Yaron Carni

Lessons From the Iranian Attack: Seconds of Success Are Years in the Making

On Sunday morning, I woke up. And everything around me was just the way it had been the day before. And, although I’m not observant, I said the morning prayer, modeh ani. 

In school, they taught me that you never start any kind of essay or article by saying that you woke up, because it’s the most boring possible thing to say. Of course you woke up, or you wouldn’t be writing. Of course you woke up, everyone wakes up every day. But Sunday morning was different. 

Sunday morning was hours after the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked Israel, where I live, with hundreds of missiles. Thanks to an incredible collaborative defensive effort by the IDF and Israel’s allies, including the US, the UK and France, 99% of the missiles were intercepted. The casualties were a 7-year-old girl who remains in serious condition and after whom everyone keeps worriedly asking, and a minor amount of damage to one airbase. 

I woke up on Sunday morning, and everything was still there. But until a few hours earlier, not a single person in the world had known that that would be the case. 

We did not know, during those tension-filled breathless hours of Saturday night, what might be left by the morning. We didn’t know who would be left. 

Take a Breath. Don’t Minimize. Don’t Miss the Message.

Now that it’s safely past, it would be easy to minimize the event and forget its lessons. I think that would be a huge mistake. 

Maybe I’m particularly passionate about this because the day before that Saturday night, I had been celebrating my 15th “rebirthday” – the anniversary of when I had immediate, life-saving open heart surgery due to a 6.5cm aneurysm in the ascending aortic root. 

Without that surgery, performed by what seemed to me to be an angel in the form of a German surgeon whose unique contribution was to not only be part of saving my life but also my lifestyle, I would have died then. After that surgery was when I started saying modeh ani in the morning – because that was when I became grateful, every single morning, to awake to a new day. 

Fifteen years later, without the technology and the collaboration we saw awe-inspiringly demonstrated on Saturday night, who knows which people I care about would not have woken up on Sunday morning to a new day?

The videos of the interceptions, the seamless collaboration behind the scenes, and the overwhelming failure of the attack are all things that grab attention and headlines. But headlines are quickly forgotten. And I think they’re the wrong things to take away from this in any case. 

There are more important lessons, both for Israel and for hi-tech, the industry in which I have worked for many years. Those lessons are more important than headlines or images, and must not be missed or forgotten.  

This Was a Victory of Technology

I’ve worked in hi-tech for decades, and the importance of innovation, and particularly the willingness to try something new that might be something crazy, has never been so clear to me before. 

Former Minister of Defense Amir Peretz has been criticized for his decisions to enable Iron Dome, because some people have said it worked too well. That if Israeli civilians had not been made so safe by its shelter, Hamas’ murderous rocket attempts would never have been allowed to go on so long, and so Hamas would never have become so disastrously rooted in every inch of ground and underground in the Gaza Strip – leading to the current situation. 

For me, the attack by the Islamic Republic of Iran shows the vital importance of creating every kind of technology that can make the world a safer or better place. 

First, because without this incredible technology already in place, Saturday night would have been very very different. Don’t fail to innovate for short-term reasons. Push every boundary, and create, and see where that takes you. No one knows how soon you’ll need the results, or how desperately. 

Second, because it’s a psychological and ideological declaration, and we need that as much as we need physical protection. Developing Iron Dome, and other systems including the Arrow system and David’s Sling, is part of how Israel shows itself that the purpose of the IDF and what we all contribute to it is indeed the defense of Israel. 

That the point is not only to protect our existence, but also to demonstrate, especially to ourselves, who we are. Innovative, able to defend ourselves, and here to stay. That’s a message we should be just as aware of in hi-tech as well. The expression it takes is different, that’s all.

International Collaboration Makes the Impossible, Possible

It was absolutely stunning to see the powerful collaboration between allies play out in the skies on Saturday night, with countries joining together against the Iranian assault. The speed, the scale and the in-depth knowledge of what was going on left me with a feeling of awe that hasn’t faded several days later. 

Of course it was natural for the IAF to be the name on everyone’s lips the next morning, in tribute to the skill and risk that Israel’s pilots and those who support them take on as part of these and other defensive efforts. We are proud of, and deeply value, every single squadron and all those who are in them, from the mechanics to the pilots to the maintenance crews.

Their ability and courage deserve all the recognition they receive. But don’t let that halo distract you from what else was there. The force multiplier, in this case, was international cooperation. It completely changed the nature of what was possible. 

All This is True in Hi-Tech Too

One of the key parts of the vision and mission that drives Maverick Ventures Israel, the VC which I founded a decade ago, is collaboration between different markets, between Israelis around the world, between Jews abroad and Israeli companies, and between Israelis and anyone anywhere in the world who values innovation and the chance to unleash potential. 

I’ve seen, over and over again, how international cooperation empowers individuals, ideas and companies to dramatically expand the boundaries of what can be done. It truly is best for everyone involved, in more ways than I could easily list – in terms of finances, contacts, expertise, knowledge, entering markets, cultural awareness, diversity and the benefits that brings, and much more.

In terms of the need for innovation, too, Saturday night was a spotlight moment for me. Over the years I’ve seen companies succeed in building things that the founders were literally told would be impossible. 

