While Israel’s shining exit stars have branded this country the start up nation, the reality Israelis face in their everyday lives is slightly different. Tel Aviv in particular, is a city buzzing with ideas and soft launches, while hipster CEO’s cruise down Rothschild boulevard on their electric scooters. Ideas abound while the bureaucratic system in this small country is often painfully slow. Perhaps though- that barrier is the key to Israel’s start-up success.
Last night at Tel Aviv University Innovation Day’s keynote event, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, founder of thenextweb.com gave an inspiring lecture from the standpoint of a successful entrepreneur. Hailing from the Netherlands, Boris highlighted his ability to break molds and build quickly, due to the fact that he was not part of a major conglomerate. Large companies or bureaucracies are shackled to the confines of their processes and systems, while entrepreneurs are “superman!” as he exclaimed. The small guy- the one with only a demo or a beta site- he’s the one who can really be agile and make extraordinary change.
The economic climate of Israel on a world scale, coupled with the country’s sometimes complicated bureaucratic process, is a beautiful acceleration ground for success. Israelis of both sabra and olim variety grow in an environment that operates in the here and now- not always for the strategic future. Lean starts seem as common here as investment banking is in Manhattan. You see it everywhere.
Students at Tel Aviv University created an Entrepreneurship center known as StarTau, to help develop and expose new ventures. StarTau’s innovation day was studded with start-up companies big and small, pitching their ideas and connecting with like-minded investors and entrepreneurs. Students from programs such as the Sofaer iMBA, Recanati MBA, and the Technion start-up MBA mingled with investors, angels, and new companies alike.
The exhibition hall was buzzing with ideas and connections, thanks to an initiative by StarTAU to promote business and opportunity. StarTAU brought together diverse companies in one venue- from the fashion crowd funding of Buoy-Up, to Feex, the “robin hood of fees.” Though all of the companies were at a different point in their development and positioned in different market segments, each presenter and founder had a motivation for solving a problem, and the passion to execute a solution.
With a growing network of accelerators and more international MBA programs focusing on start-up culture, it seems as though Tel Aviv will continue to dominate as the start-up city in the start-up nation.