As we co-organized the Learning Tour Israel 2015 with our friends at Challengy, we felt extremely excited to bring some of our clients to the Startup Nation, at one of its key moments, during the DLD Tel-Aviv festival, which gathered more than 4,000 attendees, from all around the world and representing various sectors: private companies, NGOs, municipalities, investors, academics, country delegations.
Let the figures talk:
- Israel is #1 tech ecosystem outside the Silicon Valley
- Israel is #1 globally for venture capital per capita
- The country can boast more than $15bn of exit, and for 2014 alone, $3.4bn raised by some 688 startups
You will find a country profile of Israel startup scene
Learning Tour Israel 2015: key takeaways
If we were to summarize the strengths of Israel as a startup ecosystem, the key takeaways of our tour would be:
- An amazingly entrepreneurial mindset: from the takhles (sense of purpose) to rosh gadol (“big head”) to chutzpah (shameless audacity), all the culture of Israeli seem to be prone to build companies and challenge the status quo. A recent study from the Harvard Business Review ecosystem put them as highly confrontational and expressive.
- A geopolitical context, full of wars and crisis, which gives the army a formative role. All Israelis take more than two years of national service and stay in the reserve until their forties. The network is huge, and some units in the army are now renown incubators such as Unit 2800, producing each year among the best entrepreneurs with strong capability to turn military tech into civilian applications. Check car anti-hacking startup Argus Cybersecurity: all founders come from this unit.
- A small market by itself, with rich and frequent connections to the US, Europe and other markets through the diaspora and a strong business acumen: Israeli startups are global from day #1 as they could not survive by staying home only
Cybersecurity in the city: welcome to Beersheva
One of the most amazing places we visited was the CyberSpark cluster at Beersheva, a 2nd-tier city lost in the “south cone” of the Negev Desert. The place is actually the frontier with the desertic south, but is planned to be a scientific and economic cluster.
We’ve met with Roni Zehavi, former air force pilot and officer, now heading this initiative which groups corporates, government, startups and universities around cybersecurity topics.
Through mentoring and education, they increase the awareness of key decision makers on a topic which cost regularly billion and reputation for naive MNCs which suffer hacks. In nearby Ben Gurion University, the only PhD in the world in cybersecurity train the best thinkers and doers.
An incubator helps startups and entrepreneurs to fund and launch projects.
Israel as a R&D and acceleration launchpad for corporates
With so many qualities, no wonder why so many MNCs, tech or non-tech, come to tap the talent of Israeli universities, entrepreneurs and the support of the government. Today, more than 300 MNCs have a R&D center in Israel, in Tel-Aviv for most of them.
- Apple‘s only R&D center outside the US
- a huge department from Intel (largest private employer of Israel) who, among other, invented the 8088 chip, which likely saved the whole company in the 1980s and paved the way for the rise of micro-computers
- Alster Capital, a VC arm of Schneider Electric + Solvay + Alstom
- and many more…
The recommendation of most of our experts from Israel is the same: come here, settle a team, hire locally and find your place in the informal networks of Israel, a country where everyone knows each other.
A platform you might find useful is Startup Central’s database, which gathers more the 5000 startups up to date and ready for partnerships. Go and browse!
We’ll be going again to Israel in 2016, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can browse our two Slideshare: this one following the trip, and our Map of Innovation of Israel on Slideshare.