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Economy & Business

Using Israel to Foster Entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh

Israel has been referred to as “Start-Up Nation” due to the strong entrepreneurial spirit displayed by its citizens, and a conference this week at The university of Pittsburgh is hoping to use a small group of visitors to foster that spirit here.

“Pittsburgh is very strong in medical device technology, drug innovation and medical IT,” said Paul Harper, Entrepreneurship Professor at Pitt. “Those happen to also be areas that Israel leads the world in.”

The Global Venturing Israel conference organized by Harper runs through Friday, and he hopes a few deals will be made right in front of the more than 200 students and professors that will be in attendance.

“What’s going to happen around all the deal making is the learning. Learning how these deals get done across national boundaries,” said Harper who hopes the event will help to build permanent ties that foster more deal flow between Israel and southwestern Pennsylvania.

“I’m hoping my Israeli guests go back and become ambassadors for Pittsburgh saying, ‘We always go to Philly, we always go to Boston, we need to start going to Pittsburgh more often.’ That’s a major motivation for me,” Harper said.

That actual event has been four months in the making, according to Harper, but he says he has been making trips to Israel for the last three years to build the needed foundations. 

Harper said entrepreneurs must move and innovate quickly in Israel, and he thinks startups in the region can learn from their tactics.

“A lot of that goes back to the military. The importance of the military as far as the place that heavy R&D is being done, the commercialization of that,” Harper said, noting that all Israeli citizens must spend time in the military themselves. “So that there is something about that military experience and the way that’s structured that is playing once the Israeli citizens are coming out of that.”

Correction: This story originaly identified Mr. Harper as working for Carnegie Mellon University.