Jumping on Entrepreneurship

Parkour, Startups, and Travel


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The Problem with Palestinian Startups

Last week I was in Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, which I’ve described as “a magical fairy land where nothing makes sense and everything is awesome.” I was back in Seattle for 65 hours, and now I'm 33,079 feet in the air, heading into four more weeks of traveling. I’ll be in Ramallah, Palestine for a week, followed by a week in Israel, followed by two weeks in Xi’an and Beijing, China.

I'm being flown out to Ramallah by Leaders.ps, a startup accelerator in Palestine, to mentor several Palestinian startups. I met the director of this accelerator through my friends at Mercy Corps in Gaza, and jumped at the chance to come out and help.

Based on our conversations so far, it seems like entrepreneurs in Palestine have great technical skill, but due to the political environment haven't had many opportunities for physical connections to the rest of the entrepreneurial world. This causes a pretty big problem.

Startup culture, just like a startup company, moves very fast. Things are tried, iterated on, and best practices are developed. If a process or methodology isn’t working, it dies off (either by being thrown away or because all the companies using that process fail).

Missed Opportunities

On Growing Up

This afternoon I say the dirtiest car I have ever seen in my life. The car was covered from top to bottom in dried mud and looked like a giant rock with wheels. I literally stopped and laughed out loud when I saw this thing sitting in the gas station parking lot. While scanning the image of this car to comprehend the reality of it, I realized that the driver of the vehicle was still siting in the vehicle looking…well, not too excited about eventually having to clean off his car. In this moment a couple of things ran through my head. 1) - How can I get a picture of this car without being so obvious to not only the driver but everyone else staring and 2) - how the hell did this car get COVERED from top to bottom in mud?

A few days after my 18th birthday I got to travel to India with a group of friends doing music for a youth conference and spent time in Bangalore and Madurai. For anyone who is familiar with Indian culture it is quite different from what you can imagine that I had experienced as a kid who spent much of my life in small town Pennsylvania. As a teenager I had had great opportunities to travel though nothing had quite prepared me for the drastic changes that I would encounter during my visit.

There were things that took some initial getting used to – not eating (or doing anything really) with your left hand which proved extremely difficult for me as…a left handed person. There was generally no toilet paper anywhere that we traveled, hotel included, and much of travel happened in a small van with no AC in 100-degree weather with a driver who fully embraced the first rule of driving in India; there are no rules. While many of these things can seem to have a negative bent it really helped me to learn more about the culture of this breathtakingly beautiful country and people.

Unfortunately there was one major downside to the entire experience – my attitude. While in India I wish that I could say I tried every food that was placed in front of me but the reality is I often skipped out on a traditional Indian meal and waited until we had gotten back to the hotel where I could dig into a stash of pop tarts that were snuck past customs. I wish that while making the 13-hour drive from Madurai to Bangalore I had taken the time to look out the window even once and marvel at the gorgeous countryside and all of the villages that we traveled through but instead I was either sleeping or complaining about the lack of AC. There are countless other examples of the opportunities I missed out on during this trip and these are things I can never get back.

So what does all of this have to do with a randomly dirty car in the middle of a gas station parking lot?

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