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Israel Unfiltered: Assaf Luxembourg

This week I was joined by Assaf Luxembourg, speaker, and consultant, to speak about the fascinating tech eco-system in Israel, and how the start-up nation is moving into a new phase: Scale-up nation.

Since the rise of “Start-Up Israel”, Assaf Luxembourg has been acting as a brand ambassador, exposing people from all over the world to Israel’s economy and business culture. Assaf, born in Israel, founded and built his business around his passion, to connect people to his country through business. As a marketing and business development professional, Assaf also consults and advises various start-ups, companies, agencies and non-profits, and devotes much of his work to empower young professionals in today’s new world of work. Assaf has been speaking to tens of thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students, and others. Assaf is also part of various start-ups and organizations. Assaf is also a partner at Plus972. In his past, Assaf led a start-up as CEO, was a part of Barclays Accelerator and Techstars in Israel and worked for organizations such as BDO, Israel’s Ministry of Finance, and others. Assaf holds BA in Economics and Political Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Q: When did your passion for promoting Israel develop?

I participated in TAGLIT Birthright-Israel as an Israeli soldier in 2006. This is where the obsession began – I knew I wanted to devote at least part of my life to doing something big, important, and that I care about – and for me, that was exposing people to the real face of Israel, as well as connecting Jewish people to Israel and to each other. Throughout my journey, the “Start-Up Nation” brand of Israel became huge, and that’s how it all connected to business, innovation, and startup entrepreneurship.

Q: How did you get into marketing?

One person who had a big impact on me was Ido Aharoni, who was promoting the idea of “Brand Israel” instead of traditional “Hasbara” and exposing Israel beyond the conflict. A few years later, I was already working on promoting the Israeli economy from the Ministry of Finance, and when the book “Start-Up Nation” came out and Israel got celebrated for its startup entrepreneurship and innovation, it all connected. Originally, I actually never wanted to start my own business – I wanted to be an ambassador and did many activities, jobs, and projects to “prepare myself” for the ministry of foreign affairs. But my path took me to become an entrepreneur and start my own business as well. Since then, I have been advising startups and companies on marketing, storytelling, pitching, etc. Today, I am also a partner at Plus972, a global and award-winning creative agency from NYC, with a strong connection to Israel.

Q: Did marketing + your love for Israel always go together?

There is a known saying that all good marketing does is expose the truth. I believe (as well as many others) that Israel is an example of a good “product”, with very bad market positioning and first impressions by average consumers. This is why I believe it’s a great opportunity.

Q: What inspires you to work with young professionals and entrepreneurs?

As the “Start-Up Nation” brand of Israel matures, and as the information revolution keeps going forward and changing our lives, one current big change is the world of work and how careers are built today. I believe that even the cultural interpretation of the word “entrepreneur” is evolving – especially among young professionals. But, they face challenges that are different from what people their age faced in the past. Here, I see the potential for another way in which values and lessons from Israel (modern state, as well as traditional wisdom) can bring value to individuals in their career path, and I am actively (and publicly) active in this space, especially when dealing with young professionals who move to Israel and try to make it here, via programs such as Masa Israel Journey and others.

Q: What keeps you going when you face adversity in your professional and personal life?

It changes, but I would say a combination of a few things:

    1. I think I won the lottery, being born Jewish, in modern Israel, mid 80’s, and with no major financial/health/other setbacks. So I am grateful, sometimes even feel “unworthy”.
    2. This pushes me to try and devote my time and energy to important things, and to try to do them the right way. Success and money are important, but they are like fuel. It’s the destination we drive towards that I think matters.
    3. Sometimes we lose, receive bad feedback, deal with complex issues, feel lonely (and as freelancers and entrepreneurs – a lot of loneliness), sad, angry… It’s natural.
    4. However, I really believe that growing old, we will not remember how we felt, but what we did. So, intention matters – but more important than feelings, thoughts, and words – are our actions.
    5. So, I sometimes ask myself, “what would 80-year-old Assaf want me to do in this situation, so he could look back and take pride in how he dealt with things”?

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in your professional life? 

Receiving personal private messages from people who thank me for being a substantial part of their journey, helping them through tough times – this is my fuel. So, working towards these messages via mentoring and advising as an “older brother”, is something I do not do as a professional ordained coach, but I enjoy it a lot.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in your personal life?

Nothing beats the feeling of your body “walking on clouds” after a 10-15-20 Km running, preferably in nature. Another thing is having conversations about history/philosophy/science with very smart people who I learn from.

Q: What is your favorite Jewish holiday, and why? 

Hanukkah. It’s not a standard “religious” biblical holiday, but rather in a way “independence day” of Judaea 2,000 years ago. I am also a sucker for 2nd temple era history, so, double win.

Q: What is your favorite book recommendation?

If you want a great example of how Israelis think in business and startups specifically, get the “Israeli way” better, and also get wise business and leadership advice – I and the Plus972 recently republished (for the first time in English) “Exit” which contains the lessons and insights from one former successful Israeli entrepreneur by the name of Naftali Bennett, who is today the prime minister of Israel. The book could be found online, for free, courtesy of Plus972.

Q: What message do you wish you could get through to the world about Israel?

I was taught (and I believe) that every place has its own unique cultural DNA, which is a combination of history, geography, heritage, lifestyle, philosophy of life, etc. However, cultural values are universal. So, we all have something to contribute to the world marketplace. Israel is far from perfect, there’s much work to be done, and the success story of “Start-Up Nation” is not a utopic fairytale. But if we were able to build a cluster of excellence with our circumstances, and find something in which we are unique and valuable – then anyone can. Any country, people, city, company, team, and person.

You can learn more about Assaf at his website: http://www.assafluxembourg.com
or read his Times of Israel blog: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/assaf-luxembourg/

Check out Plus972: https://plus972.com/

Follow Assaf on socials:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AssafLuxembourg
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/assafluxembourg

About the Author
Yoel Israel is a digital marketing and real estate investor, with a passion for liberal Zionism. Yoel provides an out-of-box perspective and unique interviews about Israelis in the culture. Yoel lives with his wife and daughters in Pardes Chana. He is the founder of WadiDigital.com, Cyfluencer.com, and IsraelUnfiltered.
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