What I experienced first hand was revealing: The breadth of high-tech companies that have scaled outside of Israel, in the US, Europe and Asia, and the ecosystem of sophisticated investors and universities has nothing to envy to Silicon Valley’s. The Startup Genome has ranked it the 2nd best ecosystem after Silicon Valley. In this post, I will describe what I saw there.
I’m here sitting in the City hotel in Tel Aviv with my two other roommates and decipher my notes from my first day. We visited 3 great companies (PrimeSense, Waze, Better Place) and one VC firm (Carmel Ventures), who showed us how to start up a company. At Better Place, Shai Agassi came to speak to us and we even test drove a RenaultBetter Place car. The driving experience was spectacular. I didn’t know that an electric car had such a strong acceleration without the noise!
At times, I felt as though I were in the Valley. Israelis from the high-tech world were friendly and open, and seemed to have a very strong global presence. Strangely enough, I felt sometimes that the weather and landscape were similar to that of the Valley.
I have been amazed by the entrepreneurial spirit here. Hierarchy is non-existent and Israelis are given lots of responsibilities at a young age. For example, the Zell Entrepreneurship program teaches young college graduates the ropes of entrepreneurship. For one year, students develop a business concept and pitch their business concept to investors across the United States, Europe and Israel.
I’m quite impressed by the networks that Israelis have with the rest of the world. According to our visit to Carmel Ventures, the VC ecosystem in Israel is well developed and has now the capacity to help companies in growth stage. Ten to twenty years ago, an Israeli start-up needed to obtain investment from a foreign VC. This is quite impressive for a country of 8 million inhabitants. They were also able to foster several multinationals in the process (e.g. Teva, Checkpoint, Amdocs and Nice). In later posts, I will describe in more detail what I have observed. I believe that other countries can replicate Israel’s sophisticated system, one that encourages start-ups in small markets to expand internationally in larger markets (e.g. the United States, China, Japan, India).