Timing Your “Launch Pad” into the Market from a Torah Perspective

LTB 2013 Launch Pad Brooklyn Jewish Business

Website banner for a business event June 11 in Brooklyn called LTB 2013

In a recent Inc.com article entitled “Why Timing is Everything,” the authors goes on to talk about those companies that first enter the market, and those that follow close behind. As the article goes on to explain, sometimes, it is the companies that come to the scene later that make the biggest splash in the pool:

New opportunities typically arise because of new innovation that either inspires or enables others to enter a market. With the web in particular, the enabler is typically a new platform that brings people together and makes it possible for entrepreneurs to monetize those crowds. For example, Goto.com introduced Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising in 1998, which led to an explosion of e-commerce activity. In 2003 Google AdSense brought about an explosion of ad-driven content websites and blogs.

Since the Facebook’s IPO last year, we now have another question on our hands. Is there any good time anymore to enter the public sector? Or is it better for companies to rely solely on funding from private investors (even on the very public Shark Tank or Kickstarter forums)?

Appropriately enough, we’re going to relate this entry about timing to last week’s Torah portion of Shelach. Maybe we are writing this now, instead of last week, to give room for all those who start-up projects that also could have been started last week. In any event, it’s always a good time to talk about Torah concepts, even if the actual Torah portion was already read in synagogue.

We spoke last time about the sin of the spies versus the ma’apilim (the group who decided to proceed alone and unauthorized, toward the land of Israel, after the sin of the spies), relating both to the two opposite psychological extremes of lethargy and impulsivity.

To explain the deeper significance behind the Inc.com article, we can say that it all comes down to the ability to rectify impulsivity. Sometimes ideas are acted upon too fast, and sometimes by the time we act, the market is already mature. Here is how the article explains this:

As for Apple’s app store, there was a clear opportunity for those who were early to provide the interactive content the market was demanding, but within only a couple years the app store had already become congested with excess content and discovery of new apps quickly became a problem for those who were not already established or who were not providing the very best and most popular content. Today, more than 700,000 apps are available in the app store and 50 percent of the revenue is generated by only 25 developers.

The article concludes with a discussion about “fast followers,” or those that are able to enter the market soon after someone else validated it. But instead of relying on someone else’s R&D department, it would still be preferable to be a “fast leader” if possible.

Rectifying Impulsivity

Unlike the lethargic spies, the ma’apilim were the impulsive group that wanted to enter the land of Israel even though God was no longer with them. Their rectification then doesn’t have to do with overcoming the fear of conquering and settling the land of Israel (as it did with the spies), but rather of properly harnessing this impulsivity towards positive ends. The rectification of their physiological state is rooted with the commandment of challah. Immediately when you eat from the bread of the land of Israel, before you eat impulsively, take a terumah, a donation, for the priest.

Go and Eat Your Bread in Joy

The distinction here is not that we are asking people to slow down. For sure, it is a good and worthwhile motivation even today for a Jew to want to enter and live in the land of Israel. But this desire should be coupled with purposefulness.

The sages say that “earth” (ארץ) is so called because it is cognate with the word “will” (רצון). In the land of Israel, the land want’s to do God’s will. The sages here are saying that the land is a sign that God’s will is us, God wants us and our actions (כבר רצה האלק’ם את מעש’ך). Anyone who lives in the land of Israel should thank God, and feel that God wants him and his actions.

Start-Up Nation

Aside from providing a deeper insight for why Israel is called the “start-up nation” (i.e. that it is a land where the Divine “will” is most manifest), it is also a land of purposeful desires. Even the most ambitious act, to enter the land itself, should come with the awareness of a responsibility to a higher source.

To abstract our discussion then, the success of being the first to enter (either as a start-up or going public), comes down to the “dough” (i.e. money or revenue) gained from the endeavor. But instead of success being measured strictly from earnings reports, the public also doesn’t want to see these companies simply “sit and eat” their newfound bread.

To be sure, this was a criticism frequently made of Facebook shortly after their IPO last year. But since then, Facebook has been working hard to show themselves to be a company on the move. To “run” (רץ) is another word related to “land” (ארץ) and “will” (רצון). But if we are running, its important that we become aware of where we should be running to.

The Torah Start-Up

Just as the Torah is our life, without which we would be like fish out of water, so the land of Israel is our “land of the living.” Just as the individual learning Torah unites with it, and therefore his pleasure and enjoyment from the learning become a part of the mitzvah, so too a Jew who enters the land of Israel unites with the land. Every day, before learning Torah, we bless God for having given us the Torah, and make a request that we will find it pleasantly palatable, “May You sweeten the words of Torah in our mouths.” Likewise, before entering the land of Israel, it was necessary that our hearts be motivated to enter it joyfully and with high spirits. As God commanded Abraham, Lech lecha—Go to this land, for your own enjoyment and benefit.

The Joy of Start-Ups

This explains then why there is such joy to be found in starting new companies, funding them, and reading or watching news about them. Every start-up is a potential for new innovations and ideas, to be entered into the land of Israel. To be included in the “start-up nation” in this sense is to be able to place the joy from these innovative thoughts, within the landscape of Torah. Unlike other mitzvot whereby personal benefit may blemish it, this is not applicable to Torah study. We should certainly enjoy and benefit from learning Torah, and should try to innovate with it daily.

LTB 2013 Summit

The joy or entertainment value then of the upcoming LTB 2013 summit, Shark Tank, Kickstarter or other new start-up platforms, stems from a desire to properly eat bread in the land of Israel. There are some who consider themselves “serial start-ups,” meaning that once they begin one company, they are already thinking about the next. Silicon Valley seems to follow this approach, where many entrepreneurs work hard there, in order to hand their business over to a bigger company.

The idea though behind entering these new businesses into the “land of Israel” is to place these ideas within the landscape of Torah. When you see a new start up idea, it’s an opportunity to see where we can find this concept in the weekly Torah portions. This is our game or entertainment value. To take new ideas, and show how they originate in something that is timeless or eternal.

Many great businesses start with the idea, then sometime later find a way to monetize their business model. So too, while our approach may seem only idea-based at first, eventually the hope is that these Torah articles will materialize into Divine blessings for physical plenty.

Inspired from the teachings of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, especially the weekly shiur given 21 Sivan 5773 in Jerusalem.

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