Earlier this summer, before the rockets and sirens, I had the privilege of moderating the Startup Nation 2.0 panel at the Herzliya Conference with a host of panelists I know and work with, including IDC’s Prof. Yair Tauman and Prof. Ron Shahar, also Shai Agassi and Yanki Margalit and someone I met in the context of the panel, Prof. Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizman Institute of Science, in Israel. The main topic discussed was what Israel’s tech and startup industry will look like in the near future and beyond.
The panelists gave insights to what they think is essential in order for the eco-system to flourish. Prof. Tauman, also Zell’s academic director, the new Dean of the Adelson School of Entrepreneurship and someone I consider a mentor, noted that one of the major problems Israeli startups have is scaling. But easier said than done, right?
Shai Agassi, always the creative big picture thinker, suggested creating a fund to help Israeli companies grow to mature stages. The intent would be to invest enough money in Israeli companies allowing them not only to develop on their own but to acquire companies of their own, even from abroad and to import that talent and IP to Israel. For example, help Waze fund an acquisition of a navigation app and grow the company here in Israel instead of being acquired and exporting the IP (though in the case of the Google acquisition of Waze the employees stayed here for at least the short run).
Yanki Margalit followed on that theme, no stranger to big picture thinking and creativity, and in his characteristically optimistic note, focusing on encouraging the import of more talent to Israel to create a flow of minds in and out, creating value and positioning Israel as an important international innovation hub. Actually, Shai and I are working on doing just that with an innovative new program at IDC where Israeli students will join forces to tackle global grand challenges. Stay tuned…
The idea of a global world with integrated and shared knowledge rings home with me and I continued on that track recently at a conference organized and curated by my dear friend Maya Elhalal with Prof. Dan Ariely. The meet up was called Bubbles, a first of its kind approach to sharing content in bursts of thought provoking ‘bubbles’ and interactive and engaging panels.
My three-minute ‘bubble’ challenged that the threat of ‘brain drain’ may not be the threat it is made out to be; in particular as it relates to entrepreneurship. What is so bad about having Israeli entrepreneurs out there in the world creating, developing, growing and scaling companies? Sure they pay taxes abroad, but many have the R&D for their companies located in Israel, not to mention the hundreds (literally by some count 282) global technology companies with R&D facilities in Israel (from Google, to Samsung to GM) that Israeli innovation able to lure in country…providing those always mentioned taxes, and more importantly employment, innovation (with spill over impact) and the means for many budding entrepreneurs to gain domain expertise and experience. These same entrepreneurs, like Dan Ariely himself, often give back by coming back for visits, participating in conferences and sharing knowledge gained, by investing in the eco-system, in local companies, in VC funds, in real estate and philanthropy…and by being ambassadors for Israel abroad. No better time than now, to feel just how needed those ambassadors abroad are.
Even in times when Israel (and Israelis) feel beleaguered and alone, we are always part of a connected world. Last week on my way back home from family time in Los Angeles where I grew up, I got tagged on a fb post, and to my surprise challenged to the Ice Bucket Challenge by none other than, a partner of mine to all kinds of mayhem, panels and events, faculty at Zell and an alumnus of the second Zell class, Eyal Gura. With little time before the flight I took the challenge (had my son pour a bucket of ice cold water on my head), donated to the worthy cause of ALS research and joined a network of people across the globe (among the challenge participants including celebrities, athletes and entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg who challenged Bill Gates for an instructively original version), and in particular back and forth between Israel and US (Amir Shevat at Google in California challenged Eyal in the first place) and I in turn challenged my good friends Maya, mentioned in this post (who spent time in New York and moved back with her entrepreneur husband to raise their gorgeous family here), my adopted daughter Natasha Shine (herself from London and California) and my partner in TEDxHolyland, Hanan Kattan, a Palestinian from Jordan living in London. All three accepted the challenge! and passed it on to the connected world.