In my experience, you don’t have to be a superhero to have an origin story, I believe every person (not to mention religion or cultural group) has one.
As a journalist who has conducted many interviews with Israeli startup company founders, I believe that uncovering their origin stories is a key to understanding what their company is doing on a deeper level.
For example, for CTech I interviewed On Freund, The CEO of an Israeli startup named Wilco, which created what he likes to call “a flight simulator for developers”, but with a ‘gaming’ component, so it’s also fun. While Freund has had an amazing career (including several years working for WeWork in New York and in Israel), what really fascinated me was how he first got hooked in his field. He disclosed that he first started writing computer programs when he was in the 3rd grade, learning by himself from a series of booklets which were intended for much older kids.
When I interviewed Rotem Trivizki, Director of Innovation and Marine Development at Atarim, the urban corporation in charge of developing and managing the Tel Aviv-Yafo coastline, on what first attracted her to study marine biology she shared that she grew up in Tel Aviv by the sea and was a member of the ‘Sea Scouts’ as a youth.
Sometimes I have had to dig for the origin story myself. For example, my Google research revealed that Joan Motsinger, Seagate’s Senior VP of Sustainability & Transformation, whom I was interviewing during her maiden visit to Israel, grew up on an Iowa farm (“Field of Dreams”, anyone?). When I brought up that fact in our interview she confirmed that’s where she received her strong work ethic she still carries today.
When dealing with a pair of co-founders, their origin stories often revolve around where they first met. The vast majority usually bond in the IDF (more often than not in the 8200 intelligence unit) or at university, but sometimes, as was the case with TripleW co-founders Tal Shapira and Amir Oranim, they have been friends since their first encounter on the playground of their kindergarten in Ra’anana at the age of 4.
As for me, I am often asked about when I discovered I wanted to become a writer. I have a vivid memory of it. I was in the 3rd grade at SPHDS (South Peninsula Hebrew Day School) in Sunnyvale, Ca. (the heart of the Silicon Valley, near where I grew up in Palo Alto). My teacher Mrs. Hoff assigned the class worksheets entitled “Draw You Own Conclusions”. Each section had a cartoon and a short paragraph describing a story or situation and it then some blank lines for the students to fill in what they believed happened next. I remember writing some very creative responses (probably influenced by the cartoons and sitcoms I watched at the time).
The next day in the classroom Mrs. Hoff came up to me and said, “Yesterday after school I was grading papers in the dentist’s waiting room while my son was having a dental appointment. When I got to your assignment and read your responses I laughed out loud so hard that everyone in the waiting room was staring at me.”
How much do origin stories shape the Startup Nation? Well, I’ll let you “Draw Your Own Conclusions”
As for me, my origin story may not have been as dramatic as Peter Parker’s, but we do share one thing in common. He was bit by a spider and I was bit by a bug – the writing bug.