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Wisdom from 70 of Israel’s tech wizards

Behind the numbers and statistics is the complicated mosaic of the people who drive industry
Inbal Arieli. (Courtesy)
Inbal Arieli. (Courtesy)

In recent years, we keep celebrating and admiring the success of the Israeli tech entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, and its position as a global leader. We are familiar with and quote impressive statistics to any interested audience: Israel has the highest density of start-up in the world; Israel attracts more venture capital per capita than any other country; there are more than 5,000 Israeli start-ups, 300 tech multi-nationals operating in Israel; and so on.

This successful industry is my sandbox. I started my professional career more than two decades ago working in hi-tech companies, and since then, I have taken various positions in the ecosystem, including starting companies of my own, working side by side my colleagues — high-tech entrepreneurs, investors, and executives. For me, the success of the Israeli innovation ecosystem is more than statistics and numbers. It’s the people behind it. And what they represent.

As a Sabra born and raised in Israel to parents who have dedicated their lives and careers to the State of Israel, having myself served in the military and now raising my family here, I am really excited for Israel’s 70th Independence Day. I genuinely love my country. And I cherish my fellow Israelis.

So for Israel’s 70th Independence Day, as a gift to my ecosystem, I created a mosaic of 70 diverse role models of the flourishing Israeli tech entrepreneurial ecosystem. Inspired by Marcel Proust, Bernard Pivot, and James Lipton, I composed my own personal questionnaire, unveiling the spirit of the key figures behind the Israeli ecosystem: born Israelis, alongside olim hadashim; men and women; Orthodox Haredim along with Arabs; young and more mature. All are Israelis who have taken a major part in building and sustaining the miracle of the Start-Up Nation.

I asked them each 12 identical questions. Their personal answers provide a peek into their minds, souls and hearts. The collective mosaic reflects on the values of the Israeli tech ecosystem. Not to my surprise — extremely positive ones.

I asked them what is their favorite Israeli custom? For many, it’s exactly yesterday and today, Memorial Day and Independence Day. And what is their greatest Israeli childhood memory? For Chemi Peres, it was receiving his bar mitzvah present from David Ben Gurion. No wonder that’s his choice.

They all mentioned their first job, when they had just started — and these are people who are now running Israel’s leading tech companies.

I was curious to know who is the one person they would each love to meet for dinner? Amnon Shashua, co-founder of Mobileye, chose Yuval Noah Harari — a modest request, compared to choices ranging from Leonardo da Vinci, David Ben Gurion, and Albert Einstein. For Chemi Peres — it was his dad, President Shimon Peres, whom he would have wanted to have dinner with, one last time. This answer moved me enormously, as I answered the same, wishing to have one more dinner with my dad, who passed away 12 years ago.

I wanted to know what are they most motivated by? Discouraged by? What was the worst piece of advice they were ever given and what is the quality they most admire in a person, and more.

However, from the 12 questions I asked, there are two that I am personally most interested in.

The choice of words we use means a lot. So I asked them for their favorite Hebrew word. The most popular choice was “Lefargen” or “Firgun,” a unique word used on a daily basis in Hebrew — meaning to make someone feel good without any ulterior motives, so representative of the Israeli spirit in general, and the one of the tech ecosystem in particular. However, one creative soul, Dov Moran, serial Israeli entrepreneur and the inventor of the USB Flash Drive, mentioned “Ya’adoot” יעדות. “Actually, it’s a word that I invented,” he said, “which means living your life with a purpose.”

And last — but definitely not least, they were asked a tough question — “If I could, I would go back in time and tell my younger self that……” — Well, you’ll have to visit the online project to read what each and every one of these role models of the Israeli tech ecosystem suggest as their personal most important lesson learned in life.

Following requests and extraordinary interest in the project, in Israel and abroad, TheFounderStudio project will now be broadened to include more than “Israel’s 70by70.” The Israeli list will be expanded, as there so many others who have taken an active part in shaping our ecosystem. Other communities around the world have also expressed interest in creating a similar project for their own communities, and they will receive specific questionnaires relevant to their respective communities.

Let’s always remember: behind the numbers and statistics, there are people, with personal stories. And when innovation meets humanity, great wisdom reveals.

Shalom! (2nd most popular favorite Hebrew word) and Happy Independence Day to all!

About the Author
Inbal Arieli is a serial entrepreneur, and an Israeli tech influencer, featured as one of the 100 Most Influential people in Israeli hi-tech and as one of the 100-tech-business-women-speakers in the world. For the past 20 years, Inbal took a leading role in the flourishing Israeli hi-tech sector, including founding a series of programs for innovators, serving in executive positions in high-tech companies and as senior adviser to Start-Up Nation Central. Inbal also started companies of her own, and is co-CEO of Synthesis, providing leadership assessment and agile people development with methodologies derived from the unique experiences of elite military unit leaders, Harvard Business School coaching experts, and executive search industry pioneers. Inbal lectures widely on the Israeli innovation and start-up ecosystem to business and government leaders around the world. Among her most popular lectures is “The Roots of Entrepreneurship,” which analyzes how Israeli culture breeds entrepreneurship at a very young age.
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