Mutual missions: Advisory associate and PwC Charitable Foundation team up to help inner-city youth

When the PwC Charitable Foundation invested $1.3 million in the Points of Light Civic Accelerator — the first-ever 12-week incubator combining for-profit and nonprofit social ventures — the Board of Trustees never imagined one of the participants would also be an incoming PwC Advisory associate.

During his sophomore year at Cornell, PwC Advisory Associate Zach West, who joined the firm in August, had a poignant conversation with a friend, Karim Abouelnaga. “For me, the recurring question in high school was ‘Where are you going to college?’” said Zach. “At Karim’s school, the question was ‘Are you going to college?’” Karim went to an inner-city school where only half the kids graduated and even fewer went to college. Clearly, the dialogue was very different at their schools, and Zach and Karim wanted to change the conversation. They enlisted the help of four other friends and founded Practice Makes Perfect (PMP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that pairs academically struggling elementary and middle school students with older, higher achieving mentor peers from the same inner-city neighborhoods, all under the supervision of trained college interns for a six-week, full-day academic experience.

Practice Makes Perfect founders Karim Abouelnaga and Zach West (right) at the final round of the Points of Light Civic Accelerator.

Two of the Practice Makes Perfect founders Karim Abouelnaga and Zach West (right) at the final round of the Points of Light Civic Accelerator.

PMP Park Cleanup Day

Participants of the Practice Makes Perfect program at a park cleanup service project (Zach – back row, 4th from left, wearing red shirt).









PMP’s success over the past few years is impressive. This past summer, its goal was to eliminate summer learning loss. They not only met this goal, but reported learning gains – six percent in reading and seven percent in math. And, 93 percent of students enrolled attended the program, demonstrating their high interest in participating. In addition, PMP interns, mentors, many of the younger students, and young professionals gave over 200 volunteer hours performing service events outside of the classroom, including a clothing drive, park cleanups, gardening and planting.

PMP has garnered national attention for its work in New York, and was named one of the top 16 most dynamic commitments worldwide at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference. When PMP was chosen to be a part of the Point of Light Civic Accelerator this summer, Zach was thrilled. “Seeing The PwC Charitable Foundation as one of the founding investors of the Civic Accelerator reaffirmed my excitement and conviction in choosing to work for PwC — a leader in business and social responsibility,” he said.

The innovative, 12-week Points of Light program provides funding, mentoring and networking opportunities to social entrepreneurs, and is a pioneer in its focus on early-stage civic ventures. To date, the Civic Accelerator has incubated 19 organizations and involved more than 20 PwC employees as mentors and volunteers. The program helped Zach and Karim flesh out PMP’s organizational structure, and was a good team building and networking experience. In fact, Zach had the opportunity to meet PwC Charitable Foundation President and Washington Metro MMP Chris Simmons at one such networking event in Washington, D.C. “Seeing Chris in this informal setting allowed us to experience his hands-on leadership style and understand his commitment to building the community,” said Zach.

Speaking at POL

Zach West speaking at the Points of Light National Conference.

Zach currently serves as a director on the governing board for PMP. In this role, he maintains the organization’s online presence, implements analytical tools to measure success, and works to develop key partnerships with organizations to help fund and improve PMP. He plans to continue to advise PMP in addition to his full-time work with PwC. “The skills and values I’ve learned with both organizations are transferable,” Zach said. “Right now, I’m building out PMP’s 2014 strategic plan, and I’ve been inspired by PwC’s philosophy of goal setting. I’m also applying the Agile methodology principles I’ve been learning on my engagement.” Zach plans to apply for the PwC Foundations Dollars for Doers program to help support PMP, and is looking forward to getting involved in other service activities with his PwC team members.

“I was thrilled to meet Zach and be introduced to Practice Makes Perfect at the Civic Accelerator pitch event at the Points of Light Conference,” Chris Simmons said. “The PwC Charitable Foundation supports the people of PwC and innovative nonprofits focusing on education and humanitarianism – we never expected to be able to do both at the same time. Zach represents exactly the type of talent we hope to attract at PwC — innovative and socially minded.”

The PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. is a section 501c3 organization that supports the people of PwC in times of financial hardship and disaster through the People Who Care Fund and makes grants to nonprofit organizations that support and promote education and humanitarianism. To learn more about the Foundation, please visit our Web site.

This article was featured in PwC news on October 18th, 2013.



Top 10: Silicon Valley Experts with TED Videos

As a believer in non-traditional education, I learn a lot outside the classroom. TED has been an amazing resource for this. I selected 10 videos of Silicon Valley experts from TED.

