Sean Street’s goal entering his International Public Service Project with MassChallenge Israel was simple: “What can I learn today to build the best possible business tomorrow?”
Since early May, Sean Street has been in Jerusalem working with MassChallenge Israel, a zero-equity startup accelerator that brings the latest startup innovations and technologies to a global community of funders.
Each year, MassChallenge Israel selects finalists from a pool of more than 500 applicants to compete for funding to grow their businesses. In addition to the opportunity to compete for more than $3M in cash prizes, the selected finalists receive 16 weeks in MassChallenge’s renowned accelerator program, which allows for hands-on support, free working space, tailored workshops, and access to corporate partners and investors.
Street reports directly to MassChallenge’s content team and works on programming, curriculum, and mentorship for each of the finalists. He also aims to work with many of the startups through the fall for his Capstone project with the Clinton School.
Startups selected to participate in the 2019 MassChallenge Israel cohort cover a diverse range of industries, including FinTech, AgroTech, PropTech, CleanTech, healthcare, and social impact.
“I remember looking through the portfolio of companies MassChallege Israel has worked with and being impressed by the diversity of nationalities, genders, and industries among the early-stage companies,” Street said. “Reflecting on my first five weeks in Jerusalem, my expectations have been wildly exceeded.”
A native of Hot Springs, Street’s time in Jerusalem has been filled with inspiration, energy, and innovation that bring together his experiences at the Clinton School and the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where he earned his MBA.
“Being in a position to both learn from the content creators and evaluate the learnings and development of the content learners has reinforced the lessons learned at Walton and the Clinton School while exposing me to new perspectives on how to build the best possible business,” he said.
Street’s interests in business and entrepreneurship start with his family. Specifically, they start with his grandfather, Loy Poterfield, who owned and operated a muffler repair business in Rockport, Ark. Potterfield was an “entrepreneur’s entrepreneur” who had a hand in just about every aspect of his business. Street credits his grandfather with teaching him to “work hard, dream big, stay rooted in Arkansas, and live a high-quality life.”
“Although social entrepreneurship wasn’t a branded idea when he built his business, many of the virtues he embodied are parallel to those of social entrepreneurs today,” Street said.
The practice of social entrepreneurship, or businesses known as social enterprises, capture the work of many for-profit organizations that create value in societal outcomes and impacts. Many of the businesses in this summer’s MassChallenge cohort fit the criteria of a social enterprise, with missions that are built on improving society and the environment.
“Every business has an impact on the world around it,” Street said. “When entrepreneurs recognize how their existence affects the world around them, they begin to think critically about their purpose, their mission, their vision and their values. In my role working with each startup, we talk about these things.”
Street immersed himself in the organization over his first month in Israel. He sat in on content sessions and introduced himself to representatives from all 50 startups. He helped set up events and workshops, sent out weekly communications, and welcomed guest speakers and experts. “In this process, my team and the startups were feeling me out, and I was building an intuition for how the team, program, and organization worked,” he said.
Now, nearly two months into his work, he has taken on a leadership position on the Education-Technology track where he is responsible for the skill development of Ed-Tech startups. Additionally, the MassChallenge partnership team has tasked him with creating a dashboard of Ed-Tech and Med-Tech content, contacts, and evaluations to help the team communicate with partners and funders who are interested in their progress.
“The startups MassChallenge Israel attracts come from a wide variety of industries, but a primary reason they have been selected as finalists in the program is their commitment to make the world a better place,” Street said. “MassChallenge looks at the people and then the idea, and after working intimately with this cohort of companies, I can tell MassChallenge has figured something out in how it chooses its finalists. These are good people doing good work.”
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.