Event Review: Israel as a Role Model for Global Innovation


Image from Council on Foreign Relations

Sara Glickman is a staff member of Gather the Jews.

We could all learn a lot from the way things are done in Israel.

I know, “tell me something I didn’t learn on Birthright!”  But I’m not just talking about the culture, or the well-trained IDF, or the successful kibbutzim in the middle of the Negev.  I’m talking about how all of that combined has given way to an entrepreneurial spirit that, in a relatively short period of time, has put more Israeli companies on NASDAQ than any other country outside North America.  How did such a small state, with socialist roots and no ability to trade with neighboring nations, become such an entrepreneurial haven?

This is the question that Dr. Liora Katzenstein tackled in the March 23rd presentation titled “Israel as a Role Model for Global Innovation.” Dr. Katzenstein created a school for entrepreneurship in Israel — ISEMI — and spends much of her time traveling the world and exploring the factors that set Israeli business apart.  Currently, there are approximately 1,000 high-tech start-ups established in Israel each year.  A lot of the initial funding came from government support, such as Yozma (“initiative”), the governmental venture capital fund launched in the 1990’s.  However, much of the success is attributed to factors that are uniquely Israeli — such as the leadership skills generated by mandatory experience in the IDF, a much higher tolerance for start-up failure, and a refusal to give up, no matter what the obstacle.  How many of us can say that we could continue working if bombs were going off just a few miles away in every direction?  Yet that’s exactly what one small Israeli company did in order to meet deadlines, and I’m sure there are many similar stories.  For more information, you can look into the book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

This event was sponsored by the Center for Israel Studies at American University and organized by Laura Katz Cutler, the Acting Director for the Center for Israel Studies.  For more information on upcoming events, check out http://www.american.edu/cas/israelstudies/.   Or better yet, keep an eye on Gather the Jews!!  That’s what we’re here for :)