My guests picked themselves up from the ground, brushed off their Armani suits, and climbed back into the car. I opened my mouth to speak but one of them stopped me short. ‘Jon, we must tell you that we’ve decided not to invest a million dollars in OurCrowd.’
The story of OurCrowd began under fire. In November 2012, I was showing two of our first US investors around Tel Aviv, introducing them to some of the stars of Israel’s startup landscape in the hope that they might invest the first million dollars that would help us get OurCrowd off the ground.
Our visit coincided with Operation Pillar of Defense, in which Israel launched air raids on Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire at Israeli towns and villages – the same scenario that triggered this month’s most recent flare-up in fighting that thankfully ended with a ceasefire last Friday.
I wasn’t worried about taking my guests to Tel Aviv because the city had not come under fire for more than 20 years, when Saddam Hussein launched his rocket attacks against Israel in 1991. After a successful afternoon with some impressive young entrepreneurs, we were on the highway back to Jerusalem when the eerie wail of air raid sirens sounded overhead, announcing the start of the first-ever Hamas rocket attack on Tel Aviv.
I pulled over to the hard shoulder and directed my guests to lie down in the dirt by a wall as Israel’s Iron Dome defense system soared into action over our heads. We heard the booms as Iron Dome intercepted the Iranian Fajr missiles overhead, and felt the sickening impact as three of the rockets fired by Hamas exploded a couple of miles from where we were taking cover.
But I wasn’t surprised by their silence, nor by their suggestion that I come by their hotel for breakfast the following morning so they could reconsider their proposed investment. Arriving home, I told my wife that the dream was over and we would have to put our plans on hold.
When I arrived at the hotel the following morning, the investors had already made up their minds. I opened my mouth to speak but one of them stopped me short.
“Jon, we must tell you that we’ve decided not to invest a million dollars in OurCrowd,” said my guest, exchanging a glance with his colleague. “After what we went through yesterday, we’re going to invest two million dollars. If those guys from Hamas think they can intimidate us, they’ve never met a real New Yorker.”
I have those two gentlemen to thank for helping get OurCrowd off the ground.
Startups are companies that learn to manage crises from day one. They don’t have any money. They don’t have a team. They don’t have customers. They must learn to overcome crises – otherwise, they will not survive.
Startups are companies that learn to manage crises from day one. They don’t have any money. They don’t have a team. They don’t have customers. They must learn to overcome crises – otherwise, they will not survive. Resilience and the ability to handle the challenges and shifts in fortune that await any young company are essential if you are going to be a successful startup entrepreneur. You will be measured by how you respond to stress and how you respond to adversity. This is the very essence of a startup.
We saw this clearly during the Covid-19 pandemic. At first, everyone saw the precipitous drops in the public markets and feared for the survival of the world economy, let alone the fledgling startups living hand to mouth.
Savvy investors bought the dip because they realized that tech companies in particular would not only benefit from the focus on remote work, ecommerce and digital disruption, but are also good at handling crises.
As a result, venture investing rallied and the sector boomed.
The Israeli ecosystem was built around crises by people who develop their skills in the army, where they learn how to deal with adversity and produce solutions under pressure in the face of enormous challenges.
So even though Israel is unfortunately forced to defend itself and fight wars, Israel’s companies keep growing and the tech ecosystem keeps moving forward.
Despite short-term dips, every time Israel has had to endure a crisis like the one we faced in May, after a brief retreat, the economy has come roaring back.
We remain optimistic about the prospects of long-term reconciliation, both with our local neighbors and with our new friends in the Gulf. Meanwhile, if we continue to be challenged, we will manage through the short-term crises because we have to, and emerge with renewed vigor.
Israel, like a startup, must remain inventive, quick-thinking and resilient, because Israel truly is a startup nation.