25. March 2013–
Israel has the highest density of startups in the world, with 2000 people for every startup. Despite it being the 100th smallest country on the globe, the nation's home to more than 4000 startups.
Arguably the most innovative place on Earth, it attracts more venture capital than any other country – 2.5 times more than the US, 30 times more than Europe, and 80 times more than India. It's no wonder then, that Europe has much to benefit from strengthening its business ties with Israel.
To boost the dialogue between Israel's and Germany's startup hubs, the Israeli embassy recently held a cosy gathering to speak of what's making Israel's internet industry a booming success.
Watch below as we speak to Israeli founders and investors on what Europeans players can learn from Silicon Wadi. More details after the video...
Video shot and produced by Glenn Goodison
Berlin's Israeli ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman and JVP Media Labs investor Uri Adoni presided over the event, speaking of what sets Israel's startup scene apart from the rest of the world.
Here are six main ingredients they spoke of:
1. Master improvisation
“Improvising along the way is in our DNA,” said Adoni, “it's an organised mess.”
With the embattled state under felt threats to national security, planning for the future isn't an Israeli forte. That's why they're good at winging it. And the country's learned to grasp the art of improvisation well.
“My first posting was 20 years ago in Vienna," explains Handelsman. "I remembered envying the Austrians as they looked to the future and planned. In our (Israel's) reality, we never planned ahead because it's the reality we live with, with the threats we faced.”
2. Question everything
“When working for CEOs in America, people do what they're told.” said Ardoni. “In Israel, we always answer back with 'why'. We question everything.”
3. Tackle a startup like a combat mission
“More and more, Israelis go to the military service, go to Uni, and then build a startup,” said Handelsman.
With conscription compulsory in Israel with at least two years of service for men and women after high school, it's no wonder that the country's business culture is made of steely determination. “Young Israelis take on everything like a mission,” said Ardoni, "it's a good way of just getting things done."
4. Internationalise from day dot
“We don't have local markets. In Israel, from day one, it's about going international,” said Ardoni
If Israeli internet entrepreneurs are to truly succeed, there's no choice but to internationalise from day one. Unlike markets like Germany, Israel is too small of a testing ground – so thinking big and going global usually goes without saying.
5. Be fearless. Knock on the doors of big names
“Because there's a real willingness to ask questions, entrepreneurs are not afraid to knock on any doors of any big names,” said Ardoni. PayPal, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Apple are just some of the internet giants with offices in Israel. And entrepreneurs – from the budding to the pros – aren't afraid to approach them. In return, big-name honchos pass on gems of advice. And so, the cycle of learning and teaching goes on.
6. Constructive failure
“We're very encouraging. We don't judge those that don't succeed, there's always constructive failure,” said Ardoni. Failing is looked upon favorably, particularly when an entrepreneur's embarking on their next bright-spark idea. It's that fire-in-the-belly spirit and “get back on the horse” ethos that seem to attract an admiring industry fan-base.
For related posts, check out:
- VIDEO: “Berlin loves to party, we Swedes love to work”… The secret of the Berlin-Stockholm startup love affair
- “There’s only so many times you can fake an orgasm” – 10 nuggets of startup wisdom from Yossi Vardi
- “Israel has innovation in its DNA.” Izhar Shay explains why Canaan Partners has shunned Europe… for now