By Kelsey Eiland
The Gesher Business Group, founded in 2013, is the first student-led investing and consulting organization at UCSC. Gesher’s mission is to provide hands-on experience and education for business-minded students. They focus on building ties in the booming high-tech scenes of Santa Cruz, Silicon Valley, and Tel Aviv. Cofounder and co-president Amit Kidron, a Leviathan staffer set to graduate in June, sat down for an interview with Leviathan to discuss his work with Gesher.
What sparked the idea of Gesher Group?
The big idea came from an alumnus named Omer Levy who’s now a management consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. We sat down and he told me he was interested in starting a business organization that was focused on hands-on work—sort of the stuff you don’t really get in the classroom. I started out in marketing and me, him, and a few other people including Daniel Kipniss, who is currently a junior and my co-president, co-founded the group, wrote out all of the copy, website, social media, flyers, and that all started in May 2013. We had our first recruitment in October 2013.
How many students were there in the beginning?
Roughly about 30. We brought in a lot of industry speakers, hedge fund managers, consultants—pretty much anything and everything in between. And a variety of Israeli speakers as well. A lot of our outreach was to the Jewish community. You don’t often expect a CFO or hedge fund
manager to be interested in talking to a bunch of 21 year olds.
Why the name Gesher?
Gesher means bridge; we are bridging the gap between students’ education and hands on experience. There’s a huge divide between students and professionals in Santa Cruz itself, so bridging that gap is important. And bridging the gap between us and Israeli companies is important because it’s one of the hottest startup ecosystems in the entire world right now.
What is one of the companies you consult with and what does the relationship look like?
One that I worked with was Samba which is a reactive video messaging app. [The client]was going back to Israel and working at the start up. We’d finish our general meetings around 9pm, and in Israel it would be about 7am. That’s when we would Skype. He’d be on the train, getting ready for his day, and we’d simultaneously do updates— planning, marketing, strategy, research—bouncing off ideas.
Have there been any obstacles Gesher has faced, especially being a student led organization? Do you ever face resistance from Israeli companies?
There are two ends to that. One, is that in the very beginning, it was hard for anyone to take us seriously. On the other end, Israeli companies are often looking for an in on the U.S. market because the Israeli market is fairly small. They’re in Israel and we’re already in the U.S. on the ground. We let them choose how much to pay us. And for the most part, that price is pennies compared to the value it will bring them.
What do you think the Gesher Group does differently than other student organizations?
Well, I think that it really helps to have a focus. We look at Santa Cruz and California and Israel from an economics and business perspective. There’s also the fact that it’s project-oriented, so students are going with a purpose every week. There’s something to having a tangible product at the end.
What suggestions do you have for other students interested in creating their own start-ups?
What you should do is just start. Do something you’re excited about and get some friends to help you; set aside a time every week to work on it. At the end of the day, college is probably the best networking you’ll ever get.