Skills & Keys for Entrepreneurs

The Morning of the Meeting

9:30. A pleasant chilly morning in June down under. In five minutes I will drive to the city of Melbourne. The destination: The Australian Parliament. A personal meeting with Australia’s Federal Minister of Environmental Protection.

Two Weeks Earlier

I sat with the CEO of the Jewish National Fund in Australia in a networking meeting.

Flexibility in action – or in Ariel Sharon, former PM of Israel’s words: “What you see from here is not what you see from there.”.

Who knows, perhaps he would want me as a project manager. I notice a blue box on the table. The kind we grew up with as kids back home. After a few minutes of small talk, I pick up the box and ask him what world view is embodied in this box, in his opinion.

Flexibility in action – or in Ariel Sharon, former PM of Israel’s words: “What you see from here is not what you see from there.”.

Everything is more delicate here, Roee. Be careful with your Israeli directness, I reminded myself as I sat waiting for his answer. “Fundraising,” he answered with embarrassed confidence. “We help Israel by raising funds. Why, what do you see in it?” He answered with a question.

“The box represents a perspective in my view, a paradigm. A period in the past,” I answered. “The Israel that once was: with a hand extended to get help. And today, it’s possible and worthwhile to keep on helping Israel – by a reversal in perception”.

“Israel is perceived today as the start-up nation,” I continued. “Indeed, it is possible to send a million dollars for establishing a water reservoir in the Negev (the Israeli outback), and that is certainly help. But it is also possible to create Israeli know-how in the environmental field”.

Refreshing the Australian Jewish National Fund’s perception: helping Israel by means of raising dollars for the export of knowledge and technology.

“There are dozens of Israeli environmental technologies shelf products that are just waiting to break into new markets,” I strengthened my argument. “We can send Israeli students who have received scholarships from your organization’s scholar program to study in Australia, and to study its strong environmental areas. For example: firefighting, purifying sewage in dairy farms and more. From your point of reference as an organization,” I wrapped up my short pitch, “you could broaden your circle of influence and diversify your work. If you’d like,” I summarized, “I can write out a short conceptual draft about it for you. Think about it in the meantime?!” His gaze hinted at what I would understand two weeks later in a meeting with the local placement consultant. According to her, many Australians have an “island mentality”.

“New concepts that come from outside often threaten us,” she went on. “The pace is slower here. It takes longer to build trust. Not to mention making things happen, certainly in comparison to the tempo in Israel.”

Two days before the meeting with the Minister

I call my dad. I tell him about the networking process and the job hunting. I tell him about the upcoming meeting with the Minister. “Go with a vision paper, Roee, don’t go empty-handed,” he concludes the conversation with advice full of life experience.

At that moment I was thrown back to the words of one of the best teachers I had in my adult life, Dr. Shmuel Brenner, who was the deputy director general of the Ministry of Environmental Protection during the years of negotiations with the Palestinians. He told us as a lecturer that at every turn, he made sure to leave a draft for discussion on the table. “At that moment the discussion will revolve around “your” draft,” he clarified. “Thus, you set the agenda and come from a place of strength”.

Thank you, dad, I end the conversation and thank him out loud, while I simultaneously thank Dr. Brenner in my heart. Great ideas.

One day before the meeting with the Minister

Nine o’clock in the morning, I go into my favorite supermarket. Why the hell does a kilo of red peppers cost $9.00 here?

When I reached the bananas a jack-pot clinked in my mind: I will write the Minister an ideological plan on the subject of establishing a bilateral hub – “a central station” that will receive, sort, cultivate and apply leading environmental technologies from Israel in areas of demand in Australia. We cracked this in the 70’s in the Arava (the Israeli frontier). We will bring the knowledge here. The red peppers will be cheaper.

This is how I imagined the red peppers traveling from the Israeli Arava to the Australian outback while I was in the supermarket.

On the way home, I already managed to put myself down and suppress this wonderful idea. You’re a clown, do you think he’s waiting for your ideas? Netafim (an Israeli manufacturer of irrigation equipment) and Chromogen (Israel-based company focused on design, manufacture and distribution of solar thermal water heating systems) have been here in Australia since the 80s. They are not waiting for Roee Elisha. If PM Netanyahu is promoting collaboration plans like this in California, his advisers are certainly at work here. Yes, my dear readers, all this was running through my mind in the five-minute drive home.

Once again the “judge” came to visit. I used to be afraid of him. I gave in to his voice; but today he helps me as I use his “voice” to better craft my ideas.

Half an hour later I wrote a one-page outline for a plan for his consideration. Chromogen and Netafim will become the anchors of this draft hinting at what happens when investments are made in Israeli companies with an environmental background.

My computer screen flickered and his internet profile picture lit up the table. He is a marathon runner in his free time. Good for a start-up, I thought. He runs long distances.

