Start Up Nation

Pre Reading Discussion

  • What is a start up? 
  • Why is Israel called a start up nation? 

After Introduction:

  • What does is take to found a successful startup? working in a team? taking risks?
  • What are the cultural/ social/ historic/ economic reasons for Israel becoming a start up nation?

Start Up Nation

Israel may be a tiny country, but the nation makes a huge impact on a global scale. In 2009, Dan Senor and Saul Singer published Start-Up Nation, where they explain why the Jewish State with the booming economy has more venture capital (investments) per person than any other nation. Aside from Silicon Valley, this small country produces more startups per capita than any other country in the world. Look into companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel, etc, and you’ll find numerous Israelis who lend their talent to the company. This all explains how the term “start-up” nation comes into play, but what are the cultural, social, historical, and economic reasons for the title? 

The Military

Some believe Israel has earned the title of start-up nation due to its strong military history. Journalist Dennis Mitzner attributes the number of start-ups to the military’s habit of promoting soldiers based on their skills and intelligence, not their socioeconomic status. While fulfilling their service, young adults learn values such as teamwork, leadership, entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, and accountability

Survival Instincts 

Israelis have been fighting for the right to exist since 1948. Immediately after declaring independence, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq attacked Israel, but the small nation prevailed against all odds. Since then, citizens have fought for their survival in numerous wars, knowing that if Israel loses, the country would cease to exist. That survival mentality is exactly what helps Israelis build and develop their start-ups. In the startup world, it’s do or die. You must be prepared to make decisions quickly, take risks, and prepare for all kinds of scenarios using limited resources. Former soldier turned tech entrepreneur Eran Galperin says that these concepts are exactly why Israel is dubbed the startup nation״

״The history of its wars being taught at school, coupled with the reality of a new one starting in any given year, make most Israelis used to being in a survival mode. This translates to Israeli culture in Israelis being much more concerned about short term solutions than long term plans, basically “How do I improve my current situation with the minimal resources that I have” kind of thinking.״

Natural Abilities

As Jewish people, technological and intellectual advancements are in our DNA. For centuries, Jews have been recognized as academics. Over 20% of all Nobel Prize winners come from Jewish descent, although Jews amount to less than 0.2% of the global population. All three of the 2013 recipients of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry are Jewish. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg was raised Jewish. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin come from Jewish descent. Jeff Zucker, the CEO of NBC Universal is Jewish. 

Learned Resourcefulness 

Israel didn’t always have the high rises, the shopping centers, and the irrigation systems that provide citizens with water. What’s incredible is that most of Israel was once a vast desert filled with nothing but rock and sand. The first settlers created a home with limited resources, developing innovative systems that required a certain level of resourcefulness. Since the beginning, Israelis have been discovering solutions to problems, whether it’s technology like the Iron Dome, or developing groundbreaking theories on human economic habits. 

Cultural Identity

Chutzpah isn’t just a Yiddish term, it’s part of the cultural identity. In “Startup Nation,” the authors describe what happened when Intel’s American office decided they needed to better understand the Israelis employee’s perspective and create seminars on Israeli culture. Mooly Eden ran the seminars and said that it’s the Israeli chutzpah that makes them so successful.

From the age of zero we are educated to challenge the obvious, ask questions, debate everything, innovate. It’s more complicated to manage five Israelis than 50 Americans because [the Israelis] will challenge you all the time — starting with ‘Why are you my manager; why am I not your manager?’ 

Israelis are bred to fight for their survival, innovate, maintain a sense of assertiveness, and celebrate their natural abilities, all of which have secured their place as the startup nation.