University of Southern California

Building Economies, Improving Lives
Student Group Convenes Business and Political Experts from Middle East
March 28, 2014 • by News at Marshall

The USC chapter of TAMID Israel Investment Group hosted two panels on “Investment and Policy: A Collaborative Approach to Economic Development in the Middle East” at the University of Southern California on Feb. 26.

At the event, students and faculty from the Marshall School of Business, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Price School of Public Policy, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Viterbi School of Engineering gathered with business and political figures who work in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan to discuss the economic development of the region and the role of cooperation in expanding business ventures.

Daniel Silvermintz ’14, president of the USC chapter of TAMID Israel Investment Group, a student-led initiative that connects students at top universities with business, tech, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities in the Israeli economy, introduced the event by discussing how the Middle East’s robust private sector economic activity is key to the improvement of people’s lives in the region.

Larry Harris, Fred V. Keenan Professor of Finance and professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business, elaborated on this point in his introduction to the private and non-profit sector panel he moderated. “Economic development,” said Harris, who served as chief economist of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from 2002 to 2004, “gives people the wherewithal to do other things, whether it’s art, athletics or political engagement. Every area of the world needs this kind of thinking.”

Reflecting the complexity of the region’s business, political and cultural environments, panelists Yadin Kaufmann, venture capitalist and founder of Veritas Ventures and Sadara Ventures; Radi El Fassed, telecommunications specialist and vice president of business development for MENA Apps; and Robert Zwang, social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of the Israel-Palestine Cooperative for Economic Expansion, proposed facilitating change by integrating underrepresented sectors in the tech economy, accessing more risk capital, enhancing research and development and addressing anti-normalization.

The public and academic sector panel, moderated by Jared Fleitman ’14, founder of USC’s TAMID chapter founder and current national co-chair, brought together Eli Groner, Israel’s minister for economic affairs to the United States, and Ben Graham, assistant professor at the USC School of International Relations, who conducts research on foreign investment in fragile states.

Discussion in both panels touched on Israel’s high-tech boom, ignited, they said, by a combination of engineering and scientific talent and entrepreneurial drive. “Creating a cultural mindset for innovation that drives growth is what sets Israel apart,” said Groner, who cited “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle,” a bestselling book that addresses how Israel, a 60-year-old, war-torn nation of 7.1 million people, has produced more high-tech start-ups and a larger venture capital industry per capita than any other country in the world. Kaufmann also pointed out the Israeli government’s Yozma program, which created 10 venture capital funds and encouraged fund managers to bring in foreign partners in 1993, as critical in Israel’s high-tech revolution.

Speakers in both panels also took up the question of how governments can facilitate economic growth. “When you create mutually beneficial, sector-specific institutional relationships across borders,” said Zwang, “people engage out of choice. Working side by side, their view of life changes, and they take that back home.”

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.