2016 Best EMBAs: Omri Krigel, University of Chicago (Booth)

by Jeff Schmitt on

Omri Krigel Chicago Booth

Omri Krigel

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Following an accident in 2012, Omri sustained quite severe injuries to his spinal cord. He made a remarkable recovery but was left with severe mobility challenges. But this is not what defines Omri at all. … He is an extremely successful, yet humble character. … He was always a net contributor to the program, bringing his positive energy and motivational spirit to his classes and to his classmates.”

Age: 35

Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

Family Members: Parents Tami and Isaac, brother Yakir

Undergraduate School and Degree: Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel, Arison School of Business; B.A. in business administration, majoring in finance and entrepreneurship

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership RolesInterdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya: Received full scholarship from the IDC’s dean for academic excellence. After a rigorous application process, I was accepted out of hundreds of applicants to the Sam Zell Entrepreneurship Program, Israel’s top entrepreneurship academic program designed for 20 distinguished students with outstanding leadership and academic skills. During my undergraduate studies I was elected to be the head of the Interdisciplinary Center Entrepreneurial Club (IEC). Graduated with honors (Cum Laude).

Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Naval Commando 13th Flotilla (U.S Navy SEALS equivalent): I volunteered to the unit at the age of 18 and got accepted to its highly competitive 22-month training program (0.5% acceptance rate). I graduated with highest distinction and received ranks from IDF’s chief of staff. After few years of commanding and participating in numerous missions in stressed situations and under fire, I was selected to become an officer and after six months graduated officers’ academy with highest distinction (1st in class). Served for seven years and retired as a captain.

Chicago Booth Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC): I was a team member of “Appiness” (Appiness), 1st place-winning venture which was selected out of 32 ventures from Chicago Booth three international campuses by faculty and private investors in its 2016 GNVC contest.

Motivational speaker: Following a very severe injury in 2011 and a recovery against all odds, I was invited to share my experiences and newfound approach to life with others. These days I give pro-bono motivational talks to youth, entrepreneurs, high schools, and commercial companies in Israel and abroad, focusing on values, morals, overcoming adversity, and personal growth.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This may sound plain, but I am most proud of simply completing the EMBA. For many years, having an MBA was one of my main goals. Achieving this goal became almost impossible for me in 2011 when my life dramatically changed when I suffered a terrible accident and was told by my doctors that I had severely broken my neck vertebras and would be completely paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of my life.

Although everyone thought that I was crazy, I decided to fight and put all my energy into walking again, against all odds. Within six months of exhausting rehabilitation, I started to slowly move my left leg. Today, five years later, I can walk supported only by crutches and doctors are referring to my recovery as a medical miracle. One of the most important rehabilitation steps for me was to re-pursue my MBA dream, as if the injury never occurred. Completing the EMBA was not only a dream come true for me; it was also an essential step in my complete rehabilitation. Now, more than ever, I feel confident that if you dream big there are no limits to what you can achieve.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m mostly proud in the following achievements:

  1. Between the ages of 18 and 25 I served in the Israel Defense Force in its Naval Commando 13th Flotilla (U.S Navy SEALS equivalent), which is notoriously hard to be accepted into, and even harder to graduate its trainings course. Enduring the physical and mental challenges throughout that time felt like a great achievement in itself, but the sense of leading people at a very young age while serving my country, first as a combat soldier and later as an officer, fills me with honor and has shaped my personality and leadership skills forever.
  1. During my undergraduate school, I’ve sourced an opportunity to open a coffee shop in Israel and after analyzing three possible locations, I chose to open a café restaurant in a newly constructed entertainment complex. I formed a team of partners, investors, and employees to undertake the project development. This was my first business experience as an entrepreneur, and I’m very proud that from an idea that I had, the place still works in a very high volume and has grown into a chain of three café restaurants, with a total staff of 110 employees and 30,000 monthly customer visits.

Favorite MBA Courses?  Commercializing Innovation, Leadership Capital, Financial Strategy