1. Rory Sutherland: Life Lessons from an Ad Man

Continue reading


MightyText: Most Helpful and Underrated Android App

Apple released iMessage at WWDC in June of 2011. Two years later, Google has failed to release a cross platform messaging product that integrates with SMS. To communicate with everyone, we can’t rely on iMessage, Facebook chat or some other chat platform. SMS is still our go to platform that works with everyone. MightyText is a simple app that accomplishes all of this.

How it works

Simply put: All of your texts synced to all of your devices seamlessly!

By maintaining a connection with Android phone, the MightyText app funnels all of your messages through the phone and keeps all of the connected devices in sync.


How it’s Better:

1) Ability and speed to innovate and launch new features:

In just the last year, MT has released a slew of new features. They are incredibly in touch with their users through beta testing and very responsive on Twitter to feedback. Here are some of them:

Tablet App: SMS from your tablet sync’d with your Android phone!









Powerview: This new layout allows you to simultaneously send SMSs at an incredibly fast rate and is a big improvement from the old UI. They also added voice call notifications to the web layout.


Photo syncing: Easily send multimedia messages through the web interface. MT will now sync photos and videos from your phone to your account.









Gmail Integration: Send and receive texts right from Gmail. This is currently in beta release and won’t be rolled out fully for a few weeks.

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 2.01.21 PM  Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 1.28.28 PM





2) iMessage vs. MightyText: MightText Wins

As an iPhone user as well, I like the iMessage experience when talking to friends who also have iPhones. However, it reverts to SMS and fails to sync those messages to my computer. As a result, I am only able to message certain friends from my computer.

3) Google  vs. MightyText

Google’s new Hangout product is great for more of an instant messaging purposes but still doesn’t integrate with SMS or even Google Voice at this point in time. (Hangout will eventually integrate with Voice)

Overall, MightyText has revolutionized the way we use SMS, allowing us to send faster messages across different platforms. With the new features like Powerview and Gmail integration, I can send texts much faster without having to use my phone.

For more information, visit the website or download it here on the Play store.



Thinking small yields big results

rebriefInnovation can be disruptive or incremental. In the past few decades, the best innovation has disrupted our lives in ways we could not have even fathomed before. New markets have been created along with billions of dollars in value. Telephones replaced the telegraph, Wikipedia replaced volumes of traditional encyclopedias and iPods replaced CDs. These are some of the many life changing products that have revolutionized our daily lives. Many of the products that have been this impactful started with entrepreneurial people thinking small. Knowing this, I sometimes challenge myself to think a little smaller. To me this means challenging the little or seemingly insignificant traditions and continuity of our society. I want to discuss few examples of products that have taken this leap.

1. Project Re: Brief and Google Think Insights

As an intern last summer at Google, I learned a lot about Project Re: Brief. In short, the idea behind Re: Brief was to re-imagine advertising through combining creativity with the technology at hand. Advertisers at Google came to the realization that after twenty years of online advertising, digital ads were static and used to inform rather than engage. The success of Re: Brief spurred the creation of Google Think Insights, a site dedicated to leveraging technology to redefine each industry.

Coca Cola:

The coca cola ad (see below) was created to modernize the original “Hilltop” advertisement. In addition to simply watching the video advertisement, you can click at the end to send a coca cola drink to a stranger around the world. They did this by setting up select vending machines across the world that dispensed free cokes and showed the video or text message from the online sender. In addition the receivers of the cokes could respond via video and text which keeps both of the users engaged in the campaign after seeing it just once. Overall this is an incredibly unique way to maximize the online ad space and stay engaged with users long term.

Be sure to check out the Re:brief website to see other campaigns. Check out this video demo:


2. Gmail

Gmail was started by a Google engineer named Paul Buchheit who was frustrated by the current email services at the time. He used his 20% time to essentially build the first version of Gmail.

Original email was simply an electronic way to send what you would send in a letter and as a result, the first email platforms did only that. Years later, Paul re-imagined how email should work if he were to create a system from scratch using the capabilities of the web. This meant a bunch of new things that ultimately has made Gmail the most popular email service available today.

  • Storage: The idea that people should hold mail forever increased the storage available in a free email service from 2mb (hotmail) to 2gb found in Gmail. That’s 1,000x the storage! In addition, Gmail storage also increases every day.
  • Spam filtering: It was crazy to think that only email you wanted to read would show up in your inbox.
  • Search and Speed: Gmail was built using Google search technology. In addition, Gmail developed “conversation mode” which meant you didn’t need to file messages into folders

With this said, we must ask ourselves a simple question: How can we recreate an everyday process with the tools and technology available now? We must constantly question the way in which we engage our lives down to the most simple and seemingly insignificant aspects.

