Oren Simanian – the entrepreneur innovator, citizen of the world, who hates to wait

Oren Simanian - the entrepreneur innovator, citizen of the world, who hates to wait

Oren Simanian is an expert in the field of strategic innovation in different spheres with a great passion for sports, lector, entrepreneur and senior innovation consultant. During the last decade he has represented Israeli innovation in almost 100 lectures all around the world, including the World Bank in Washington and TEDx, as well as at economic forums, universities, embassies and so on. Oren is a key figure in the Israel start-up community, who has been chosen the one of the six leading figures in Tel Aviv. He founded the Forum of Managers of Entrepreneurial Communities in Israel.

In the past he has represented Indiegogo – an international crowdfunding platform, through which he has collected more than 25 Million US Dollars for different projects. He created the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital – TAU Ventures, at Tel Aviv University

After a long sport career as a football referee in the Top League and after numerous activities to promote technologies and entrepreneurship, Oren founded Colosseum Sport – one of the leading international groups for innovation in the world, which connects the big sport organizations in Israel and globally, related with the healthy lifestyle.

Mr. Simanian has a combined diploma in accounting and economics from the Tel Aviv University and lectures at several academic institutions.

Would you, please, introduce yourself to our audience?

My name is Oren Simanian. Many people think I am Armenian. I am not Armenian. My father is from Iran, my mother – from Libya. I am Jewish. We are a small family in Israel which is three boys (the minimum is three children).

I am a liberal person and have two children and a dog. And I am telling my personal background because it is interesting to see the Israeli mixer of cultures. My wife is half a German and half Polish. So, when we take four countries and mix them – these are my children. I think very out of the box, my wife thinks very structure in the box and my children – they are the mix of that.

And what about your education and experience?

I studied economics and accounting in Tel Aviv University – one of the best universities in the world. And I had the opportunity to build there innovation practice: I built the Innovation Center in Tel Aviv University, I built the Venture Capital Center of the university, I built innovation and evolution ecosystem – all that is in my blood.

There is a difference between innovation and technology – I am on the side of innovation. Technology is an enabler, and I am un enabler. If you are not philosophic enough, thinker enough, connector enough, technology will not change anything. I’ve been sharing my approach for the last 15 years in innovation, I think, in more than 80 countries and more than 150 international talks. And I truly believe that economy, creative economy, is a base for innovative SMEs – small and medium sized businesses, and this is the future.

What motivated you to create the Colosseum Sport Tech and why did you choose exactly that ancient name?

First of all, I started my journey in general innovation entrepreneurship and parallel to my journey on building innovation thematically, I was active in sport: I was a football referee in the top leagues. And I decided six years ago to merge the passion in sport and the passion in technology. One night I went to sleep, and it was the night before a meeting I had with a designer who had to build my brand and I had to choose the name.

When I woke up in the morning, and I don’t know how, the name Colosseum came to me, and I said I’m going to choose Colosseum. Colosseum was the place for fights. But war in the economic world and peace might be done by, or need to be done, with solutions that will bring prosperity to people without using natural resources but with using technologies.

What do you think about globalization and its influence on sports?

First of all, I think that sport is changing rapidly. And I think that the classic sport is the sport. But we have to invent solutions that will make the game more attractive, and I think that this is the way today. Sport is a language, different music. Sport and music are the two things that connect people and develop the mind to be global.

So, the globalization of sport is the question that we ask ourselves not only for becoming global, but how do we democratize the sport, how we allow people all over the world to play basketball and soccer and ping-pong, and not only to play, but also to watch. Watching sports costs a lot of money and to allow people to watch sports is not easy.

And how innovation change sports?

Innovation is an amazing approach and it’s there: it’s already happening. Sport is a meeting, sport is smart venues, sport is to watch the game from your home, sport is to get your car parked in a decent place, feel that you are secured and feel comfort that people will not throw things on you, and it is an experience. And I think that the US market adopted the ability to understand that sport is entertainment. While in other countries around the world it’s not that yet. For them sport is a competition, it’s a battle. Sport is an entertainment, and the world is going there but slowly, with so many cultural differences.

