Gilad Hertanu

Olin Business School: Business Administration | MBA


Cohort 2007


Graduated 2009


Career: Co-Founder, CEO | 24me | Tel-Aviv, Israel

Gilad is a seasoned entrepreneur with more than ten years of cross-disciplinary experience managing Information Technology and International Business. He has held executive roles in several successful tech companies and is currently the Co-Founder and CEO of 24me, a startup building a technology that allows anyone to have a virtual personal assistant on their mobile devises. Gilad holds a B.A. in computer science (Cum Laude) from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzelia and an MBA from Washington University in the United States.

“The McDonnell Academy is one of the most diverse environments I’ve been a part of. As such, it offered so many opportunities to meet new people, gain new experiences and learn new things.”

Scholar Highlights

New Technologies in the Service of Public Voice

We are in the midst of a great change.

Only those who are aware of it can be a part of it. I am referring to the rising power of individuals to influence their world – influencing governments that set the rules we obey and companies that build the products we rely upon in our day-to-day lives.

How do you influence these entities? It is clear that governments and companies are affected by complex and sometimes hidden forces. But one clear voice they are very attentive to is the voice of public opinion. I am sure that many will claim that this voice does not have the needed leverage to really force change. I am nevertheless sure that it is one of the strongest forces out there.

History and even recent events support my claim. Look how much influence the public voice against the Vietnam War had on the US government. Look how terrified the Iranian regime was in 2009 when facing a growing public voice against it. And we hear a lot about companies going the extra mile to measure and influence public opinion against them. Indeed, governments and companies know how powerful the public voice is.

Given all this, the question is: How do you become a part of that voice? Over the past century public opinion was largely controlled by the old media, namely TV, radio, and newspapers. These channels were, and still are, controlled and run by a small group of powerful people. Controlling these channels brings great power: power to broadcast opinions to the masses, to influence the day’s agenda, and to organize and coordinate events. As an outcome of this structure, “simple” men or women did not have real power to influence the content of these media channels. They were excluded from the discussion.

This chain of power is nevertheless changing. New technologies empower and allow individuals to sound their voices far and wide. Specifically, I am referring to the development and growth of the internet platform in recent years. Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, which were built to connect people around the world, now enable a better, more efficient way for people to raise their voices, to coordinate and organize. Building a web site to organize a movement is another option.

I am sure that most of you are aware or at least have heard about these technologies. But for those who are not that familiar with the internet, let me briefly outline these web sites and how they bring new opportunities to individuals to have their voice heard. Both Facebook and Twitter are web sites that allow anyone to connect with other people. By doing so, one can get updates about the people one decides to connect with. Whenever you write an update about your personal life or about anything else you want, all the people you are connected with get these updates.

This simple concept is actually a great thing. It allows people to engage in discussions with large groups of others in a very easy, low cost way. This simplicity did not exist before.

If for example, someone wants to organize a demonstration, he can now use his connections to spread information and very easily get the word out to a large number of people. This tool was widely used by the Iranian people demonstrating against the government in 2009. The demonstrations were often organized through these online web sites, bypassing the restrictions the government imposed on the more traditional media channels.

There are other ways to harness the internet to influence public opinion. Creating a web site for a certain cause is one of these ways. A recent well known example is the web site that served President Barack Obama’s campaign for the US presidency. This web site presented many ways for people to participate in the campaign. It became a platform to organize volunteers and to get donations and it strengthened the public voice for Obama’s campaign.

Those new tools and technologies are accessible to everyone. I am claiming that they present a new era in individuals’ power to influence and voice their opinions. Public opinion and public voice can be much more easily expressed, and thus individuals can promote change more easily than in earlier times. We already see the signs of this new era: large scale demonstrations against a powerful region such as the ones in Iran and China might have not been possible before. Large movements against big corporations are nowadays very common. Look behind the scene and many times you will see new technologies allowing the coordination and the spread of content.

It is important to understand this change in order to be able to harvest its fruits. We all have more power these days to make a change.

The key is to know how to participate in the new channels that are available. Will we see companies and government change more rapidly to meet public expectation as a result of this new world? I believe so. But we will have to let time judge as they adapt rapidly with countermeasures.

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