In recent years, I’ve seen a sense of caution among investors and entrepreneurs alike. It’s natural to want to focus on what you know is likely to work, the safe options – and the safe industries, like cybersecurity and fintech. And you do need a sane assessment of risk and a focus on results. Moonshot projects are fine for a company like Google, but most of us can’t afford them. 

Ideas that are truly grounded in strong early results, and in sound technology or science, though, are different. Don’t avoid those just because they sound fresh. Give them extra time, and extra thought, to see if they have what it takes to go the extra mile, and just maybe make the world better, as well as making a profit for shareholders.

I was enormously proud and encouraged, in Q1 this year, to see that although (of course) cybersecurity funding had grown a healthy amount, it wasn’t alone. Climate tech and agrifood tech, which had been adversely affected by the uncertainties around previous recent quarters, made notable comebacks. Agritech surged from a worrying low of $18 million in Q4 2023 to nearly $100 million in private funding in Q1 2024, while climate reached $204 million across 24 rounds of private funding in Q1 2024 compared to a low of $103 in Q4 2023. 

Seconds of Success Are Years in the Making

In hi-tech, the story of the first quarter of 2024 was dominated by a small number of mega-rounds, like Claroty ($100 million), Exodigo ($105 million), Silverfort ($116 million), Axonious ($200 million) and by mega-acquisitions like Resident ($1 billion by Ashley Home), Avalor ($350 million by Zscaler) and Flow Security ($200 million, by Crowdstrike).

Moments of vital success – Saturday night, and mega-rounds or mega-acquisitions – are hugely important, and headline-grabbing. They’re important in themselves, and they’re worth celebrating for what they show about the strength and value of the people, ideas and organizations involved. 

The true meaning behind them, however, is that they epitomize and showcase years of strategy and investment and hard work. It takes huge amounts of investment – time, money, resources, human creativity and determination and innovation – to make it possible, and that investment has to continue over a long period of time, building on itself, continuing against all odds. 

Seconds of success are years in the making. 

It’s Not an Event, it’s a Process

No true, meaningful success in hi-tech or in defense is possible without the support and pressure that comes from a resilient, innovative, determined ecosystem. This is as true of Saturday night’s events as it is of the largest mega-acquisition you can imagine. 

  • It’s great that there were mega-rounds, and mega-acquisitions, but what’s more important for the big picture is that those reflect an ecosystem in which companies now strive for growth and long-term success, not early flowering and fast acquisition, as used to be the case in Israel. Moreover, large international companies not only know that Israeli startups are in it for the long run, they’re enthusiastic about embracing that – despite situations even as difficult as the one we’re in now. That’s the big picture. 
  • In Q1 2024, $1.5 billion was raised across 50 deals, representing a 17% growth QoQ. Mergers and acquisitions grew to $2 billion, marking the most active M&A quarter since Q1 2022. That’s the big picture.
  • Entrepreneurs have been coming into our offices to pitch, in uniform, on their way to or from reserves duty. Companies are delivering promised updates and features to customers, despite every headwind. Heads of huge multinational companies like Intel and Oracle have talked about the incredible resilience of Israeli hi-tech. That’s the big picture. 

It’s incredible that the Iranian attack was defeated as resoundingly as it was, but it wouldn’t have been possible without an ecosystem of sustained, meaningful collaboration and mutual assistance with allies spanning not just years but decades. It wouldn’t have been possible without many years of technological innovation and the willingness to try things that sounded impossible. (The Arrow system sounded like sci-fi to me when I first heard about it.)

Seconds of success are decades in the making. 

The Message I’m Taking Into My Life

The surgery that I had 15 years ago saved my life. It also changed my life. It made me reevaluate what matters to me, and why. What I want to spend my time on, and why. What I want my life to look like when I look back on it, and what I want my children to remember about me.

That’s why I devote my time to being a small part of the success of Israeli hi-tech, and why I invest so much time, energy and emotion into the collaborative efforts that Maverick creates across international borders. 

What I’ve realized, after the attack by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its defeat, is that I wasn’t thinking big enough. The values of determined innovation, global cooperation, and the drive to make the world a better place hand in hand with those who share our values, aren’t personal to me or even unique to Israeli hi-tech. They’re personal to me because I’m Israeli, and because that’s the water I swim in here.

Saturday night was like an emblem of the success of Israeli technology and strategic investment – what a huge triumph it can be, and how important it can be, and why it matters so much. 

Now is not the time to rest, knowing we succeeded. Now is the time to double down. We saw how much innovation, technology, and international cooperation matter, so we need more of it, across every sector of society. Driven by investment of every kind – financial, governmental, personal, you name it. 

I want to be part of that. I hope you’ll join me.

About the Author
Yaron Carni is the founder of Maverick Ventures Israel, a Tel Aviv-based, industry-agnostic VC fund specializing in early stage startups with compelling early products that need advice and assistance building traction and connections to take them to the next level. Before Maverick, Yaron founded the Tel Aviv Angel Group and facilitated Google's first acquisition in Israel - LabPixies. Yaron is a graduate of the Sam Zell Entrepreneurship Program, holds a Masters Degree in Law with a concentration in Intellectual Property, and has been on the board of United Hatzalah since its formative years.
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