Nov. 25, 2020

BGU has launched the world’s first academic e-commerce accelerator to train students to establish and operate an Amazon store. Fifteen students were chosen after a rigorous application process, mostly from the humanities, social sciences and management faculties.

The opening session was held last week with guest speaker Randi Zuckerberg (pictured below). Randi Zuckerberg is Founder & CEO of Zuckerberg Media. She is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, investor, award-winning producer, and former employee at Facebook where she created Facebook Live. Through Zuckerberg Media, Randi manages a sisterhood of funds including Surround Ventures which is dedicated to fueling innovation in Israel and connecting Israeli innovators to global capital, business, and consumer markets.

“We wanted to specifically give the highest skill levels to students without technological backgrounds,” says Or Santo, the initiator and manager of the accelerator at Yazamut360, BGU’s entrepreneurial and innovation hub. “Only 10% of people who open an Amazon store succeed and therefore training is essential to be part of the top 10%. The training will be thorough, at the pace of each student’s capabilities.”

Yazamut360 Chair Prof. Carmel Sofer, “Yazamut360 has a mission to teach and train students for tomorrow’s business environment. Through this new e-commerce program, and academic studies, BGU offers entrepreneurial skills and an employment horizon for students interested in entrepreneurship.”

During the six-month course, each student will open an Amazon store and find products to sell. The students will negotiate with suppliers, import goods, and then sell them through their online store. They will learn virtually every aspect of store management including intellectual property, product development, supply chain logistics, advertising and marketing, SEO, copywriting, customer service accounting and legal. In parallel to the course classes, students will be expected to also engage in independent study and practical application.

The partnership between Surround Ventures and BGU in launching the first e-commerce accelerator in Israel follows similar market trends, with Facebook launching their new e-commerce accelerator this summer. Surround Ventures is a venture capital fund investing in early-stage technology startups disrupting the media, entertainment, sports, and e-commerce industries, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Tel Aviv.

“We formed Surround Ventures to build a bridge between Israeli innovators and the American market,” said General Partner Randi Zuckerberg. “Similar to Silicon Valley, Israel is a unique source of technology innovation. Harnessing Israeli innovation will be key to shaping the entire e-commerce landscape on a global scale. Our team is committed to deepening our relationship with Ben-Gurion University.”

Bank Hapoalim supports the accelerator as part of its initiatives to provide equal employment opportunities in the periphery. Bank Hapoalim has supported hundreds of students with scholarships, including for the current academic year. Bank Hapoalim is providing full financial support for the course and the students will receive financial tools from advisors at the Bank's Center for Financial Growth.

Naama Halevi-Peer, director of the Social Banking Center at Bank Hapoalim, "We are proud of the connection to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - we are promoting Yazamut360 and its young entrepreneurs together. During this employment crisis, the accelerator is part of an entire supportive framework for those seeking employment and to enable students to successfully integrate into the workforce. This innovative program fits into Bank Hapoalim's vision to connect people and new technologies. We believe in young entrepreneurs who will establish productive businesses and create a financial and social impact in the capital of the Negev through trade around the world. I wish them much success."

After the course, the students will continue to receive support and mentoring. “We will accompany the participants through the funding process for establishing a business and even incentivize the course’s alumni to establish their business in Beer-Sheva,” says Santo. “I and the mentors are very connected to the South and we want to encourage the young investors to continue to develop the city and establish themselves here.”