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The Chicago Booth EMBA program offers a very challenging educational environment, as it is academically identical to the university’s full-time MBA program. It also provides a very strong international experience, as all students attend its three global campuses in Chicago, London and Hong Kong. From an administrative perspective, the fact that the program is structured of 16 study weeks over 21 months allowed me to be based in Israel and to keep my work and demanding rehabilitation routine, while traveling to study every four to five weeks. On a personal note, my visit as part of a student delegation in Chicago Booth during my undergraduate school ignited my dream of achieving an MBA in an international business school. Participating in the Chicago Booth EMBA program was a victory and a huge personal achievement in overcoming the injury and re-building my life against all odds eight years after that first visit.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Having the opportunity to form friendships and learn from extremely talented professors and students in my class. Meeting like-minded individuals who share a similar thirst for knowledge and intensity as me, as well as a deep desire to make an impact in their chosen fields was riveting and liberating. Coming originally from a small desert town in the south of Israel, the program broadened my horizons in a completely unique way and made me more internationally-minded than before. The company I found myself in was truly inspiring.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The biggest lesson that I have gained from business school is the importance of accepting help and giving back.  Prior to the EMBA at Booth, I was very concerned about whether I can actually physically complete the program — would my disability be a limitation? Would I be able to participate in all aspects of the program due to my injury? These are the questions that I was grappling with prior to starting the program. I was amazed by the administrative, mental, and overall help and support that I received from Chicago University. None of my preliminary concerns were even close to being relevant. Everyone — staff, professors, administrators, classmates, and program office members — made this program seamless to me. They literally eliminated all physical hurdles that otherwise are not necessarily noticeable to people without disability.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of business school was the high academic requirements of the program. Quite often the campus lights were still on well into the night while our study groups were working on their next-day assignments. As tiring as this sometimes was, I do believe that this rigorous late-night group work was a major contributor to strengthening the relationships between my class members. I also did not expect the classes to go so deeply into theory and models. This in-depth learning felt very technical at times but it helped us considerably with case-study assignments and I believe it set important foundations that will allow us all to practically and effectively implement that knowledge in real-life business situations in the future.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? Even though it may seem very challenging at the time, make sure you create a bit of space for yourself every day. It puts things in perspective and restores the energy you need for the next day!

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I visited Chicago Booth School of Business for the first time during my undergraduate studies as part of a student exchange delegation.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Less well-rounded with a smaller toolbox for life, both on the personal and professional level.

What are your long-term professional goals? In the long term, I have two main professional goals:

  1. I wish to use my entrepreneurial and investments experience to establish a venture capital fund, which will be focused on early-stage investments in start-ups that are focused on assisting disabled people. Based on my experience, I have learned that this segment requires innovation and is lacking in resources.
  1. Having gained international education and business experience, I intend to take it back to Israel and re-invest it in creating business and social initiatives in order to give back to my local community. As I believe that innovation can bridge conflicts and bring people together, I intend to initiate a program that will be designed for Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs. The program will perform as an accelerator and will provide the entrepreneurs shared working space, advisory and potential funding. Ideally, through that, individuals from both sides will get to know each other better and get closer.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would first want to thank my parents (Tami and Isaac) and my brother Yakir, who always pushed for excellence. I also want to thank Idan and Batia Ofer, and my close friend Antonia, who have been at my side and helped me to overcome my injury against all odds. Finally, I would also like to thank Ana and Jack Berger, my uncle Avi Abergel, and the ISEF Foundation — they have all supported me and encouraged me to pursue my dream of achieving an MBA.

Fun fact about yourself: I used to lead sing and play the guitar in a rock band!

Favorite book: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Favorite movie: Blade Runner

Favorite musical performer: Paul Simon

Favorite television show: “The Sopranos”

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with sun, beach, music, and a good cocktail!

Hobbies: Reading, cinema, sports (that I can do with crutches!), traveling

What made Omri such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“We have nominated Omri Krigel for this award as he represents everything that is positive about not only an executive MBA student but also as a human being. Omri is based in Israel and is country manager for Nexmo Communications Israel. He also founded L City, an F&B chain in Israel, and is working on another start-up, Appiness, which was born out of the Global New Venture Challenge business development course and competition during his time in the executive MBA Program. Prior to this, Omri worked as country manager for Kiwi Power and also served in a special unit of the Israel Defence Forces for seven years.

“Omri is a strong student who brought so much to our program. Following an accident in 2012, Omri sustained quite severe injuries to his spinal cord. He made a remarkable recovery but was left with severe mobility challenges. But this is not what defines Omri at all. Despite his condition, and the constraints and hurdles that accompany it, Omri was accepted to and completed our executive MBA program in the standard 21 months and was a strong student.

“What really makes us want to nominate Omri for this award is how well-respected he is by his peers at Booth and how much he brought to the program. He is an extremely successful yet humble character and has never used his physical condition as an excuse nor to get special treatments. He was always a net contributor to the program, bringing his positive energy and motivational spirit to his classes and to his classmates.

“In addition to the professional work that he does, Omri is also a motivational speaker for the youth, soldiers and professionals, focusing on values, morals, overcoming crisis and personal growth. His charming personality, perseverance and infectious positivity throughout his program made him a stand-out amongst a class of already extremely successful students. We nominate him with pride.”

Richard Johnson
Associate Dean, Executive MBA Program- Europe and Asia
University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

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