the entertainment business by challenging existing business models and iterating fast on its model; Tesla managed to create more value than any other automotive company in a relatively short time by sticking to the principals of tech entrepreneurship its founder practiced at PayPal and thus shortening the time it takes to create new car platforms and upgrade its products; and even Participant Media – behind such films as ‘Spotlight’ and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ utilized the iterate-fast-fail-fast-improve-win model to become a very successful and important film production company – based on its funders’ experience as the first employee and later president of eBay. Netflix, Tesla and Participant Media all operated in what were not naturally seen as tech innovation fields but utilized the principles of tech entrepreneurship to win in their domains.
But I truly believe this is not where the value of this type of leadership ends. I’m involved in a couple of projects creating social change by leveraging the same principals of tech entrepreneurship, developing the next generation of leaders our world really needs.
Here are just a few great examples of how tech education is making a difference in delivering social change:
Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow is a non-profit supported by MIT, that for the past 14 years has brought together Palestinian and Israeli high schoolers to learn, imagine and build technology together. Every year we take around 100 14-years-old kids – half of them Palestinian and half of them Jewish, half boys and half girls–and we give them a three-year program of technology, entrepreneurship and ‘deeper understanding’ (our curriculum to learning the other side’s narrative).
KamaTech aims to help integrate Israel’s ultra-Orthodox (around 12% of the population) into the tech workforce, where they make up only 0.7% of overall tech employees. Kamatech offers ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs apprenticeships in leading tech startup companies and provides them with mentorship. It also invests in Haredi startups, and has a specialized co-working space tending to the religious needs of its entrepreneurs. It is a full program aimed at assisting young Haredi adults entering the tech world. When the program started there were only a handful Haredi startups in Israel – we are now tracking more than 100. This is impacting Haredi society as a whole.
These and a bunch of other great activities are leveraging the best of Israel: hi-tech and entrepreneurship, to make a positive social change. When these are used to close social gaps and bring populations closer , they work to create a layer based on the global language of entrepreneurship and tech, which has no barriers. Tech entrepreneurship education in Israel was always widely accepted as the means to achieve financial goals; we’re now seeing an emerging understanding that hi-tech tools and an entrepreneurial state of mind are also critical for delivering change. They’re the best tools we can give our young leaders.
If these same principles became inherent in leadership education in the rest of the world we’d have a strong framework to deliver social change, and tech leaders would have a different way to make the world a better place through education.
Gigi Levy Weiss is founding partner at NFX, a leading seed venture firm in Silicon Valley and Israel. He serves on Facebook’s EMEA client advisory council and is a former Israel Air Force pilot.