“At a startup, there’s no one to blame but yourself," says Colin Israel, MBA ’00, who will speak at Alumni Day on June 22. "I like being accountable, and being able to create my own vision.”

Colin Israel, MBA ’00, on How He Became CEO of a Chile-Based Startup

May 10, 2019 • By Jessie Yount

During his second year at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, Colin Israel, MBA ’00, was already working at a fully funded webcam startup, which resembled Google Hangouts or Skype. But just as the team sought its second round of funding, the dotcom bubble burst.

With graduation just around the corner, Israel decided to take a more traditional route, and got a job at Deloitte. But now, 20 years and multiple career twists and turns later, Israel is still chasing his passion for technological innovation as the CEO of the startup Copptech.

Israel was brought on board to develop a marketing and sales strategy for Copptech’s revolutionary technology, which is a antimicrobial powder (patented in Chile) that can be added to any synthetic material, such as a jacket or a phone case, to protect it from bacteria.

After developing a successful strategy, Israel was called to lead Copptech. “It’s hard to see measurable results at a company like Boeing,” said Israel, who lives in Orange County but travels often to Chile for work. “But at a startup, there’s no one to blame but yourself. I like being accountable, and being able to create my own vision.”

Opportunity Abounds

It was the early lessons at Deloitte that were instrumental for Israel to jumpstart his career in business. The company provided a crash course in business, Israel explains, full of growth and learning opportunities. He witnessed hundreds of different companies tackling the problems and coming up with unique solutions.

But eventually, he grew tired of the demanding nature of the job. He left Deloitte with a simple plan: Israel and his wife were going to live on his parents’ sailboat in the Baltics until they were booted.

That plan never got off the ground. Instead, he went on a three-year surfing trip as the senior director of information technology at Volcom. Then he went on to become managing director of Asia at Black Diamond, then COO and CFO at Alpha Industries, and finally, he arrived at Copptech.

“I’ve had so many different positions, but what I’ve been able to do through all of it is take these tools and techniques, and translate from the business side to the information technology side,” Israel said. “UCI positioned me to do that.”

Opportunity Seized

Israel’s life almost took a totally different path.

Before the Copptech, before Volcom and before the Merage School, Israel was working a job at Boeing. He had just finished his undergraduate degree, and he could see his whole life unfolding before him. But when a friend suggested that he go to business school, Israel jumped at the chance to hit the reset button.

He began searching for business programs that could break him out of the mold. “Formula has always been a problem for me,” Israel explained “Coming from the Bay Area, I understood the importance of technology, and I thought UCI had a unique program focused on technology integration.”

In addition, he was drawn to the Merage School’s intimate class size, which would allow him to dialogue with classmates and professionals. “I thought that I might have an opportunity to be a big fish,” Israel adds. “In a small pond, everyone has the chance to be a big fish.”

Israel will return to campus to speak at Alumni Day on June 22.