These are only a few examples where simple ideas go a long way. Feel free to post other examples and ideas.


Italy Part 3: Napoli & Pompeii

After spending over a week in Rome, I decided to take an impromptu trip down to Naples for the weekend. Overall, it was a very different experience from the rest of Northern Italy. People, culture, and food was much more unique.

Continue reading

Rome in from of colleseo

Italy Part 2: Rome

Just some photos from Rome!

Compagnia Dei Vinattieri

Italy Part 1: Florence

Our first stop in Italy was Florence and the surrounding Tuscany area. Overall  an amazing time. Shout out to Sari Ugell who was with me on this trip.

Day 1: Tuesday Flight + Relaxation

We left Ben Gurion Airport at 6:00am local time to arrive at Fiumicino Airport in Rome at 10:00am local time. After arriving in Rome, we took the Leonardo Express train to Rome Termini (about 30 minutes) and from there headed up to Firenze Santa Maria Novella. In Florence we rented an apartment in Firenze Castello, which was a ten minute train ride from Firenze SMN (Main station). We were greeted by Mario, the owner of the apartment at the station and arrived at the apartment around 3:00pm.

Day 2: Wednesday-  Florence:


Outside Galleria Della Accademia

11:30am: Galleria de Accademia

Our day started off with a tour at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. This photo was taken outside of the entrance to the museum (Photography was prohibited inside).

The Accademia Gallery is a must see in Florence. However, buying the tour is not worth it, especially in the off season when lines are short. It is great exposure to Michelangelo’s most famous work and genius as a sculptor.

The statue of David by Michelangelo was of course the most fascinating part of the museum. It is a symbol of the renaissance  and truly highlights Europe’s transition from medieval to modern.

1:00pm: Lunch at La Mescita

For lunch we took Rich Steve’s recommendation and went to La Mescita which was right around the corner from the Accademia. The restaurant was the size of a single car garage and had ten or so tables crammed together. We learned that it was owned and operated by two brothers with a simple selection of sandwiches and pasta dishes.I ordered ribbon pasta with a meat sauce while Sari ordered bow-tie pasta with a mushroom sauce. In addition, we split a £4 liter pitcher of vino da tavola (table wine). The meal came with bread as well. Overall a great authentic italian ambiance with well priced food.

4:30pm: Uffizi

Florence is one of the smaller cities we visited in Italy. We got around everywhere just by walking. Our next stop after lunch was heading to the Uffizi. It was a 10 minute walk through Piazza della Signoria. We stopped to take photos in the piazza because it was the first replica of David we saw since the Accademia. Again we had an awesome time in the Uffizi although no photography was really allowed. I was able to snap one shot of the Ponte Vecchio at night from the high point of the Uffizi (see below).

Dinner at Vini e Vecchi Sapiro

At 7:00pm I arrived at Vini e Vecchi Sapiro for an authentic italian meal at another tiny garage size restaurant. Vini e Vecchi was highly recommended in both Rick Steve’s and trip advisor. We arrived to discover that unlike any profit sucking restaurant in the US they only had two seatings, one at 7pm and another at 8pm. (I of course showed up at 6:50 hoping to sit down a little early and had to wait outside as they were preparing the restaurant for opening) Furthermore only about 20 people could fit in the restaurant. As I entered the restaurant, I was greeted by a staff that spoke very little english. The menu was handwritten in Italian script, which made it nearly impossible to decipher.

Day 3: Thursday: Tour of Tuscany

Mario took us on a driving tour of Tuscany. Our first stop was Piazza Michaelangelo, a beautiful yet foggy overlook of Florence. It is a great photo spot and view of the city. After this quick stop we headed to:

  • San Gimignano
  • Piazza della cisterna
  • Castello di Monteriggioni
  • Siena
  • Piazza del Campo
  • Duomo di Siena
  • Lunch at Compagnia Dei Vinattieri
  • Dinner at Coquinarius back in Florence. Shoutout to Ziv for the recommendation. Probably one of the best meals in Florence.

Day 4: Friday: Walking around Florence

We spent our last day in Florence doing lots of shopping. The outdoor markets had an array of leather and silk products that we bought. Later that day, we attended shabbat services at the Great Synogogue of Florence and ate dinner at the Chabad house.