Join Community
Aleph Venture Capital

Why We Are So Optimistic About Israel

What character traits propel entrepreneurs to these heights? I think when you strip everything away it comes down to two: Optimism and Resilience. I see the past, current and future State of Israel in these terms: resilient and optimistic.

geekcon-2013-295-1184x790I have spent much of the last 20 years of my life investing in entrepreneurs trying to change the world through innovation. These entrepreneurs defy all the naysayers, slay all the doubters and surmount innumerable challenges to develop, deliver and succeed with a new product. In fact, they actually deliver on a new vision for the world, one that contradicts and confounds conventional wisdom and the prevailing zeitgeist.

What character traits propel entrepreneurs to these heights?  I think when you strip everything away it comes down to two: Optimism and Resilience. Optimism, of course, is the ability to imagine the world, my industry or my plight can, and will, be better tomorrow. Resilience is the drive to make that optimism reality by continually pushing forward when others are heaping scorn upon you, doubting you and trying to knock you down.

For most of us steeped in day-to-day peaceful, working surroundings, it is difficult to imagine the reality entrepreneurs see so vividly and then set out to create. Many of us, coddled since youth, are not as resilient as the great entrepreneurs. Moreover, many are just not up for the battle, struggle and outsider status that being an entrepreneur requires. Irrespective of actual age, being an entrepreneur means having a youthful, curious outlook on the world and its challenges and the steely, but charming, determination to change things.

When I think about all of these traits and struggles of the great entrepreneurs, I immediately see the past, current and future State of Israel in these terms: resilient and optimistic. It is why I am incredibly optimistic about Israel generally and the capacity of our entrepreneurs specifically to change the world for the better. Israel is a very happy country, ranking consistently in the top 15 happiest places to live.  A full 78.8% of Israel’s people are optimistic about our future and 89% of Israelis think there is someone in-country they could rely on in a time of need, a remarkable statistic reinforced through the latest war with Hamas.

The many wars and threats Israel continues to go through are breeding ever more resilience in Israel and not diminishing our optimism. In fact, they reinforce those critical national and entrepreneurial traits of resilience and optimism coupled with determination. Israel is not a coddled country. Au contraire. And, we regularly lean forward into the front lines of the global war on terror, fundamentalism and evil. This resilience, optimism and happiness is fertile ground for budding entrepreneurs and it seems to extend a gravitational pull for outside entrepreneurs to change the world from the shores of Tel Aviv. This makes me even more optimistic.

I think a lot about Ariel Beery in this context. If you don’t know him, you will. Ariel is the founder of MobileOCT, a company using Israeli ingenuity in image analysis and 3D printing to deliver diagnostics as a service for cervical and skin cancer. MobileOCT builds on Ariel’s vision to improve world health and life expectancy by using an iPhone, image analysis and a 3D printed clasp to deliver this critical diagnosis for a price that citizens of Africa or even rural counties in the United States can afford. Ariel Beery was educated at Columbia and NYU, raised in the USA but drawn and inspired by Israel’s optimism to create both a successful global nonprofit accelerator out of Israel and now a startup that will detect cancer for a few dollars and save many lives. Ariel was questioned and doubted many times, including by me, but he is resilient. He is resilient because he is both Israeli – steeled by challenges here – and an immigrant like many other entrepreneurs. There are many more Ariel Beery’s lining up now to move to Israel from France, the UK and United States to join the resilient people of Start-up Nation.

I also think a lot about Yuval Kaminka, founder and CEO of JoyTunes (Aleph portfolio company), who is using his technology skills acquired in the military to make the world a happier and more fulfilled place by extending music learning to the masses via mobile devices. Yuval and his co-founders Roy Itzkovitz and brother Yigal Kaminka are a tag team representative of Israel’s youthful commitment to taking amazing military and academic technology to help children and youthful adults find their inner passions and creative expressions.

I am inspired by people like Yonatan Adiri, a son of immigrants from war torn Iraq, who at the age of 32 has already been the CTO of Israel’s visionary and youthful President Shimon Peres, founder of GetAround (car sharing), a member of the World Economic Forum, and has now founded a startup called OwnHealth that is revolutionising a diagnostic solution using, you guessed it, optics and mobile devices. Adiri’s solution will significantly reduce the cost of healthcare and improve the lives and free up the time of sufferers of chronic disorders or regular diagnostic milestones. He imagined and developed this solution and his company’s purpose in Israel but solves a widespread challenge experienced from China to the US and everywhere in between. Many of the tools that Adiri needed were not available in Israel. No need to worry though, they doggedly hacked them together from basic, inexpensive parts and through creative thinking across industries. That is resilience born of reality in a crucible.

This morning I came from a meeting with Zvi Schreiber, founder and CEO of Freightos, which is Zvi’s fifth company. Zvi, also an immigrant from the UK, is tackling a problem so large it is hard to get your hands around – the freight industry – with its endless routes and opaque pricing. It’s an old and stodgy industry Zvi is innovatively willing into the 21st century because most of us have forgotten about it. It is an industry, however, that we ought to care about because shipping all of our clothing, food and stuff around the world adds a fair amount of cost to our “Cost of Living” globally. If Zvi, Victor, Ali and Yazan are successful, they will impact both freight and all of our costs of living, all from this little strip of land from along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river.

They will need a lot of resilience to succeed but I am optimistic they will. Ariel, Yuval, Yigal, Yonatan, Zvi, and many others are the tip of the iceberg in Israel’s global battle for talent that will drive our future economies and enable global innovation. I am very excited about our chances to build world class, impactful companies by solving important global problems and challenges from Israel. And I am very hopeful that the resilience of Israeli society will create more like them.

During the last war, I looked at the camaraderie so evident around Israel. That support group is critical both as we stood on the military front lines and always on the front lines of fearless innovation. I spoke to friends from abroad who are now contemplating moving and joining their talents with the existing startup community here and I realised our talent pool in Israel will be growing by leaps and bounds in the coming years. In the last few months, I have met so many young people who have moved here from the US, France and elsewhere, bringing their talents and boundless optimism to Israel.

Most importantly, I looked at my kids and their young friends, and can palpably feel their steadfastness and optimism about the future. I watch as they play with their smartphones and ask how can they upend the world from Israel and innovate solutions to challenges facing the world. Our youth is empowered by connectivity and icons of innovation, and they continue to be  motivated by the optimism of a country willed into existence by the resilience and optimism of its founding fathers. They are committed to Israel’s success. They are steeled by the resilience of growing up in a country that cannot afford to coddle its young. From that foundation, they, we and the world will be better off as they innovate solutions to ever bigger challenges and grow the entrepreneurial economy of our Scale-Up Nation.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Join the Aleph Community

You can also download and register

iPhone Android