StartupChutzpah – A Frum Bootcamp to Learn About Entrepreneurship

By Benyamin Clayman

How can I help change the frum world?

When Zev Wolfson zt’l passed away recently, it greatly inspired me to want to help Am Israel with whatever skills I have. Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, the Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka Yeshiva in Bnei Brak said to me that when he was a young man in Lakewood, one core component of the weltanshauung was very different. They felt idealistic, they were rebuilding and changing the world. They were willing to sacrifice to spread Torah and rekindle the soul of the Jewish people. They never felt entitlement or that others will do the job.

When my Lithuanian great-great-grandparents moved to America they came with nothing but a dream for a better life. The first American generation got into Harvard Law School, got elected to public office, and supported numerous Jewish causes. When my Moroccan grandparents came to America in 1974, they had very little. No English, little support, but also a dream. They worked hard, raised their children, and recently merited to see their first great-grandchild born in Jerusalem. Both sides succeed through a lot of Divine Providence and getting help from their fellow Jews. We as a people have always taken tzedakah very seriously, even the least connected still make sure there is not a single Ivy League university, major art museum, or health institution not having a Steinwitzmanberg Wing.

Rambam writes however, “the highest form of charity—above which there is no higher—is one who strengthens the hand of their poor fellow Jew and gives them a gift or loan or enters into a business partnership with the poor person. By this partnership the poor man is really being strengthened as the Torah commands in order to strengthen him till he is able to be independent and no longer dependent on the public purse. It is thus written, “Strengthen him [the poor person] so that he does not fall and become dependent on others” (VaYikra 25:35). Notice the order, the highest level of them all is entering a business partnership.

What is amazing, quite out of this world proof in the unique mission of the Jewish people to be a light unto the nations and contribute to all, is the fact that the greatest tech entreprenuers have mostly been Jews. Google, Paypal, Facebook, the list can go on and on. But where are the frum entrepreneurs that have a burning desire? A quick search will yield some promising results. The top seller in entrepreneurship book on Amazon now is a frum professor at Harvard Business School who lists his greatest accomplishment as finishing Shas in the 11th cycle of Daf Yomi. A professor of quantum physics at MIT founded a company that powers your Kindle and other e readers that sold for $215 million recently was featured on Artscroll’s new Talmud app. How can we expand this?

I was speaking to a group of recent Baalei Teshuva at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem about the power of social media and creating value from tech products. They were hooked and started to think of ways to help the Jewish people through new forms of communication. They also had some great ideas on how to make revenue from the ideas so instead of ever fundraising for kiruv or chinuch projects, they would be self sustainable. We were also discussing the lack of a college education as being a neutral consideration when working in tech startups. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both dropped out and most successful programmers and developers never step foot into a classroom to learn their skills. The passing of Zev Wolfson zt’l truly reinforces the point of the power of a visionary self-made entrepreneur who used his business acumen to help millions of Jews strength and find Torah.

So what to do with this information? There is a concept that is now all over the world of startup bootcamps that teach participants the gist of creating a create company in 3 days, or even over a weekend. and 3DayStartup have launched recently but have already created companies that have made millions in revenue with hundreds of jobs.

Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, we decided to create StartupChutzpah. We brought together 10 Yeshiva bocherim during Bein HaZmanim to Nahariya from Mir, Aish HaTorah, Ohr Somyach, and even one straight from the former USSR (he took the train directly from the airport to the event) to learn about entrepreneurship and build a company in less than 54 hours. What we are looking for is ideas on how to make learning about entrepreneurship more accessible to our community and mentors to help young frum people take their concepts to full fledged companies. This can solve a lot of issues, create immense skills and opportunities for those searching for a parnassah, and most of all, be a Kiddush Hashem to create Torah infused companies created and managed by young frum people.

During our inaugural test to see if we could actually pull it off, they built, a pet supply subscription service similar to or DollarShaveClub. They designed the websites, the marketing packages, conducted polls of customers, spoke to suppliers, and wrote a business plan within the time limit. The bocherim also had speakers like a frum businessman who lives in Shanghai about how to manufacture in China and they got to see Rav David Abuchetzera, the famed mekubal and tzadik.

