"In a certain sense, this country as a startup should have failed but instead, it became one of the richest countries in the world. This is an impossible dream. they turn into reality ".
That's the view of Arik Shtilman, founder and CEO of fintech startup Rapyd from Israel. The country is a "factory" that has produced so many successful entrepreneurs. Not to mention Adam Neumann, the co-founder of WeWork, Israel is also home to many other prominent entrepreneurs. A government agency estimates the country with a population of only 8.5 million people "produces" 1,400 startups every year.
Israel is the "cradle" of many unicorn startups.
According to Tech Aviv, a community for entrepreneurs, Israel now has 25 unicorn startups (valued at $ 1 billion or more), including companies founded by Israelis but based elsewhere. like WeWork.
As of August 30, this year, nearly $ 2.3 billion has been invested in 153 startups deals in Israel. In other words, this small Middle Eastern nation has made some remarkable technological success.
Some notable Israeli startups include the ride-hailing app Via and Gett, the messaging app Viber and Waze – Google's mapping application. Monday.com is the latest platform to join the Israeli unicorn club this year.
So why can Israel become such a relentless innovation center? Here are some of the Israeli businessmen and investors about the forces that have been and will continue to promote the entrepreneurial spirit of the country.
1. Join the army
Joining the military is always a difficult task in countries around the world and Israel is no exception. Citizens must join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) at the age of 18 and this is expected to significantly change their psychology and life. Arik said: "You learn two things, the first is that everything is possible and the second is only 'I can't do it' or 'I don't want to do it'. It has gradually formed the mentality of Israelis in general: Nothing is impossible. "
Shachar Bialick, CEO and founder of financial startup Curve, which is valued at $ 250 million, shares the same opinion. Shachar describes how his IDF unit built over the years to carry out a seemingly impossible task called "The Journey": Walk 64km with 40kg of luggage on your back in wet and cold conditions.
He said in an interview: "At first, you thought you would never be able to do it but over time, your thoughts gradually changed until it became second nature. you need to go through those years just like the difficulties you need to overcome to become a successful entrepreneur. When other people see walls of obstacles, we only see it as the thing that needs to be overcome. " .
However, psychological change is not the only factor that makes IDF a motivation for everyone. Many recruits are put into the military intelligence unit and become experts in various technology fields. That's the case for Yoni Assia, the co-founder and CEO of eToro, a $ 800 million trading app. His major is computer science and time at IDF has helped him gain valuable experience in new technology.
Investor Gil Dibner, founder of Angular Ventures, has called IDF a "technology incubator" and sees it as a key factor in shaping Israeli entrepreneurs. According to him, in other countries, you enter the real world after finishing university while in Israel, the opposite: "IDF helps connect networks, work in groups, solve problems at scale. , usually before participants go to college. "
2. Culture of confidence
Shai Wininger, co-founder of insurance startup Lemonade, valued at more than $ 2 billion after the latest funding round, said: "We are known to be very confident as Israelis. From an early age our parents said that we can be who we want to be. Being our own boss seems like a distant dream for many people, especially in risk-averse culture but in Israel it's a popular way of life. We have a higher risk 'taste' than most other cultures in the world. "
Arik Shtilman said: "Israel has no oil and is surrounded by countries that dislike us. But we are still the most successful democracy in the region with infrastructure and successful companies. built from scratch ".
Shai said the failure did not frighten the Israelis: "I have set up five companies and only two of them have succeeded so far. I consider failure an integral part of success. Whenever failure, I just need to stand up and move on. This spirit is repeated by the other founders. "
3. The growing ecosystem to support new entrepreneurs
Silicon Valley of Silicon Valley (Silicon Wadi) began its journey to become an international hub for startups with the sale of the messaging service provider ICQ to AOL in 1996. This is considered a catalyst for the field. Israeli technology sector.
Although Israel produces many famous founders, entrepreneurs tend to move abroad, usually Silicon Valley, to do bigger things. Yoni Assia explained: "This is almost common practice. Israel is always known for enterprise software but to implement big technology projects, you have to go to the US or financial services companies. to London ".
That's what Yoni did in 2006 to found eToro. To date, they have more than $ 1,000 billion in assets deployed through their exchange last year and have 800 employees working in offices around the world. Now, he thinks it is feasible to start a company in Israel because recruiting talented people from abroad has become much easier than before.
According to Wininger, Israeli entrepreneurs and founders are approaching the "third stage" of the country's development, from a start-up nation, acquired by large enterprises to the country that generates jobs. The company will become the iconic brand like Google or Facebook.
In addition, the Israeli government is spending 4% of the budget (the second highest in the world) for research and development. This year alone, it added three new unicorn startups, Saturday.com, Lightricks and Compass. One expert said: "We are witnessing a unique phenomenon in Israel, that their technology ecosystem has fully matured, allowing entrepreneurs to expand into new areas."