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Interview with Uri Pomerantz, MBA 2008

Rita Winkler: Hi Uri, why don't you tell us a little about yourself?

Uri Pomerantz: I was born in Israel and moved to California during my childhood. I attended Stanford University as an undergraduate, after which I moved to Boston to work full time. I'm currently pursuing my MBA at Stanford and my MPA in International Development at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

RW: Describe your professional background pre-MBA.

Uri: Prior to the GSB I worked full-time at Microsoft in business development and part-time at a microfinance company I co-founded during college.

I first became interested in social entrepreneurship when my great-aunt was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 2002. The event prompted me--an Israeli American who believed in peace--to critically assess the approach the international community had been taking to address the Arab-Israeli conflict. The issue of economic prosperity was being largely ignored.

Since 2000, over 120,000 young skilled Palestinian workers were left frustrated and unemployed, unable to commute to jobs within Israel. Governments were slow to respond to changes on the ground, and private-sector companies were waiting for tensions to subside before resuming investments.

I joined together with an experienced Palestinian businessman and an American entrepreneur to co-found The Shurush Initiative: a non-profit microfinance organization focused on alleviating poverty by funding small businesses throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

We raised our initial funding after winning the Stanford Social Venture Competition; since that time we have developed a joint partnership with the YMCA of East Jerusalem, distributed our first loans as part of a revolving (self-sustainable) loan fund, and to this day we have funded over 20 businesses.

We've also partnered with Kiva.org to allow donors to fund entrepreneurs directly through the internet. [Editor's Note: Kiva.org was co-founded by Jessica Flannery, MBA 2007]

Since starting graduate school, I've also had the chance to assist in setting up the first private equity fund in Sierra Leone and to work in the fledging South African venture capital industry.

Most recently, I've spent my summer working in Goldman Sachs' financing group. I hope to use the power and efficiency of the capital markets to engender economic change on a much larger scale. By developing new financial instruments, or building new funds to support entrepreneurship in the developing world, I hope to bring this dream one step closer to a reality.

RW: With such enormous accomplishements under your belt already, dare I ask what your plans are after business school?

Uri: I plan to work at an investment or advisory firm with a focus on international growth opportunities. Ideally, I would have a chance to spend time living in a developing region and working with key international financial institutions and private sector organizations.

In the long-term, I hope to lead an organization focused on finding investment opportunities in the developing world that are both profitable and promote economic prosperity. In doing so, I am interested in developing new financial instruments or building new funds to invest in regions largely ignored by capital markets.

RW: Why did you apply to Stanford?

Uri: I applied to Stanford because it is one of the few places in the world that brings together people wo are not only highly skilled and analytical leaders, but who think and dream big. The classmates and friends I’ve made here are a source of inspiration for me. Nowhere else in the world but the GSB would I find it normal to have dinner with a former army captain, internet entrepreneur, political campaign manager and an award-winning film maker.

RW: What are your long-term career goals and how will an MBA from Stanford help you in meeting your career aspirations?

Uri: I applied to Stanford so I could develop the skillset that is essential to achieving my long-term career goals, including skills like financial analysis, strategy formation, accounting and operations. But what I found is that beyond the scope of the classroom, the most valuable experience I’ve had at the GSB is getting to know my classmates and attending a number of events at school.

I view my MBA experience as more than just an opportunity to refine the analytical skills which will help me succeed professionally, but as a chance to reflect and redefine what I want to do with my life. I have found the GSB--an environment with so many different speakers, clubs, courses, and study trips--to be a wonderful place to both reflect on your career before school and redefine your goals for the future.

RW: Tell us about your summer internship.

Uri: My summer internship was in the financing group at Goldman Sachs in New York City. I worked in the leveraged finance division, which provides both advisory and financing services to some of the most important funds in the world. As part of this internship, I learned a tremendous amount about capital markets, the process behind which corporations are bought and sold, and had a chance to see how the leaders of a global investment bank analyze major financing decisions and view risk.

RW: How did you source your summer internship?

Uri: I found my internship through the campus recruitment process led by the Career Management Center and first considered an internship after speaking with a senior partner at the firm who happened to be an active GSB alumnus.

RW: Can you relate some highlights of your first year?

Uri: One of my highlights this year was our study trip to Mexico during spring break. In the course of ten days we completed a whirlwind tour of a fascinating nation. Some of the highlights included a discussion with the US ambassador, speaking with the first lady of the nation at her official residence, and meeting with the CEOs of a dozen leading corporations. We were also able to spend time with Professor George Parker and his wife, who joined us for the trip and lead engaging discussions with the group and our guests. Lastly, I was able to meet many new classmates and develop new friendships with second year students.

RW: What motivated you to pursue a joint degree in international economics and development with the Kennedy School of Government?

Uri: I was motivated to pursue a joint degree so I could develop a deeper grounding in the economics and analytics behind development and to better grasp the determinants of economic growth and prosperity, an area which deeply interests me.

RW: You are also pursuing a Global Management Program Certificate. How will this help you?

Uri: Yes, I am pursuing a GMP certificate and believe this is a wonderful opportunity to take a broad series of courses focused on global issues. When I graduated from college, having international experience or speaking a foreign language was viewed as a big plus. Today, the ability to think and manage on a global basis is becoming a necessity. When companies or policy in China or India or Russia shift, organizations in the US are directly impacted. The electives offered by the GMP program provide an analytical grounding that will help me think globally as a manager.

RW: Last question: How would you describe your experience at the GSB so far?

Uri: Simultaneously challenging, stimulating, and inspiring.

RW: Thank you Uri!