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Plugged in: The Israel-Bergen tech connection

Local students lend a hand to Israeli social media start-up

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Israeli start-up eDealya is being assisted this summer by 8 NYU students.

eDealya is an Israeli Internet start-up company that offers to help firms maintain their tens of thousands of “friends” on Facebook and other social media web sites.

But in making the pitch to potential customers, eDealya is getting a crucial assist from some real-world American Jewish friends: eight members of the Ofek Israel Consulting Group, who are working without salary this summer (but with the promise of a commission) to drum up business.

Ofek (the name means horizon in Hebrew) is a student-run group at New York University offering a chance to learn more about and connect with the Israeli business community and business culture.

The group was started last year by Daniel Pessar, a native of Englewood, and his friend Jason Bieber from Westchester. The two had met attending the Frisch School in Paramus.

The idea came from a similar program at the University of Michigan, where Pessar’s cousin was a student.

The club offers students — most of whom attend NYU’s Stern School of Business — professional and academic advancement as well as a chance to show their love for Israel.

“There are so many pro-Israel students on campus who have zero ways to express their pro-Israel feelings,” said Pessar. “Maybe they’ll go to a rally once in a while, or feel upset when they read something negative about Israel in the media, but there’s no positive way to express their pro-Israel feelings.

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David Kukin

“At the same time, there are so many amazing innovative Israeli businesses that we read about in the Wall Street Journal.”

During the school year, the club meets weekly. It brings in speakers from Israeli companies. And to ensure hands-on learning, in undertakes pro bono consulting for Israeli firms.

Pessar said the response from the Israeli business community — and from Israeli officials promoting Israeli business at the consulate in New York — has been “overwhelming.” One highlight of the year’s programs was a meeting between the students and Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel.

“There’s a line of people who want to speak with us, Israeli businessmen who are in the U.S. to raise money or meet with partners,” Pessar said.

The club has about 20 members, about half of whom are “super active” in it, said Pessar.

The connection with eDealya was made through Oded Grinstein, Israel’s deputy economic minister to North America.

As the American office of an Israeli start-up, the Ofek team working for eDealya experiences a level of autonomy unusual for a summer internship.

“I’m an account manager,” said David Kukin, another member of the team who is a Teaneck native. “I’m speaking to clients, trying to bring in new clients. I go to meetings, I give pitches.

“I’m dealing with these big American companies, setting up meetings, hearing back from companies. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The founders of eDealya — two software veterans in their late 30s — come to New York once a month to close the meetings with clients.

In between, the NYU interns are in touch.

Kukin said eDealya’s product is designed to help companies make money through social media.

Generally, companies use social media as a write-only medium. They can post on Facebook to be read by 100,000 followers. eDealya offers software that monitors the followers’ Facebook and Twitter postings. For an airline, the program might look for signs that someone is planning a vacation — and then be able to respond with a personalized special offer.

“It’s tracking their lifestyle and providing on-time and personal messages to those fans,” said Kukin.

Kukin said that so far, working for eDealya has been hard but worthwhile.

“It takes a lot of determination. Some times things get frustrating because you don’t hear back from people. But it is rewarding, helping this Israeli start-up make it here.”

Pessar said the whole experience of Ofek has been eye-opening.

“There’s nothing like interacting with the people,” he said. “You can read the news, read a book like ‘Start-Up Nation,’ but there’s nothing like interacting with the people. It’s easy to say, ‘Israelis are great at innovation’ or ‘Israelis are great at business,’ but when you can ask Israeli leaders what’s great about coming from Israel, or what’s the shortcomings of coming from Israel, when you can connect on a one-on-one basis, it adds nuance, it adds depth.”

 
 
 
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