Which are the main obstacles and barriers for innovation in sport?

First of all – dinosaurs, the second thing is now-how and the third is politics.

Dinosaurs are people of different ages – from 25 to 75, and we call them dinosaurs because they are not open, with open minds. And we have a lot of them in many financial institutions, sport institutes, other public sectors: people that are afraid of innovation and technology.

The second thing – people don’t have now-how.

And the third one is politics which is very important. In many sectors of our life there are people that are small groups of persons who are the decision makers, and they don’t want to enjoy, they don’t want solutions, they want comfort. But they won’t win because the market finally decides.

Do you think that we in Bulgaria have the potential to be successful in innovation and are suitable place for doing such business?

Yes. I think that Bulgaria has a lot of good tech working capital, but not yet good tech living investment and not yet good tech innovative capital. So, in Bulgaria there is technology, but less innovation. In Israel that’s an industry. I met with several Bulgarian entrepreneurs here and they mere on the same mind. Most of the people want to be developers.

Start-ups are a very risky business and investing in them is tricky. How do you manage to persuade investors to put money in them? Do you make your own analysis?

It’s a combination. At the beginning – start-ups in early stage, we ask ourselves do I believe in you to do it, not in your product. Are you a good entrepreneur? I met two entrepreneurs yesterday and one of them was good, the other was telling just stories which were not connected. So, why should I put my money in?

And how did you understand that?

I feel it – it’s the passion. You feel with your nose what someone is doing. You feel whether someone understands, does he/she want to pay the social price, the mental price. You see it. And I can smell it.

What do you think about the Olympic Games in Paris? Would they be a model for mega-events in future in terms of balancing the costs and complexity while preserving the quality and memorable experience?

Oh, it’s a good question. I think that there are a lot of challenges with the organization and security. Paris is very well organized and developed city. This is a good starting point. On the back side, there are a lot of problems, which we saw in the last champions league, with the organization and controlling the security and safety to clash on organizational level. And I think that they are not aware of that. My feeling is that there will be challenges there.

On the other hand, I like very much their approach to building: not to build huge Olympic campus, but to build a sustainable campus, a sustainable Olympics, which have only two new infrastructures built. It’s not like Qatar where 6000 people died and they built white elephant, they distributed money all over, they corrupted people. And this is not also the case in China. Besides that, the ecosystem in Paris is very good and they did an amazing work to adopt innovation. And the main thing – it’s the first time when the opening ceremony is not going to be under one area.

Would you, please, tell us something which is very important from your point of view that I didn’t ask you?

I think that small countries like Bulgaria, like Sweden, like Israel and so on, today can make an impact on using sports, but they need to use innovative elements in order to make the best out of it. I think that Bulgaria needs to take a look to make people here happy, patriots by sport achievements and this will come acknowledging technology. I think that Bulgaria is made of talented people.

On the other side, the innovation part is not there at all in comparison to the potential of people. And I do think that the good places to be at are places where you can work hard and play hard: where you have good life, good food, good parties, good environment, good concerts, but also more than 12 hours in the office.

If you have to decide now what to be your business path, would you choose the same one?

Very good question. We measure life by journeys. And I couldn’t ask for a better journey. I did many things. I travel a lot, I have an amazing journey, not a typical one – to travel to more than 80 countries and to address innovation and entrepreneurship courses and thousands of entrepreneurs. And if I change people minds to creating future, I’ll say OK. I don’t regret the journey and the answer is “yes”.

Which is your favorite Bulgarian meal, if you have one?

In Israel there are a lot of Bulgarian restaurants, and they are very famous and popular. And when I ate there, I liked the kitchen because it is very traditional – it’s not schnitzel or something of the sort, but Bulgarian dishes. I do not remember the names, but I know that Bulgarians have culture and I think that Bulgarians are spicy Europeans as culture and character.

Which is the word you hate most of all?

I hate “wait”. I hate when people say “wait now” ….


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