Guy Lieberman
Storyteller, Activist, Cultural Creative

Impact Nation, the Backstory

Impact Nation trailer

Back in September 2023 I, like most of us, existed in another world—one with a markedly different future. At the time I was preparing for my first trip to the Amazon rainforest to attend a small gathering of activists, academics and business leaders. We were to spend eight days on a boat traversing the waterways there, to better understand the ecological nightmare that has for decades been playing out in that vast South American basin. The intention was to collaborate on a series of new ventures to address the multiple knock-on effects that that severely damaged biome was feeding into the climate crisis.

Who even remembers climate change? Before the Hamas-Israel war, the issue was courageously climbing up near the top of the global agenda, finally making its way into the boardrooms, government ministries and the minds of millions around the world. Now, at least in the media, it’s relegated to the lower scroll on most news sites, barely competing with the more panicked headlines that bawl forebodings of World War III, rampant antisemitism, the never-ending hostage crisis and the Gaza debacle.

Just before leaving for South America, I received a call from Nicky Newfield with a request for us to meet in Tel Aviv. She said she wanted to discuss an idea with me. I have known Nicky for many years, watching from a distance as she charted a path through the Israeli innovation startup world, specifically in the ‘tech-for-good’ sector, by researching and strategically investing in founders and their impact companies. Impact, that industry term describing mostly for-profit enterprises that are addressing the very same global challenges that underscore the big issues—climate change, food security, potable water for the masses, health, economic equity… the list goes on.

Over the past few years, Nicky and I would occasionally meet and she’d share with me some of the ventures that she was backing. I would leave these interactions with my head spinning—in some detail, Nicky would describe for me the sheer genius of these technologies, how they were positioned to disrupt the problems they were designed to solve, and the resolute character of these founders. She also shared with me what I thought was her remarkably original approach to supporting them. Nicky is an angel investor, which often means the first money in, and which always means that she’s backing the jockey. She has an instinct to find the founder that has usually made some dramatic move—forsaking their own job security and stability by forgoing a career track in some larger organization for the more risky, roller-coaster adventure of building up and chasing down their own innovations. This takes a massive amount of tenacity, discipline, and self-confidence on the part of the founder. Being able to detect and assess those qualities early on, before that person has been tested in the real, tough world of solo entrepreneurship, is an art in and of itself.

So, when Nicky called to say that she wanted to discuss an idea with me, I took her summons seriously and jumped on the next train to Tel Aviv. We met at a café where she explained her vision of a new platform to creatively tell the stories of these impact founders and their remarkable ventures. She wanted me to help shape the narrative, which would entail me traveling around the country to capture on film the founders and their tech companies. “We are an impact nation,” said Nicky, “and so that’s what the platform will be called.”

We agreed that we’d pick this up on my return from the Amazon, and acherei hachagim—that classic Israelism that filters into every conversation preceding the High Holidays; “after the holy days, we’re on.”

I returned to Israel from an inspired Amazon journey on the night of October 3rd. At the closing gathering, just the day before, I had made a commitment to my fellow delegates that I would seek out Israeli tech and the requisite funding to help address the urgent call that is the political, social and ecological triad that so desperately seeks triage in the Amazon. I felt confident that I would be able to source the very solutions that that vast, magnificent rainforest and river basin needed, from all that Israel has to offer.

The afterglow lasted but a few short days before the world turned itself inside out. In the staggering aftermath of 710, I imagined that any plans for travel and filming would, like so much else in Israel, be laid to rest, or at best postponed. I shared these thoughts with Nicky who made her thinking very clear: “Delay building Impact Nation? The opposite! This has now become urgent. We move forward as quickly as possible.”

Nicky Newfield, Impact Nation founder, at the Israeli Innovation Institute HQ. Photo credit: Vadim Sukharevski

Her resolve was based on several simultaneous insights. The industry that makes up the impact community, or ‘ecosystem’ in the parlance, was about to be hammered. There are approximately 6000 companies in Israel that could be considered within the impact arena. Most of these are fledgling enterprises led by young founders and their teams of peers. When a war of this scale hits Israel, the standing army has to expand beyond its ranks, and that means call-ups for reserve duty, or miluim. At its height, and for several months running, around 300,000 Israelis between the ages of 20 and 40 were called to serve in the war against Hamas. That resulted in a sudden evisceration of approximately 30% of the workforce within that very sector—almost every impact company was going to have a batch of key people leaving their positions to take up their posts with their former military units, and for an extended, unknown period.

While any military could be considered a complex beast in most settings anywhere in the world, the IDF is a little different. Essentially, it’s made up of the sons and daughters of this country—literally the children of Israel. This means a lot of different things on the ground, for Israelis. At the get-go, the entire country is culturated to the reality that we are all in this together. We actually, really are. This is not just a sense of national pride; there is no-one in the country who remains personally unaffected by a war of this scale. The result of this is that how we function, how we roll, is less like a nationality per se, and more like a family.

Without going too far into the dark dynamics of Hamas’s strategy of so effectively bating Israel into destroying so much of Gaza’s surface in order to get to the subterranean tunnels to retrieve the hostages—our children, siblings, parents and grandparents—we can be certain to have learned one thing from this war: the world at large is not on Israel’s side. The country has been put to such a severe set of tests, here and abroad, and of the many complex obstacles that we face every day, one of them is how the economy will ride out this megastorm.