The morning of the meeting with the Minister

I look at the impressive Victorian building. Everything is clean and tight here. Unlike the Israeli parliament, my ID was not checked at the entrance. How innocent. How nice.

I peek at my phone and hear a gentle voice. “Roee?” “Yes,” I answer. “Nice to meet you. I am Jennifer, the Minister’s adviser. Come, I’ll take you to the meeting place. The Minister is waiting for you.” Her appearance pressed the rewind button in my memory to a similar moment at Capitol Hill. To Senator John Kerry’s office. Ten years before we had met with him and with his advisers as a group of students. One of them was dressed exactly the same. Politics look the same. A universal cross cultural “language” ….

“Hi Roee,” the Minister greets me, “please take a seat”. My heart beats, I had lost my composure after all. Four years had passed since I had worked with the Israeli government; when I went around amongst Ministers and Parliament members in the corridors of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Environment and the Israeli parliament. At the sight of the Minister all these memories came back to me. Those I connected to and those that I didn’t…not bad for three seconds… the sneaky language, self-interests, the “masks”, and power of influence. In short: The House of Cards.

We chatted a little about his years on the Israeli kibbutz, having picked up on a shared interest. A week earlier I had gotten a tip from a senior officer at JNF that the Minister had enjoyed his time on the kibbutz in the 70s. (Remember the sharpening of attention to incidental comments that resonate within you?) Minutes pass. He takes off his jacket. I remembered in that second that PM Nentanyahu walked beside President Obama when the latter decided to take his jacket off as he descended from Air Force One at Ben Gurion Airport a year and some before. Four years later I was to learn the meaning of this move in body language. It’s called mirroring. When mirroring, there is a dominant person who leads and a person who follows. Both synchronize their movements. Subconsciously, trust is created as the body says: “we are on the same page”. I took my jacket off from an intuitive place to show the Minister that we are on the same page. And it worked. The atmosphere quickly became friendly and direct.

The Minister leaned over toward me and began to review the document. “Please tell me about yourself,” the Minister said. He listened to me talk about my work in the environmental area for a surprising nearly 20 minutes, displaying a mixture of politeness and respect, healthy curiosity, interest in my story, and a real interest in learning. I didn’t understand my uniqueness then; I was just myself. As he read the document, the cheeky, impatient Mediterranean side of me came out. But that is my beauty, I thought to myself, and I let the words play out of my mouth.

“Honorable Minister, the idea is simple. When it comes to the environmental field, the Australians lead in some areas and the Israelis in others”.

“Let’s establish a bilateral hub”. He frowns and his eyes scan the document. I decide to step on the pedal of imagination so that it would be easier for him: “Imagine yourself traveling in a bus in the Israeli outback. A third of the passengers are researchers, a third are investors and a third are government workers traveling with you in the back. I’m the driver. I will take you to selected sites where you will be exposed to our unique and leading agri-tech in Israel”.

“There’s no reason for red peppers to cost $9 per kilo,” I continue. “After the project, the price will drop to $5. We cracked this in the 70s in the Israeli frontier, and now we will bring the good news to the Australian outback”.

The Minister’s press release in which he declared the examination of the proposal. Sensitivity in ventures is expressed by the ability to get into someone else’s shoes (in this case a politician) by means of the question: what motivates him (in this case – promoting environmental policy and the need for a connection to the media).


Shut up. Let him read. But it’s hard for me to keep quiet when I’m enthusiastic. Then I decide to step on the pedal of imagination once again by creating a common emotional-practical ground:

>> Both countries have an arid peripheral climate.

>> The Australian Army helped liberate the Negev.

>> Both countries deal with waves of immigration.

“There are common work channels between us such as the JNF and the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce that can be developed.” I go on strengthening the similarities. “You opened the door for Israeli companies. Look at them. They change reality”.


It’s now or never in my mind. So I went on:

“One month after the visit to Israel, you will drive the investors’ bus on Australian soil. The same passengers, only this time you will route the bus to areas of demand throughout the great continent: off-grid communities requiring sewage purification and solar-based electricity in the Northern Territories – smarthouse technologies, smart irrigation systems in Victoria; energy efficient technologies in urban hotels in Perth. You name it.

He finished reading the document and asked his adviser to bring the government’s import knowledge index. I was about to be exposed to Australian precision and efficiency. This was a table describing what every country can and needs to teach young Australia.

He pointed to Israel and said: “You hit the bullseye. You are a start-up nation and we are interested in acquiring knowledge. It sounds interesting. If you will give me a detailed and thorough proposal, I will look into it positively”.

I look over at him and say: Next month you will receive a draft for review.

