Shani Zanescu
Your Connection to Israeli Tech & Innovation

Growing from Adversity: It’s Contagious!

How Israelis utilize their inherited entrepreneurial skills to scale up COVID-19 social and technological solutions globally

Last week I completed teaching an Intro to Entrepreneurship course for Bachelor students. Speaking about entrepreneurial skills and theories, all while facing a once-in-a-hundred-years situation (and a “Zoom-semester”) and constantly working with local startups and entrepreneurs who never seize to amaze me – it all became crystal clear to me. “Making deserts bloom” wasn’t just the vision of the first Prime Minister of Israel, but rather an entrepreneurial practice many have adopted all throughout history. 

A lot has been written and said about Israeli technologies that address the global pandemic, not only locally, but rather shared globally. For example, technologies such as TytoCare (remote examination and consultation with a physician)Biobeat (wearable vital signs monitor), Diagnostic Robotics (The medical-grade AI triage and clinical-predictions platform, providing predictions of the spread of the virus to public health officials leading to better medical response) are just a few of at least 70 Israeli-based technologies different combating the pandemic with its various challenges.

Even more so has been written and said about the Israeli culture that has put Israel at the forefront of the global tech scene. Factors like the geopolitical environment, the mandatory military service that hosts an abundance of technologies which have changed the way we live and interact with one another, as well as the Israeli culture (of a bit of sassiness mixed with the constant daring acts to break hierarchies and boundaries), and of course – the classic Israeli “everyone knows everyone” quality – all made Israel the unique ecosystem that it is. We know all of this already.

During these times, what I find most interesting and intriguing is in fact the ability to connect the dots between needs and solutions, and the way Israel, as a case-study that can be adopted by different ecosystems, has been able to grow through this point in history. The entrepreneurial spirit, which thrives on adversity, is everywhere. It lives – in each and every one of us, if we dare to tap into that.

And speaking about history –

Throughout history, Israelis have been “trained” to work and create from adversity, and in times of crisis – while the human condition at times of a crisis often tends to get into a state of shock, inherited skills within the culture have taught us to “make deserts bloom”, as a daily practice, like first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, envisioned. More so, this state of mind teaches us to be able to operate quickly during such times with resilience, creativity, and resourcefulness. Such situations are the engines for entrepreneurship, breakthroughs, and unexpected collaborations – aka connecting the dots.

Two great examples for platforms ‘connecting the dots’ through knowledge and methodology sharing, saw the value, rightly so, not in inventing something new necessarily. Rather, they had utilized and gathered the existing ‘treasures’ and methods and made them accessible to people everywhere.

Israel-is is a non-profit dedicated to telling the story of Israel through young Israelis traveling abroad (50,000 per year for a trip between 6-10 months). It is one example of resourcing greatness during these times. As global borders have been closed, and travel – the core of their activity – has been shut down, the organization quickly decided to adapt to the new situation. They came up with the ‘COVID-19 Solutions Now’ – a joint platform connecting Israel, Jewish communities, and organizations worldwide with social and medical solutions. Its goal is to empower communities worldwide through sharing knowledge and innovative solutions, in “an Ikea model”, like Eyal Biram, Founder & CEO of Israel-IS, says. More, he adds “The Israeli entrepreneurs saw the Coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to make the world a better, more effective and clever place, and help those populations most affected by it. Within the framework of our initiative those Israelis that managed to aid the elderly, non-profits, medical staff and more – will be the mentors for international social entrepreneurship and this is our way to prove that the high-tech nation didn’t sit idly by, even during the Coronavirus pandemic.”

Their platform includes, for example, information and solutions for addressing social distancing, tourism, agricultural, technologies, medical, elderly challenges and have further discussions on their dedicated global Facebook group, and through the resources on their website.

Another example is the platform spearheaded by Israel Innovation Institute, a non-profit bringing innovative technology and knowledge intro real-world settings through their various communities (GrowingIL, EcoMotionCatalystEdIL, and HealthIL). Together with Israel Innovation Authority, Digital Israel, and the Ministry of Economy, they have created a live marketplace, centralizing all challenges health organizations are facing and the solutions Israeli companies are offering. HealthIL’s Counter Corona is combating COVID-19 by bridging the gap between health organizations and tech companies looking to offer solutions for the recent outbreak. They have mapped already more than 50 healthcare challenges, 267 solutions, and counting.

All crises, of which Covid-19 is no exception, leave us with no choice but to connect the dots. To help out, to share, to collaborate. We may be able to do this alone, but we don’t have to. By connecting the dots between challenges and problems, between country to country, and between person to person, we are more powerful, and we can train ourselves to be problem-solvers as an inherited part of us. Growing from adversity, seeing the blossom in what seems to be a desert, is like a muscle worth training. By doing so it will become our mind-set, our daily habit, and I’m sure we could all agree – this could be absolutely.…contentious.

About the Author
Shani Zanescu is the Founder of Isratech Ventures, connecting top-tier investors, government officials, executives, and private entities from all around the world to Israeli tech and innovation. For nearly a decade, she has been forming partnerships between Israel and key players in the global arena through various business development and foreign relations roles. Previously, Shani was a Director of an Innovation Center, and also the Head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the British Council in Israel, leading collaborations in the fields of science and innovation. She was also the Assistant Defense Attaché at the Embassy of Israel in the Netherlands (ja, ze spreek een beetje nederlands). Shani holds a Master's in Diplomacy & National Security from Tel Aviv University’s Executive Program, and a Bachelor of Communications & Business from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas (where she also lived for 5 years, y'all!). She also teaches Entrepreneurship & Innovation for colleges students. This year, Shani was chosen by Forbes magazine to the ‘30 Under 30' list. She lives in Tel Aviv, loves the beach, loves tech - and obviously loves talking about it.
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