2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Eilon Shalev, MIT (Sloan)

Eilon Shalev

MIT, Sloan School of Management

My innate passion in life is achieving the impossible; I dream, and try.”

Hometown: Tel Aviv, Israel

Fun fact about yourself: I wrote a novel (in Hebrew) at the age of 23, and was one of the first Israelis to use crowdfunding in Israel. The novel explores the mysteries between young men and women.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Ben-Gurion University, BA in Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Headstart Group, Senior Product Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? elphi, Inc. New York – my own startup

Where will you be working after graduation? elphi, Inc. Founder & CEO.

elphi, my startup, is aiming to streamline the mortgage lifecycle from origination to securitization. We are using Corda, the industry-leading DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) developed by R3, the largest consortium of banks. We believe that our SaaS solution can reduce the economic rents by billions of dollars, and thereby decrease mortgage interest rates for the borrowing public.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Head of the DCI (Digital Currency Initiative) Working Groups Program: Supported 14 projects from 10 companies such as BCG, Deloitte, and Fidelity Labs, managing 60 interdisciplinary students coming from multiple universities, researching blockchain projects ranging from Supply Chain through Economics of Mining, to Social Capital.

Peer-to-peer Finance Tutor: Tutored four 1st-year MBAs before mid-terms and finals; students scheduled two more follow-on meetings, accumulating more than 10 hours of private lessons. All have successfully passed their tests.

Peer-to-peer Coach: Coached a Master of Finance candidate, exploring various coaching frameworks, leading the candidate to identify three SMART goals after only one meeting.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Co-founded (with four professors) Blockchain Lab, an official academic action-learning class, where 60 students from multiple departments across MIT and other universities form four-member groups and work on blockchain-based projects with world-class companies such as BCG, Deloitte, AT Kearney, Fidelity Labs, MAS, IADB, Nomura, and more. I am proud because I was able to contribute to the larger MIT and Cambridge/Boston community by creating unique learning opportunities for 60 students, in a matter of weeks from inception to creation. I coordinated among MBA Program officers, four professors, 92 student applicants, MIT Media Lab, and other universities. Potential impacts from this lab will be software prototypes, AI algorithms, blockchain-based business papers, and evaluative frameworks for investors, entrepreneurs, corporations, and scholars.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Signing the first paying customer while in business school, after leveraging 18 months of classwork into building a viable blockchain-based business. During that time, I have endlessly heard the word NO from potential investors and research targets. I am proud of my perseverance to iterate the idea, pivot, and recruit more than 50 students to help me in-and-outside of class. But most of all, I am proud for not quitting and for getting the company to a revenue-generating stage with a modicum of funding, despite popular response.

Who was your favorite MBA professor and why? I had so many favourite professors that it is almost unfair to choose. Yet, one who stood out and had an immense effect on my career path is Simon Johnson. Simon is a scintillating economist, brilliant professor, and a very humble human being. Simon saw a great need for a blockchain community at MIT, and launched a weekly luncheon/dinner, where he invited experts from the blockchain community alongside curious students to join him for meaningful discussions. His attention to the community, alongside his welcoming approach, and terrific advice, led me to take important career decisions early on in my MBA experience.

I remember standing with him for merely 30 seconds after one of the very first dinners, asking for advice about an entrepreneurial idea that I had conjured during the first week of the MBA program and that involved intricate regulatory limitations. He paused, looked at me, and mentioned that I should act responsibly as an entrepreneur and embrace regulations, especially at the beginning of my entrepreneurial career. It was my second week at MIT Sloan and I had yet to obtain real claim to this exclusive and renowned title. Simon considered me an entrepreneur, my heart filled with pride. I have to admit, it was then and there when I started considering myself an entrepreneur. A proud entrepreneur, no turning back. And of course, that I should embrace regulation.

What was your favorite MBA Course? From all the marvelous courses I took at MIT Sloan, my favourite one was a brand new course called Blockchain and Money, taught by Gary Gensler. Gary comes from a prolific career in the financial and public sector: a partner at Goldman Sachs, Chair of the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission), and CFO for Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Gary combined a variety of approaches, concepts, and frameworks into a systematic method for assessing the merits of business use cases and discerning whether blockchain is the proper technology to address those use cases. I learned how to approach business problems in a way I haven’t seen in practice before, and how granular one can get, coming even from such high positions as those Gary have served at. God is in the details, regardless of seniority.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose MIT Sloan for three reasons.

