Editor’s Note: In this series — Why Is This Interview Different From All Other Interviews — we will introduce you to pioneering Jewish leaders across a variety of industries.
Alon Ezer is an Israeli entrepreneur and mentor to other Startups. Alon co-founded CUPS, a virtual coffee chain that connects independent coffee shops together to create a one stop shop solution for all the shop’s needs. CUPS connects coffee shops with suppliers, service providers and tools tailored specifically for the coffee industry which were only available before to big chains like Starbucks and Dunkin donuts. CUPS has over 400 locations in the US and its service is active across the US, from New York to the Bay Area. Alon currently lives in New York with his wife and two little boys, Yonatan and Adam.
What is your connection to Judaism?
I was born and raised in Israel. I think that for many Israelis, myself included, Judaism is a way of life and a culture which is very much ingrained in all of us. Even though I am a secular Jew, my Judaism is a big part of who I am.
What’s your favorite new “big idea” coming from the Israel-US tech ecosystem?
I’m having a hard time deciding - there are so many in many different areas of expertise…
I really love the concept of the Pillcam (by Given Imaging). One of the reasons I love it so much is the combination of a life changing product for many people and the fact that no new component was created for it. Many people don’t know but the main innovative part of this product is the combination of different exciting components together. I strongly believe waiting for the right moment and getting different components together into one new product or service which has nothing to do with its individual parts is super initiative and inspiring. Many new services and product are doing that: Uber, Instacart, Square and also Venmo are good examples.
What is your connection with this big idea?
Getting different components together in order to create a new innovative idea is a concept that is very close to my heart. When you think about it, this is what CUPS is all about.
When we set out to build CUPS we wanted to connect existing pieces of business in a scaleable way, bringing as many people as possible into small and medium coffee shops that have served as an innovation ground for so much of our work. CUPS is essentially a business operating system for the independent coffee shop and acts as a one stop shop for all their needs.We give our shops all the tools and services required to run their business in a professional and efficient way. Under that umbrella you can find an amazon like solution helping owners and shop managers to order the supplies they need for the shop, better prices on electricity, credit card processing, professional marketing and design services and much more.
The fact that we get to empower small businesses helps build a sustainable and non monopolistic economy which is something I am very passionate about.
Does this represent Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world”)?
It does in so many ways. I strongly believe in our ongoing quest (as human beings) to change and improve this world. If the Pillcam isn’t answering that definition, I don’t know what is.
Israel as the “Start-up Nation:” Will this continue or is it a passing thing?
I believe that Israel’s Start Up Nation image is firmly rooted in Israel’s human capital and I feel that we need to be doing more to nurture it. The decreasing budget for Israeli higher education, together with the rising talent in developing countries like India and China is definitely a real issue for us. The world is getting smaller and the ability of teams to communicate from anywhere in the world will present a challenge for a country like Israel. I think the Israeli government should work on projects to keep Israeli companies (startups and mature) appealing and unfortunately, I don’t see as much effort as I think is required. I do think that the Israeli way of thinking, which is very “out of the box” and sometimes not very structured, is quite unique and that is one of the main reasons for our ongoing leading part in the world of innovation.
Having said that, that isn’t enough and needs to be supported by the right programs, resources and educational skills and shouldn’t be ignored.
Why is this interview different from any other interview?
This interview was different because it required me to think more deeply about my connection with my own identity and the hallmarks of transformative technology.