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- Nick Zwar
Autor: Olga Rube
Israel’s startup ecosystem seems to be based on a rock solid foundation: known for its exceedingly high number of startups that develop groundbreaking solutions, Israel sets the tone to create a level of unprecedented innovative power a long time ago. We met with Ofira Engelberg, Marketing & Business Development Executive at Israel Trade Center in Berlin, to get insights into the way Israeli technologies can transform whole industries in fields like artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, cybersecurity, IoT and robotics and learn more about a nation that never depended on anyone else to get things done.
Ever thought of taking a trip to Israel? Well, if you decide to do so – as soon as Covid-19 allows us to, of course – there’s a big chance the tiny country in the middle of the desert has a surprise in store for you. The surface of Israel easily fits on the map of Hessen with a total area of around 22.000 square meters. Yet the size doesn’t seem to hurt the country even the slightest bit when it comes to its international standing as a major high-tech location. Quite the contrary: With 6,500 startups (calculated in relation to 8.8 million inhabitants), Israel has the world’s highest startup density per capita. The steadily growing number of new startups each year (jumping from 1,000 to 1,500) make Israel the most advanced country in the Middle East and Southwest Asia in terms of economic and industrial development.
It most certainly isn’t the size of the country that sets Israel apart from the rest of the world – we can all agree on that. So what is it – this special something, that makes for a blooming economy and the steady and rapid development of new technologies? The knack for entrepreneurship and the seemingly innate drive to think in disruptive patterns don’t simply fall back to a natural consequence of necessity, but have a lot to do with the Israeli attitude. Ofira Engelberg just needs one single word to explain this outstanding success away: Chutzpah. Which, after looking into my confused face, needed a little more explaining after all. The meaning of Chutzpah is inextricably linked to the Israeli and the expression raises different emotions, depending on who you talk to. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Chutzpah is the unconventional way of thinking, a spirit of innovation that is instilled in nearly every aspect of life in Israel.
“The so called Chutzpah is a quality, characterized by a strong sense of responsibility, the willingness to take risks and the ability to see failure as motivation. The Israeli tend to observe everyday situations and figure out how to improve them. It allows them to overcome problems and issues rapidly, whether it be in the production of renewable energies or the use of scarce natural resources,” says Engelberg.
The political, social and economic climate in Israel is a highly supportive one. It creates the perfect environment for ideas to thrive and founders to develop disruptive solutions to the most delicate problems. And then there is the IDF, the Israeli military that is omnipresent in the country and concurrently highly involved in promoting innovation. Women are also bound to join the army after highschool for 2 to 3 years. The highest potential people joining the army are preselected into the most challenging positions with the objective to always challenge assumptions, improve processes and make the right decisions in life threatening situations. Many technologies are created in the army and seen to be used in other settings later on. Ofira Engelberg remembers the time in the army as one of the most valuable experiences in her life.
“Those two years at IDF challenged my creativity at all times. In the army you are required to make crucial decision at a very young age, always try to get to the bottom of things and deal with what is in front of you. The reason Israel excels in innovation has several reasons: Surrounded by superior opponents, Israel had to have high-caliber technologically. Broad policy lines for enhancing innovation in the private and financial sector invariably lead to a large degree of complementarity and contribute to a sense of independence and responsibility. In the end those two aspects are the most defining ones, I believe it’s what led to Israel creating its own technology instead of relying on others early on,“ Engelberg adds.