An entrepreneur’s journey into the world of venture capital

Jack Paley (BSBA ’17) is the founder of Colorado-based company Aspen Crunch and a member of the 2016 UNC Kenan-Flagler Adams Apprenticeship cohort.

During the summer of 2016, I spent 10 weeks in Tel Aviv, Israel – a great opportunity that allowed me to experience new adventures each day.

In late May, I flew into Tel Aviv. The following Wednesday, I began a friendship with an Israeli intelligence soldier named Gil. By the end of the week, I had buoyantly baked atop the Dead Sea, stayed in a kibbutz and trekked the Negev Desert.

These expeditions led up to June 5, 2016 – the first day of my first internship with Innovation Endeavors (IE), a venture capital firm based out of Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv. Google chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt founded the company.

I did not know what to fully expect when I rode the 25 line to work. I also did not know how much I would be able to give and take from my deep-dive into venture capital. In the first couple of days on the job, my mentors divided my team’s responsibilities into three buckets: short-term, ongoing and long-term.

Our short-term responsibilities revolved around analyzing leads as they entered the investment pipeline, creating investment recommendations and sitting in on meetings and phone calls with high-potential startup founders.

Our ongoing responsibilities included conducting exit analysis on particular geographies and industries. We were also tasked with creating due diligence templates and investment memorandums on companies that were being prospected as potential investments.

Our long-term responsibilities included creating a detailed report on the state of the cybersecurity industry and creating a holistic educational guide for newcomers to quickly learn about the industry. Our report worked as a guide for understanding information and operational network infrastructures, the vulnerabilities that exist, major historical attacks and why network infrastructures are critical to businesses and civilians across the globe.

In addition to the educational component of this deep dive, we conducted comprehensive research on the cybersecurity industry to pinpoint where the industry is trending and what enabling technologies are pushing the industry’s growth. Beyond market research, we worked with large financial databases to analyze and drive insights from trading comparables and M&A activity in the cybersecurity industry.

To bring our research together, my team and I mapped out the entire Israeli cybersecurity industry – 343 active Israeli cybersecurity companies – to understand the subsectors they operate in and what approaches and technologies they are using to thwart off attackers. At the end of our deep dive, we presented our findings to the partners and our analysis was circulated as a resource for other team members who were less familiar with cybersecurity.

Working in Israel exceeded my expectations. As you can imagine, Israel is a distinct country. When I spoke with Joanna Landau – a thought leader from Vibe Israel – she framed Israel as being defined by passion, ingenuity, vision and fusion. Passion represents debate and working to find solutions for the difficulties embedded in Israel’s geography. Ingenuity represents the country’s prosperity despite lacking natural resources to export. Vision represents Israel’s unique culture. Fusion represents the country’s diversity – both in ethnicity and in thought. These characteristics struck me as good representations of Israel. 

Israel is the startup nation. I was most surprised by the amount of love and perseverance that exists in the country. In all of my travels, I have never seen a place as unique, thriving and complex as Israel. I am still working to understand what drives the country’s politics and economy.

Interning at IE was an experience that has change my life for the better. I have a different outlook, confidence and empathy level than I had when I first landed in Tel Aviv. The people I met challenged me to participate and question. The work I have done has developed my abilities and my admiration for innovation. Living in Israel helped me develop my cultural awareness and showed me how much there is to learn.

By Jack Paley (BSBA ’17), founder of Aspen Crunch and UNC Kenan-Flagler Adams Apprentice