However, even with these severe realities, when you’re in Israel it doesn’t take much to remember what it means to be part of this greater family. As a relatively recent immigrant like me who is not culturally Israeli, it is impossible to not be in total awe of the spectacle that is the lockstep unity Israelis default to in times of crisis. It is near impossible to grasp—coming from the outside we’re faced with the never-ending paradox of the Israeli character; tough, stubborn, often rude, loud and very direct. And then, without even a shift in sentiment or attitude, the warm underbelly of the people of Israel shows up, and you know, you know, that everyone around you is going to take immediate, deep care of everyone around them. It’s normally some permutation of “here, eat this, you look hungry. Don’t argue—Eat!”

When Nicky briefed me on the layered set of messages that the Impact Nation micro-documentary series was intended to capture, I understood that what we intended to do was unique. Impact Nation’s vision is to simultaneously share the undeniable genius that is coming from this innovation ecosystem, presented by the warm human somebody behind the tech. This is not your average corporate video; the engineering might be the marvel, but the backstory is the main event. It was within this context that we allowed, sometimes even encouraged, our interviewees to bring forward what the 7th of October meant to them.

Guy Lieberman, director of Impact Nation, caught in a playful mood. Photo credit: Vadim Sukharevski

Since the middle of October, together with a small film crew, I have travelled across the country, as far north and south as was viable, to meet founders and learn about their ventures. This is not the first time I have produced movies in Israel. In the past I have made films about the ethos of spiritual pursuit, documenting various religious traditions and subsects, some outward looking and proselytising, others cloistered and hidden. I’ve made films exploring intellectual and academic rigour, about pluralism and orthodoxy, and about the vast and rich tapestry of the music scene here. Every time I enter the pre-production research phase, I am struck yet again by the density, depth, quality and wealth of content.

I remember remarking on this to the director of my very first movie project here. Every scholar we interviewed, each more knowledgeable and articulate than the next, pointed up toward their teachers and tutors and explained to us that they were just the students of those sages that preceded them. That the real wisdom or knowledge came from those from whom they had learned. When on occasion we happened to meet their teachers, all of them elders, it was the same story, “ah, if only you had met my professor / Rabbi / tutor / maestro…”.

It eventually started to feel like a Mandelbrot set of refinements, reflecting on the past wisdom as the cause of the future evolution. But what of the acceleration? The pace of development in Israel is off the charts. It became apparent that there is a clear link between the depth and breadth of the past and the promise and potential of the future. The ecosystem—no, the entire biome that is Israel—seems steeped in this boundless respect for pedigree and the advanced adepts the precede and guide each generation.  This is a subtle but key ingredient that seems to touch every sector in this society. And now, here I was entering an entirely new community: the scientists, engineers and their entrepreneurial dreamers.

So, why did it seem to me that the stakes felt that much higher, this time around? What was different? Philosophy, spiritual exploration, cultural mores, and the pursuit of knowledge is the habitat of ideas. These things shape how societies view the world. There is something about science and technology, however, that is so anchored in the empirical, in the data, in the physics of it all, that brings the grand world of ideas right up to the coalface of our daily reality. The tachlis, the bottom line of our experience.

When it comes down to the wire, in my view, God is not going to save us from the fallout that will follow climate collapse. We have to take the reins now, to acknowledge the causes and their effects, to understand the levers and mechanisms that impact our ecological systems. We are called upon to trust the scientists now. The specific cohort of scientists I refer to are the ones prepared to challenge the status quo. These scrappy, independent, highly committed and purpose-driven technologists and mavens are driving multiple solutions to directly address these global challenges. The fact that these interventions are applicable planet-wide is at the heart of the whole effort.

Israel and the Israeli impact community is ‘upstream’ of the world. Meaning, the country itself is too small a population to warrant a national-only commercial venture, and not big enough to make any meaningful dent in something like the global climate crisis. Everything about what we do here necessitates having an impact around the world. (I realise that this might sound like the globalist premise behind the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Yes, some of my international readers might get triggered). Be that as it may, the work of the Impact Nation tech founders is undeniably toward the accelerated benefit of society, the environment, and the myriad species with which we share this planet. This is not only an issue of scale, it’s also an impetus of intent. It is entirely how we roll, both as individuals and as a people. We are wired for impact.

One of the micro proof points about Israel’s DNA and its macro place in the world, is how local we can go to find what we need. When Nicky initially assigned me to take on building out Impact Nation with her and Maayan Schwartz, her right hand and head of business development, she gave me carte blanche to establish the creative team. Much like the notion of the Mandelbrot set mentioned earlier, I decided to go super local and see what my small town up in the Carmel could provide. This experiment resulted in the entire engine that’s built Impact Nation—including the brand, design, web platform, messaging, digital marketing, the lot—under the guidance of Erin Kopelow of TEC, a women-owned agency. This, in sync with the Orian Production house film crew, all within less than half a kilometre radius of my home office. Quite the proof point! But not, in fact, that unique. Drill down anywhere across this tiny country, and you’re sure to find the talent, knowledge, artistry and skill you need to build up your own dream enterprise.

Impact Nation is nothing more than a spotlight. By creating the channel, we allow these inspired stories to be told, their brilliance discovered. These are stories worthy of amplification. Given the chance, these technologists, biochemists, geneticists, agronomists and engineers from within our impact ecosystem could ultimately save us all.

To learn more, go to

About the Author
A storyteller, social entrepreneur and cultural activist, Guy Lieberman approaches critical social and environmental issues through the intersection of creativity, originality and initiative. Guy is the Director of Impact Nation.
Related Topics
Related Posts