The Minister rose from his seat. We shook hands and I thanked him for his hospitality with a satisfied smile that also revealed the release of tension. On the way out I exchanged business cards with the adviser and on the way to the elevator I managed to lay a connecting track between us: she was originally from Liverpool in England. A dedicated fan of the local soccer team. As a child I admired the team. Ian Rush and John Barnes, the leading players of this legendary team, would connect us emotionally up to the security check post where I would part with her.

A week after the meeting

In the days after the meeting I started to wrap up the raw edges. I started a quick round of persuasion and I finished up agreement documents with JFN Australia and the Chamber of Commerce. JFN will be appointed to the research and development channel that will have an academic—research character. The Chamber of Commerce will be appointed to the connection between investors and entrepreneurs. Suddenly we discovered that our placement adviser friend’s “island mentality” is also embodied in the local regulations. It doesn’t matter to the Australians if the technology comes with the stamp of approval from the Frankfurt Standards Institute. They want all imported technologies to receive a local regulatory certificate. For this reason, I asked to add another Israeli startupist who had lived there for 14 years and was an expert in the area of environmental regulations. Bingo – the functional puzzle was complete.

At this point I sat down with each one of the future partners and together we mapped their contribution to the puzzle in light of their different needs and abilities. The bottom line: every stakeholder will engage in the area of their expertise, while holding hands with the others. The whole is larger than the sum of its parts.

“The Minister is excited about you.” The acquaintance that put us together told me on the phone. I called to ask him at the conclusion of the meeting if the way I understood things actually matched his perception. “Yes,” he answered me, “I love the boy.”

About a month after the meeting

My partner comes over to me looking very pale. She had just vomited in the bathroom for the umpteenth time. Yes, we are pregnant. I went out to get the mail from the mailbox and opened an envelope with the regional hospital’s stamp on it. Pregnancy test results come by mail here. They are paced differently, haven’t I mentioned it already? Lovely. One of the results was not good so they referred us to an earlier than expected scan. What now, problems, I think to myself in overt childish selfishness. Just as I’m on a wave!

The doctor looks at us, putting more gel on her abdomen for the ultrasound scanner. “Congratulations! Did you know you have twins?”

That is the reason for the irregular result in the preliminary test…my wife breathed sighs of relief. And I shouted “What? My love, we’re flying back home…”

The view from the high stories of Melbourne. From the bottom of my heart I believed that I belonged there – that is the reason I came.

One month before returning to Israel

After a few days I find myself having a motivational session with the team we set up. Stakeholder representatives plus a local parliamentary adviser. I connected them with Liverpool. They speak the same political “language.” Why should I learn a new language?!

At the meeting we agreed on a schedule, that by Christmas the final document would be sent to the Minister. From the window, the skyscrapers played a game of shadows with the sun. And here I am, an immigrant of five months leading the discussion as if I had been born here. There are moments in life that are like dreams come true. They come true only for those who dare to follow their dreams.

But dreams are separate from reality…

The two little seeds that sprouted in my partner’s stomach had a different path of development. A path that would shape my future differently from what I expected.

This is what the stomach looked like when I pressed SEND.

This is what the stomach looked like when I pressed SEND.

During the weeks that followed, my partner and I made the decision to return to Israel. The team had met already several times and the project moved forward at a pace that I didn’t like. But it did go forward. Movement is an important factor in a project. Patience is a tremendous trait in life, especially in a project setting.

The time has arrived. I called the acquaintance and told him with thickness in my throat that we had decided to return. “Too bad, Roee, but that is much more important than the project. All the best success. Remember, there are no mistakes in life, Roee.” He began to wrap up the conversation. “In the next few days I will send an organized email to the team about closing the project.” “WHAT?” I raised my voice. “No way! I am directing the project from Israel. We will make the deadline.” I say so. “Think about this over the weekend, okay?!” On the other side I heard mainly silence that testified to shock from the Middle Eastern intonation that reared up from out of nowhere. I decided to end the conversation with the assertiveness that rose out of me because I had nothing to lose. “Okay,” he answered with a giggle.

On Monday morning I called him back. “Roee… Roee… Roee…” I heard my name echoing from the other side as if it were in a cave. “Okay, carry on with directing the project from Israel. Just because of your determination and your character.

” I sent an update to the team and I received a flood of blessings for the twins on the way. They are “on my side.” I breathed a sigh of relief.


Three weeks before the birth, on a cold and rainy winter day in the Jezreel Valley in Northern Israel I pressed SEND. On Christmas eve the proposal was sent to the Minister.

What happened to it? What do you think? If a drama, then all the way…

It was approved by four Ministers before the decisive fifth signature came. The government fell…and thus, one clear day I looked at the two wonderful creatures that had emerged into our world and I understood in my head what it would take my heart another two years to internalize: a door closes, a door opens. I must re-invent myself one more time.

The twins Negev and Ogen at Hula Valley, Northern Israel. Navigators of the real decisions in my mind.