By Haim Nigri

Throughout my academic experience and powered by my entrepreneurial mindset, I’ve always enjoyed the practical aspect of academia. I was always thinking how I could apply all the theory and knowledge I was gathering to other aspects of my life beyond the classroom, especially my career. For my final project in college, for example, I developed a business plan that turned into an actual product that was successfully launched in the market. The professors evaluating it were playing with my live mobile app while grading my final paper. During my MBA, I chose the most hands-on classes, the ones with labs and projects that involved doing or building stuff.

As a GEIR, I was excited to once again explore the intersection of academia and entrepreneurship, and jump into different opportunities to close that gap. I was looking forward to being in touch with students, learn from their perspectives and help them apply everything they were learning in the classroom to “real-life”.

During this spring semester, I worked with an MBA team as part of a collaborative project in the “Strategic Management” course. One of the class main objectives was learning how to apply conceptual frameworks for assessing business opportunities and combine theoretical knowledge with practical expertise, based on real challenges companies and startups face.

Representing my startup, Porter & Sail, I met with the group of students to walk them through our product, business, overall story and main strategic decisions we’ve made so far. We had a fruitful discussion about where we are going and the future ahead of us. It’s always very exciting to hear different opinions from people outside of your business and the students brought their fresh perspectives, analyzing, questioning and constructively criticizing. At the same time, they very quickly learned how frameworks and strategic thinking is always helpful, of course, but in reality, life is not always black or white, and the path for innovative ventures in the middle of such uncertainty and risk is always “gray”. The path from A to B is rarely a straight line.

My experience working with UMass Boston’s students could not have been better. I was really impressed by their sense of hands-on problem solving, the depth and quality of their ideas, and how interested they were in entrepreneurship. As we all work to strengthen the Boston innovation ecosystem, startups should not miss out on how much these students have to offer. As a GEIR, I will continue to raise this awareness and participate in such initiatives to do my part to close the gap between entrepreneurship and academia. Both worlds would highly benefit from that intersection.

Haim leads Product at Porter & Sail, a startup that provides guest services technology to boutique and luxury hotels around the world. He is an Industrial Engineer and holds an MBA from MIT Sloan, focusing on Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Prior to that, he has experience in Venture Capital and has been working with Product Management for 4 years in companies such as Amazon and Órama, a Brazilian fintech startup. Currently he serves as a Global Entrepreneur in Residence at the VDC and is passionate about building innovative products from scratch.

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