We hope to bring this program to cities throughout the world, develop special courses for girls or the Chassidishe community, and have a mentor network to take the concept to reality. Your comments, any help, advice, and words of encouragement are greatly appreciated, most importantly we are looking to bring this to different communities around the world. If you are interested in contacting us, please email

9 comments on “StartupChutzpah – A Frum Bootcamp to Learn About Entrepreneurship

  1. I was just checking our startup weekend more closely, since you mentioned it.

    Did you do some research to see the background of the founders of the startups that actually succeeded?

    I did and all of them had excellent previous jobs that highlighted some of the skills needed for the startup.

    In fact, overall, startup weekend has a very poor track record. The fact that only 36% of the startups still exist after 3 months, makes one wonder how many exist after 1, 3 and 5 years. Probably 1%.

    Maybe we’re better off just creating bootcamps that teach skills that will allow these young men to succeed as employees too, since that’s where they’ll end up in most cases.

    I highly reccomend the book “The illusions of entrepreneurship”. You’ll see how promoting entrepreneurship for unqualified workers is actually counterproductive and delivers worse ROI than becoming an employee.

    Email me if you want to discuss more.

  2. The concept is interesting, but more important than starting the company in 54 hours would be to provide them with some knowledge that can allow them to determine the viability of the project. Basic accounting (margins, ROI, break even), porter’s 5 forces, basic understanding of marketing tactics, etc.

    With due respect, the example of Zuckerberg is preposterous, because one thing is to drop out of Harvard or Princeton and another things is to drop out of your local community college. Also, to bring proofs from those who built fortunes 50+ years ago with no education is not a good idea, as most industries have become so complex in the past few decades that these stories of rags to riches have become far less common, and it’s disingenous to pretend that we can replicate that with such little instruction.

    Overall, I commend you for the effort and wish you success.

  3. Thank you Scott!

    Skeptic- Mr Wolfson ztl never went to university or did most of the biggest givers to frum causes. My examples were solely examples.
    Finally, check out, a non Jewish organization that has been doing this for a few years and has created thousands of jobs, millions in venture capital, and a number of successful buyouts, last year alone.

  4. “We were also discussing the lack of a college education as being a neutral consideration when working in tech startups. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both dropped out and most successful programmers and developers never step foot into a classroom to learn their skills.”

    I think this is very dangerous ground to tread on. The two examples you gave are people who founded their companies while in the most prestigious college in the United States! The idea that being in that college environment wasn’t crucial to their success is dubious at best. And the idea that successful programmers don’t step foot in classrooms is even more unbelievable. I understand that good people can disagree about the spiritual dangers of secular universities, but to suggest that college (of some sort) is merely neutral in our modern intellectual economy is misleading and perhaps dangerous advice to give to impressionable baalei tshuva.

  5. Well, I’m chutz la’aretz, to be specific Far Rockaway, Queens County in New York State (which also usually includes the Five Towns of Nassau County).

    The “shopping village” of Cedarhurst (one of the Five Towns mentioned above) has many small businesses owned by Orthodox Jewish men and women.

    I really think there would be a lot of enthusiasm for an “Entrepreneurs Bootcamp for Frum Women” event in the Far Rockaway and Five Towns neighborhood.

    So please yes, go right ahead!

  6. Hello Judy,
    We would love to throw an event for women. What community do you live in and if we can get an organizer, i would be delighted to help create a successful event.

  7. It sounds great, and I am sorry that I missed the event.

    One female historian pointed out that in the Alter Heim, frum Jewish women didn’t stand by the stove stirring their pots of chicken soup and gefilte fish. They went out into the marketplace and were hardworking businesswomen, usually supporting husbands or sons-in-law who sat and learned all day. The Chofetz Chaim’s wife ran a successful store, and many other rebbetzins were given “monopolies” over sales of certain products (such as yeast or candles) to supplement the meager salaries paid to rabbonim. Even Shomo HaMelech in the famous song Aishes Chayil praises the Jewish woman for wisely running her finances. Back in the shtetl, many wealthy businessmen married their daughters to rabbis’ sons. These young women inherited the sharpness and smarts of their merchant fathers, and they needed every bit of it to support their families while their husbands studied Talmud all day.

    Nowadays, it would be wonderful if frum young women could be taught these entrepreneurial skills from other successful businesswomen in female versions of these frum startup bootcamps. With yeshiva tuitions going into the five digits, even a family with a working husband needs a good second income. I personally would love to attend such a course.

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