Startup Nation

Israel is known for a lot of things – home of the Jewish people, locked in perennial strife with the Arab world, Zubin Mehta’s favourite philharmonic…What is less known is that Israel has the highest concentration of high tech startups on the planet. That many of the revolutionary leaps of the last thirty years have had at their core the Israeli innovation engine – from the microchip that fueled the personal computing revolution  to the router that made the internet happen.

Dan Senor and Saul Singer in their book Startup Nation explore the factors in the success of Israel. One of the unexpected drivers that they identify is the role of the military in creating entrepreneurs. Israel has a reserve army of civilians, all of whom have undergone 2-3 years of military service from the age of 18-20. These young Israelis are thrown into life-or-death leadership position at an early age, and are expected to make their own decisions, not merely carry out orders. Certain kinds of military training in the scientific wing of the defense forces are highly coveted and are open only to the brightest students in science and mathematics.

As a result of this exposure an Israeli coming out of college at 24-25 years has a far greater capacity to lead and manage than one emerging from most other parts of the world.

Two behavioural traits seem to be important  to the Israeli story: one is an innate need, a basic drive you will, to challenge authority. The argumentative Israeli is as thorny a specimen as the argumentative India, it would seem.  The authors point to the fact that nothing is above discussion including the scripture. In fact the Talmud is a collection of discussions over the centuries of Bibilical scholars holding diverse opinions on the specific injunctions of the  Holy Book

The second trait is resilience, and an absolute refusal to give up no matter what the odds. The turning point in the perception of investors on Israel came when a research team of Intel carried on their work despite bombs raining all around them in order to meet certain deadline, (with a makeshift creche improvised to take care of the children!).

So the question you could ask yourself is: does your startup encourage an atmosphere of creative abrasion?  and are you all willing to battle on even as bombs rain all around you?

The answers may determine your destiny.

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