Head in the Clouds

Serial Entrepreneur Adam Moisa Finds Mentors and Associates at Sy Syms School of Business

Adam Moisa was impressed by his first phone conversation with Michael Strauss, associate dean and entrepreneur-in-residence at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business.

Adam Moisa and Dean Strauss
Associate Dean Michael Strauss, left, with Adam Moisa

Strauss called Moisa while he was studying at Yeshivat HaKotel in Israel to ask if he had thought of any business ideas lately. As it happened, Moisa had. He wanted to create an aggregate cloud storage program that would allow people to access all their online content stored on various cloud storage services—whether on Google, Dropbox, Box or other sites—through one simple, easy-to-use platform. Moisa knew it was a great idea, but he wasn’t sure exactly where to go from there.

For two and a half hours, the two discussed how to take Moisa’s idea to the next level: from getting an accountant and a patent lawyer, to finding web developers and creating a spec sheet. By the time he hung up, Moisa had a clear plan to get his business off the ground and an in-person meeting scheduled with Strauss to talk about next steps over the Sukkot holidays.

And Moisa wasn’t even enrolled at YU.

“I was amazed that there was a dean willing to give me two and a half hours of his day when I wasn’t even a student,” Moisa said. “It was so personal.”

Moisa, who completed three major internships in risk management compliance and product controls as well as in research analysis while still in high school, had already been accepted to Princeton University, which he expected to attend after completing his second year of study in Israel. Strauss first met him on a recruiting visit to Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys in Woodmere, NY, when Moisa was a senior. “He was perfect for our school,” said Strauss.  “Extremely mature, very decisive, bright, inquisitive and committed to his academic studies while at the same time continually coming up with business ideas.”

The personal attention and mentorship that helped Moisa cultivate those ideas ultimately influenced his decision to enroll in Sy Syms’ new Business Honors and Entrepreneurship Program. “I’d much rather learn from someone who’s done it before and is willing to give me hands-on time than learn from a book,” he said. “I’d also rather be Adam Moisa at YU than student one out of 500 anywhere else. The Honors Program is small, inclusive and personal, which means a ton to me.”

With Strauss’s guidance, Moisa started work on Cloudifyd, the idea he discussed with Strauss in that initial phone call. Strauss put him in touch with professional contacts in the field and Moisa also turned to his classmates as he assembled his team: students like Ronan Weinberg Waks from Argentina, a web developer—“He’s a whiz at back-end and server-side coding, very talented, a member of MENSA”—and a marketing student, Doron David, who will act as his manager and already has experience in the field.

“I’ve been involved with startups since I first came to YU so I knew exactly what it was like to be in his shoes,” said David. “I was very impressed with Adam’s knowledge of the tech industry and business in general and I knew he was on to something big. After sharing my experience and working closely with him over the next few weeks, Adam asked me to join his team.”

As Cloudifyd nears the beta stage, Moisa has already met with (and received offers from) several venture capitalists and angel investors. But he’s holding out for the right one. He also meets regularly with other faculty at Sy Syms–Dr. Tamar Avnet, associate professor of marketing, about marketing strategies, and Associate Dean Avi Giloni about algorithms. “They always have time for you,” he said. “It’s great.”

Moisa is paying that time forward. Only in his first semester as a finance major and computer science minor at Sy Syms, he founded a club, Suits Optional, to guide other students along their own entrepreneurial journeys. “It’s called that because you don’t have to dress up for an interview when it’s your own company,” Moisa said.

Through step-by-step meetings, students in the club transform startup ideas into full-fledged business plans with betas and mock-ups. Each meeting focuses on honing and understanding the roles of different skills in a successful business: scalable creativity, patent law, graphic design, coding. Moisa tapped the same professionals working with him on Cloudifyd to speak at the sessions, as well as successful alumni. At the final meeting, students will pitch their plans to VCs and angels for the chance to secure an investment.

“By now I’ve already learned a lot of the tricks of the trade, so I can work with people who bring ideas to me, help them get to a certain level and then we turn to Dean Strauss and say, ‘Now what?’” said Moisa.

Doron David, Moisa, Jordan Schiff, and Ronan Weinberg Waks work together on Cloudifyd, an aggregate cloud storage program.

He gives students in his club the same advice he gives anyone who wants to learn to think creatively: “Be miserable. Be totally miserable about everything that functions. What’s the point of the thing you’re using? Could it be better? Think about the escalator. Someone invented that because they were annoyed with stairs.” This is the thinking behind several of Moisa’s other current projects, like Tickfinity, a program allowing season and package ticket holders to pool their seats, and Syncal, a full-day view visual calendar with social media feed and database integration.

But Moisa isn’t miserable about everything. He’s enjoying his first-year writing course with Dr. Barbara Blatner , lecturer in English at Yeshiva College, quite a bit. “I’ve always loved novels—the one thing that baffles me is how the writer does that descriptive writing that makes me feel like I’m walking into a kitchen, the sun is just coming up, I can feel the rays on my fingers and smell whatever’s cooking in the microwave,” he said. “Professor Blatner gave me this new window into writing I didn’t know I could ever do.”

Moisa is also excited by the vigor of Judaic studies on campus. “The kol [voice] in the beit midrash is unparalleled, even louder than my experience in Israel,” he said. “There’s devotion and there’s fire.” He picked his shiur after sitting in on Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Tzvi Sobolofsky’s class during YU’s post-Pesach program, where he admired the clarity of Rabbi Sobolofsky’s thinking. “I’m very glad I didn’t miss this, and I wouldn’t have known how much I was missing,” said Moisa. “I’m attending a great business program and I get to learn till three every day. That’s pretty great.”

Torah and business have always gone hand in hand in Moisa’s life, and he wants them to remain that way. Sy Syms’ guiding philosophy of business savvy informed by Torah and ethics strikes a crucial chord with him. “People think you can be a jerk in business and that’s perfectly acceptable,” Moisa said. “I think the morals and the Torah that you gain from a Jewish upbringing have to get mixed into what you do. They go together.”