She’s a beautiful little country that has the best of it all. Just a speck on the world map, yet her universe holds glorious mountains; expansive cities; top-notch universities; an array of delectable international cuisine; historical landmarks galore; and of course — farms, greenery, beaches and waterfalls amidst dry deserts. And despite all the hate that gets thrown at her from the world, her neighbors, and many of her own people that refuse to give her the recognition she deserves — Israel continues to rise.

Endless Innovations

Israel is the perfect example of what happens when one perseveres. Only in her case, it is one that is composed of many. Many brilliant minds and their support systems working together to not only bring good to Israel and her people, but also to benefit the world. And that they did, across numerous sectors including:

  • Biotechnology
  • Medicine
  • Robotics
  • Computer hardware/software
  • Mobile hardware/software
  • Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Defense

But how though? How did all this happen? And why? Israel is surrounded by the worst kinds of hate and negativity. She is also situated in one of the (technically) lesser desirable parts of the planet. How did so many roses grow out of concrete? How did so many phoenixes rise above the ashes, time and time again? What is it about Israel that sparks a wealth of innovations and countless Nasdaq-listed companies?

This was explored by my good friend, mentor, and living legend Hillel Fuld, in one of his speaking engagements in his January 2018 tour.

About Hillel Fuld

Most everyone has at least heard of Hillel to some degree, but if you haven’t — you have been missing out on a powerhouse of knowledge. You would need to check out his awesome website to get the gist of his personality and specialties. In a nutshell, he is legit thought leader in all-things-tech; strategic advisor in marketing and PR for companies of all sizes; journalist for many of the top tech publications; super entertaining vlogger; and a true mensch in every sense of the word. Hillel was featured multiple times for his efforts (across the board) by publications such as Forbes, Inc, and Business Insider. He is also working on a book that focuses on the strategies, techniques, and general outlook which ultimately paved the way to his success. To be honest, I don’t know how he does it all without having a clone of himself. Although I take pride in being his protégé, I’d consider myself successful if I can amount to 5% of the greatness that he is.

Hillel Fuld at work. (courtesy, Hillel Fuld)

Okay, now back to business. Hillel was flown into NY for a week by the renowned SAR Academy — also known as “the school without walls.” Fun fact: Hillel’s father, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, was once the principal of SAR, and the driving force in laying the foundations of success it is today, which you can learn more about in his profile here. Hillel was brought in by SAR to talk about how Israel is growing from Startup Nation to Scale-up Nation. Even though I was familiar with the subject matter, it was quite an eye-opener.

What is it about Israel?

Hillel started off by asking the audience what they felt was the secret behind Israel’s success across so many spectrums, despite the obstacles. There were many different answers, and they were all correct. Israels people are resilient. The culture is that of go-getters that don’t have time for nonsense. There is a sense of community in which everyone is close-knit and willing to help each other out. But that unique drive… that is a part of the brain that is unlocked when teenagers and young adults join the IDF.

Hillel explained that those are the years in which the majority of people in developed nations would continue their studies, travel the world, or simply party. Meanwhile, the young minds of Israel use those prime years to learn responsibility, leadership, management, resourcefulness, sacrifice, selflessness, and more. In case you didn’t know, reported cases of PTSD among Israeli soldiers are among the lowest in militaries worldwide, and that is largely due to the mental resilience that is developed. They quickly mature in multiple ways on intellectual, personal, and philosophical levels. After defending their country, they are ready to take on the world. They are wired to make a positive difference for the greater good, and they go right at it in a larger scale.

Big Money Makers

One can go on forever talking about the success stories that have come out of Israel and her people. Israel ranks up there for having the highest number of startups per capita, with many achieving successful exits. Hillel talked about the billion dollar club — Israeli companies such as Waze, Wix, Mobile Eye, Fiverr, and Ironsource. He also talked about some of the major tech companies that have an office in Israel, such as Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft. VC’s worldwide are fully aware of the dynamic Israeli tech scene, and want a piece of the pie. Hillel mentioned how Ashton Kutcher invested in a few Israeli companies, and in an interview previously conducted by Hillel on VentureBeat, Marc Andreessen stated that if he were to break his “one office” rule, his second office would likely be in Israel. Additionally, many of the wealthiest VC’s in China are looking into investing in Israeli innovations, with one of the most notable transactions being powerhouse Alibaba investing, and later buying Israeli startup Visualead, to establish a R&D center in Tel Aviv. Amazing!

Culture and Values

The innovations that come out of Israel stem from more than just brilliant minds. The culture there is unique. Unique even compared to Jewish communities in other parts of the world. Hillel claimed that it could be due to several factors. For starters, there is a greater sense of kinship between one another. Sure, we can all make jokes about the pros of Jewish geography or the cons of rough customer service in Israel, but when a member of the tribe is in need, many would be quick to selflessly jump in and help. When the world tries to push the people of Israel down, the tribe takes that negative energy and uses it to motivate them to prove their skeptics wrong. Israeli’s won’t allow themselves to be naive freiers, but will go above and beyond for the greater good.

All this goes hand-in-hand with the concept of tikkun olam, or the idea that one must not only look after their own welfare, but also for the welfare of society as a whole. That we must all do our part in our own special way to leave the world a better place than when we entered it.

Also, I think a lot of it has to do with a great majority of Israelis being descendants of, or having had close ties with survivors of the Holocaust. When you hear firsthand stories of unbearable hardships endured by your elders and ancestors — that will affect you. When you grow up seeing different forms of PTSD from the Holocaust being exhibited by the survivors, such as the fear of doctors, fear of being touched, fear of the dark, or unnecessary extreme frugality — that will also affect you. Israeli culture is very good at reminding one another that they would never allow this to happen again. And they carry that determination in everything they do. They WILL NOT settle for failure. They WILL NOT take ‘no’ for an answer. They WILL stand their ground. They WILL be the masters of their own destinies. It’s a collective dream that they collectively help each other achieve.

The Secret Sauce

Hillel planted many seeds of thought in my mind as he spoke about Israel and her successes. These thoughts lingered long after the program ended, and I realized that though some of the ideas may have appeared scattered, they really weren’t. It all harmoniously comes together in the end.

Israel’s secret sauce to success isn’t one that can be replicated by any other nation overnight. That’s because this sauce has been slow –cooked over the span of generations. It was specially crafted with a complex medley of bold people that work together to create a unique blend that positively enhances anything and everything it touches with a single drop. And like the finest of wines, Israel’s secret sauce to success only gets better with age.