  1. The Mission. MIT Sloan’s mission is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. This mission is patent in the way the courses are structured, and the way the professors teach and talk about business. I wanted to belong to a place with such a mission, and I am proud to be a part of this community today.
  2. The Program. MIT’s motto is Mens et Manus, Mind and Hand. MIT Sloan embodies the same motto with the action-learning teaching method. There are more than 10 official action-learning labs, and many additional project-based courses. I wanted to start my own company during the MBA Program, and MIT Sloan offers a slate of hands-on classes that are crucial if one wants to hit the ground running. In addition, the program offers the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Track, and hence a variety of entrepreneurship-focused courses. I couldn’t be happier with the program.
  3. The People. Sourcing information from at-the-time MIT Sloan MBA Candidates, I learned how supportive and inclusive the community is. Moreover, students kept lauding the faculty and staff, and after spending almost two years at Sloan, I am happy to concur.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice to applicants is to make sure they understand MIT Sloan’s mission, program, and culture, to ensure that Sloan is a good fit for them. Do they share the mission? Do they need hands-on experience or adhere to the action-learning method? Do they share MIT Sloan’s culture? And why (to all questions)? Those who know how to answer these questions, and if the answers are conclusive for a good fit, I would recommend to apply and to portray a compelling story.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I guess that one thing that pops to mind when one thinks about MIT Sloan is technology. Well, technology is an important and integral part at MIT Sloan, yes. Yet, MIT Sloan offers so much more. Sustainability, operations, strategy, general management, entrepreneurship, finance, leadership, healthcare, marketing, these and many other topics are very palpable on campus. There are so many terrific classes for every domain, and I believe that MIT Sloan is a fantastic business school for many types of business practices and career paths.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known how much I have to learn about the culture. It takes time, especially for non-native English speakers, to pick up the subtleties in both the language and the culture. Had I known how much I have to learn, I might have focused my second semester in the first year on classes relevant to the culture. Luckily, I picked it up for the last semester and decided to take two classes focusing on diversity, inclusion, and equity. I am incorporating the lessons into the culture of my startup.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school has been life-changing for me both personally and professionally.

Personally, I honed my academic, social, and business English. I learned how to learn about culture,  made new life-long friends, and improved my listening skills.

Professionally, I literally started a blockchain-based, B2B, FinTech company with the guidance of more than 20 faculty and staff personnel, and the help of more than 50 MBA students who helped in various capacities, all have encouraged me to feel comfortable taking the entrepreneurial road with the current business idea. I think that this is invaluable and I cherish every moment with these inspiring people.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jake Guglin. Jake and I spent time together during the first semester in a group of 60-70 students. Jake is one of the most gregarious people I know. He is smart, caring, and funny. I was very insecure during the first few weeks of the semester, and struggled with class participation. Jake supported one of my first comments, and I cannot be more thankful for his support, especially given his natural charisma and sound line of reasoning. Jake demonstrated this supportive behaviour towards our community not only in class, but also in official and unofficial social events. It is apparent that Jake is a decent and humble person, who really cares about changing the world for the better, and I look forward to seeing what he will do next.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Several of my former colleagues have influenced my decision to pursue an MBA. Shimon Elkabetz influenced me the most. Shimon is a co-founder and CEO of ClimaCell, one of the most promising tech startups in Boston. Shimon had started his MBA at HBS two years before I did at MIT Sloan. I learned about the existence of U.S. MBA Programs vicariously through him and saw how quickly he had been advancing his entrepreneurial career through his MBA studies. Knowing deep down that I wanted to start my own company, I decided to follow his footsteps and immerse myself in an entrepreneurship-oriented MBA program, and ergo chose MIT Sloan. Shimon helped me throughout the entire process – GMAT tips, admissions advice, and entrepreneurship mentorship – when I arrived in Boston.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favourite movie about business is The Social Network. Every time I watch the movie, I get excited and inspired. The first time I saw the film I was so motivated; I immediately knew that my life calling is to be an entrepreneur. The depicted eureka moments – the quick business decisions, the swift hacking and value creation, and the intensity of the scenes – all had a profound effect on my inspiration.

The biggest lesson I gained was: you want to build a multi-billion-dollar company? The only way to have a whit of chance is to try and not be shy about it.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? BAUFS – Business Analysis Using Financial Statements. We actually had a class that was named that way. The witty professor by the way, whose name is Dr. Noe—another pun nonetheless—did a terrific job teaching us the complicated materials while keeping us very attentive.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably still trying to improve my GMAT score.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? In an entrepreneurial scenario, where one uses the MBA Program to launch a startup, an interesting approach might be to calculate the NPV (Net Present Value) of the cash flow. If I sell my company for $100mm, 7 years after graduation (we will use 9 years in the calculations because we discount the cash flow to the beginning of the MBA program), and at the liquidation event I own 10% of the company, with 50% discount rate which embodies the likelihood of success and all associated risks with the startup, the result is $260,123. I would say that it is pretty much commensurate with the cost of attendance. In another scenario of a $1 billion exit, 9 accumulated years, 5% company ownership, 80% discount rate, the result is fairly the same: $252,068. For slightly favourable terms, the dollar value is significantly higher. So, I would conclude that the value I earned from the MIT Sloan MBA program is way higher than what I paid for it. And this is before incorporating the incredible and life-changing intangible experiences. 

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Space exploration.
  2. Dinner with Elon Musk.

I now realise that they are positively correlated. Ha.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Eilon: Never fails in his last attempt, and never stops trying.

Hobbies? Triathlon: all three professions. Studying foreign languages. Singing.

What made Eilon such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“In addition to enthusiastically pursuing his own personal and professional goal of being a successful entrepreneur, Eilon has been a catalyst for expanding the boundaries of the MIT Sloan MBA curriculum. At the end of his first year, Eilon and a classmate met with me to share their thoughts on how the MBA experience could be improved. While the feedback by itself was valuable, Eilon didn’t stop there. Mid-summer he followed up with a proposal to create an innovative, full-year class that would align with a new MIT blockchain research initiative. He tirelessly generated cross-campus faculty support, student interest, and corporate partner buy-in to launch the class, “Blockchain Lab” just weeks later. Eilon is passionate about technology entrepreneurship and focused his time and energy at MIT to improve student access to cutting edge research and practice – not just for himself but for his classmates as well.”

Maura Herson
Assistant Dean
MBA Program

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