Global innovation in the Middle-East

For UQ student and budding entrepreneur Matthew Diamond, Idea Hub's Tel Aviv Startup Adventure was a trip of a lifetime.

In June 2017, when a friend suggested we apply for the Semester 2 intake of UQ Idea Hub, I had no idea where it would eventually take me.

I've always been interested in entrepreneurship and have talked extensively with friends over the last few years about starting a business. I didn't really have any idea what to do or how to do it but UQ Idea Hub helped with that.

After the program, and with new found inspiration, I applied for UQ Idea Hub's Tel Aviv Startup Adventure and was fortunate to be accepted alongside 13 other young entrepreneurs.

I didn't really know much about Israel before I applied, but during the application process, I researched the country and the culture, and I became more and more excited about the possibility of being accepted into the program.

One of the things that I found most exciting was how entrepreneurship and startups were integrated into mainstream Israeli culture. There's a very well known (and very cliché) quote from TechCrunch's Mike Butcher that I think sums up this culture - "If you threw a stone in Tel Aviv, it would probably hit a high-tech entrepreneur." During our stay we quickly discovered not only how well used this quote is among Israelis, but also how accurate it is. There's a very good reason why Israel is often called 'the startup nation'.

The Tel Aviv Startup Adventure

So last November, I packed my bags and excitedly arrived at the international airport well before I needed to – half-an-hour before the airline staff even arrived to open check-in! After two very long flights, too many games of inflight Tetris, way too many early morning beers and one night in Korea, we finally arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.

After the excruciatingly long build-up filled with applications, interviews and more applications, it was surreal to finally be in Israel. On our way to our first day at work I can remember turning to one of the guys and saying, "Dude, we're on a bus in Israel right now. We're actually here." This excitement never wore off during the four-week program.

Coming from Australia, I was shocked at how tiny Israel was – you can see across the width of the country from some mountains and it's only 600 kilometres long. This makes it incredibly easy to travel around much of the country in a rental car each weekend. Our trip to the Old City of Jerusalem was a particularly interesting experience and the atmosphere around the Western Wall on the Jewish Sabbath was incredible.

The innovation and entrepreneurship experience

While I enjoyed sightseeing, I was in Tel Aviv to learn and I'd have to say that the most invaluable experience for me was the internship I completed at The Floor. As part of the program, we worked from 9am to 6pm, five days a week, at leading Israeli startups in order to gain an insight into international startups and experience working in our chosen fields. The Floor is a global fintech innovation centre partnered with some of the world's largest financial institutions and is located within the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

At The Floor, I was mainly tasked with managing the company's social media and marketing, and I gained a lot of experience in creating content. I also completed a lot of other tasks throughout the month, and I often worked closely with the founders which gave me an understanding of the inner workings of a fintech startup.

Throughout my internship at The Floor, I gained a lot of extremely valuable real-world experience in the fast-paced industry of fintech that, without this program, I wouldn't have been able to obtain. I was able to get involved in a variety of different parts of the company during the four weeks, and I quickly felt like an important member of the team.

I'm so very grateful to UQ Idea Hub for this incredible trip of a lifetime, and to my friends at The Floor for all the help and mentorship that allowed me to gain some truly invaluable career and life experience. I also want to thank the other travellers – my friends – who made my time in Israel so much more incredible!

If you'd like to experience innovation and entrepreneurship at some of Israel's best technology startups, applications for UQ Idea Hub's 2018 Tel Aviv Startup Adventure are open until Friday 7 September. For more information, visit Idea Hub's website – https://ideahub.uq.edu.au/tel-aviv