Building Relationships the World Over: A Conversation with Eli Promisel
Silicon Foundry analyst Eli Promisel has packed a lot into life recently: he spent his college years living in LA, Hong Kong, Milan, and London, worked on sustainability projects at Budweiser and commercial real estate firm Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, and is always up on the technologies, products, and cultural and market trends. We talked to Eli about his interest in innovation and sustainability, how his travels shaped the person he is today, and why he’s excited about his new role at Silicon Foundry.
You have a very international perspective: you were exposed to all types of people and cultures growing up in the DC area. Your mother’s family is Swiss, and you lived abroad while you were in college. How did that shape you?
I grew up within five minutes of my extended family and saw my grandparents almost every other day. There, I would either be deeply engaged in conversation with my bonne-maman (grandmother), practicing my French, or I would be sitting quietly on the floor, devouring my petit goûter (little snack) of Swiss chocolates and candies, and listening intently to the stories of my mother’s family’s adventures abroad. My grandfather helped run US military hospitals all over the world. As a result, my mother’s family lived in places like Tehran, Addis Ababa, and Munich. When it came time to apply to university, I stumbled across USC’s World Bachelor in Business program, where students live on three continents over four years and receive three B.S. degrees in business administration. I was hooked — the program would give me the chance to create international stories of my own.
And I did. I had the chance to spend my college years in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Milan, and it was the best decision I ever made. I had the traditional American college experience during my first year at USC, where I fully immersed myself into the LA tech startup ecosystem. Living in Hong Kong as a nineteen year-old forced me to grow up very fast. I was incredibly fortunate to travel all over Southeast Asia and really get to know myself better. In Milan, life slowed down, and I was able to truly appreciate the Italian lifestyle.
Everywhere I went, I met all kinds of people from all over the world — acquaintances, friends, and some I call family. These relationships make the world feel like a much smaller place. I feel like I can go anywhere and know at least one person by way of mutual connections. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, curious, and extroverted.
Tell us how you got interested in startups, innovation, and VC.
From a young age, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs. Some were friends’ parents. Others were sports coaches. Some were teachers. All were mentors.
I’ve always been fascinated by innovative startups working to solve pressing problems. I keep track of cool companies and share them with friends and family as a way to signal my interests and be in the know.
In high school, I got into photography and videography. Back then, drones were still the toys of early adopters. I noticed a gap in the local market for aerial video and photography services, bought a drone, and started an aerial photography business. I ran the business for a year, servicing local car dealerships, sports leagues, and roofing companies. During that time, I learned how to build a brand, sell a story, and place value on my work.
I realized very quickly after setting foot on the USC campus that the university was a breeding ground for entrepreneurship and startups. A few months into my freshman year I joined a student-founded startup, where I gained great exposure to the Los Angeles and San Francisco startup and venture capital ecosystems. During my second semester, I had the opportunity to take a student-run social entrepreneurship course called From Ideas to Impact, where we used the IDEO design thinking methodology to solve social issues on campus. The summer after my second year, I worked at Halcyon, a social impact startup incubator, in Washington, D.C.
In my free time, I enjoy keeping up with the latest trends in tech, innovation, startups, and VC. I’m always reading newsletters and articles, browsing Twitter, and listening to podcasts.
You’re passionate about sustainability. How have you parlayed your passion into your work so far?
My experiences at USC, combined with my immersion into the impact landscape in Hong Kong, where I attended events and met with social entrepreneurs, helped me realize my eagerness to further explore the impact space. Working at Halcyon the summer after my second year, I had the chance to engage with a wide range of founders creating positive social and environmental impact. During this time I was able to broaden my understanding of what it means for a business to operate with a long term, stakeholder-centric approach and deepen my knowledge of environmental sustainability and social impact.
In summer 2019, I served as a sustainability intern at Budweiser, where I worked on recommendations to improve sustainability engagement among key internal and external stakeholders. I interacted with people from all over the business, from the folks in the breweries to the firm’s lobbyists, to determine how Budweiser could make sustainable practices a more integral part of their work environment.
Most recently, I worked at commercial real estate firm, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, where I participated in a wide range of projects across different departments that helped the company achieve its sustainability goals.
What most excites you about working at Silicon Foundry? What unique skills and views can you offer our Members?
I’m thrilled to join such an amazing team! A few interviews into my recruiting process, I realized the caliber of people Silicon Foundry attracts, and I’m so grateful to be among such brilliant, passionate team members. I’ve already seen the power and strength of the Silicon Foundry network.
I’m incredibly excited to be working at the nexus of corporate innovation, startups, and investors. Personally, I’m very interested in knowledge sharing, network building, opportunity creation, and big picture thinking, and these interests are fully aligned with those of the company. This alignment is exactly what I want in my early career.
I tend to keep a keen eye on emerging technologies, product trends, cultural shifts, and changing market dynamics, and I’m always sharing what I know with friends, family, and colleagues. I’m constantly reading up on what’s going on in the world of technology and innovation. These habits are an asset that help me be resourceful when key information is needed most.
I’m really looking forward to learning from the team, exploring my wide-ranging interests, building my network further, and creating valuable connections and opportunities for our Members.