When you think of hi-tech and innovation, places like Silicon Valley or companies like Google, Microsoft, Intel, or Facebook pop into mind, right? But when you think of the Middle East, specifically Israel, those would perhaps be the last phrases to enter your thoughts. Well, as it turns out, there is an ever-growing hub of technological innovation in Israel, also known as the start-up nation or “Silicon Wadi,” and this summer, I had the opportunity to experience this first-hand as an intern at the start-up onlinepianist.com, a tutorial-based website and app that teaches people how to play popular songs on the piano.
As you can imagine, taking part in this economic miracle was a pretty extraordinary opportunity that I jumped at the chance of having. My tasks for the summer included digital/content marketing and social media. In other words, as the content marketing manager, I wrote blog posts for the website, quirky descriptions of artists that are included on the website’s database, and helped the start-up prepare for the launch of their new website by updating every song in the database (there are thousands) to their new respective categories.
As someone who just graduated with Bachelor Degrees in Environmental/Atmospheric Science and Fiction Writing, I still find this experience relevant to my future career. One of the many things that I want to focus on is science outreach – and I hope to accomplish this through social media and other ways. Thankfully, over the summer, I learned more about how to spread my message more clearly across various social platforms online, boosting my confidence in achieving my future mission.
The company is a tight-knit community of five employees and two summer interns. Being part of a tight-knit space is great for start-ups, in my opinion, because it provides a great outlet for exchanging ideas since everyone is familiar and comfortable with one another. It was amazing to see how a start-up actually functions first-hand. I participated in meetings and got to provide suggestions on the new website’s content. It has already launched and it was eye-opening to see everyone work together so efficiently to make this happen.
I spoke to Nimrod Cohen, the CEO of OnlinePianist, about how his start up began. “I had a longtime dream of learning to play the piano, but more than anything I wanted to play my favorite songs and not necessarily learn the theoretical aspect of learning piano (which is highly important of course). I was advised by a good friend to check what can be found online, and so I came across YouTube videos where people record themselves playing songs with the purpose of teaching other people. After trying this method, I realized that I was very passive in the process, as the video technology had very few basic functionalities (play/pause...) and I couldn't for example ask the person who recorded the video to play a specific part, or to slow down, or to play an easier version of the song etc... So this is how the idea for OnlinePianist came about. We decided to develop a similar method with animation and with this technology; we enabled the user to fully control and design his learning experience with advanced player features such as speed adjustment, individual hand practice, song segmentation, finger positions and more!”
After hearing this, the genuine purpose of start-ups became clearer to me. They are created due to something that the founder thought was lacking in the world. That’s what makes them so innovative in the first place – they’re created to make life easier and more enjoyable for everyone. So, with this logic, a personal issue can lead to a world-wide solution.
“First, simply put, many start-ups simply make our lives easier and better. Most start-ups were born due to a shortcoming that one of the founders felt in [his or her] personal life and thought about a solution to overcome this shortcoming. Second, I believe that one of the virtues of human beings is being able to be creators, and by creating something new with one’s talents, it can bring a lot of joy and happiness,” Mr. Cohen added.
Israeli start-ups tend to be very international. Over the past six years, interns and employees for OnlinePianist have come from Israel, the United States, New Zealand, Germany, France, the Palestinian Authority, and Canada. Also, I was the only female at the company this summer, which leads me to the third part of this article: Women in start-ups.
Read Part I of Jessica’s 3-part series at Summer in Start Up Nation
Read Part III of Jessica’s 3-part series at Women in Israeli Tech Start Ups
Jessica Khaimova, a native New Yorker, graduated from the City University of New York, Brooklyn College in June 2016 with Bachelor's Degrees in environmental and atmospheric science and fiction writing. She is an avid fan of writing, astronomy, science fiction shows (such as Doctor Who), tea, tech, autumn, and cats.