Tel Aviv aerial viewTel Aviv has more startups per capita than anywhere in the world. (Photo: Dmitry Pistrov/Shutterstock)

Move over, Silicon Valley: Israel is the new startup haven

Hailed by the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Israel is a center for tech innovation.

How far would you go to raise money for a good cause? Would you streak across campus? Dress like Spiderman for a day? Eat grass from the quad? These are just a few of the challenges posed on Moolta, an Israeli crowdfunding startup that lets users across the globe fundraise for charitable projects by posting videos of themselves doing outlandish things.

Moolta is just one out of countless examples of a startup born in the progressive Israeli city, Tel Aviv, that uses innovation to make a positive impact on people’s lives. There are so many other startups also emerging in Tel Aviv that it’s been dubbed Silicon Wadi (“valley” in Arabic). In fact, Tel Aviv has more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world.

 

“The innovation going on in Israel is critical to the future of the technology business.”
Bill Gates Founder of Microsoft
 

Israeli startups are not only prolific, but they’re also prosperous. Israel ranks first in the world in venture capital investment. Billionaire Warren Buffett called Israel “the leading, largest, and most promising investment hub outside the United States.”

Facebook is a prime example of an American company benefitting from the success of Israeli startups. The social networking giant acquired its first office in Israel recently when, for $120 million, it purchased Onavo, a startup that makes data compression software. Facebook also purchased Snaptu, an Israeli mobile app that enables people without smartphones to use Facebook and Twitter on their basic mobile devices.  Snaptu could dramatically improve social interaction for those in the developing world, or for folks still holding onto their old Nokia flip-phones.

It’s fitting that Facebook has invested in these Israeli startups because social networking is deeply ingrained in Israelis, explains Dan Senor and Saul Singer, authors of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. “People aren’t secretive or protective of their connections; instead, they’re happy to help others connect.” Want proof? Israel has been helping Americans virtually connect since 1998, when AOL bought Mirabilis, the Israeli company whose tech AOL developed into the instant messaging application we know as AIM.

What else gives Israelis their entrepreneurial spirit? Senor calls it “chutzpah,” or “guts.” He also attributes the military training in Israel to the success of startups. The military inspires an anti-hierarchical culture that fuels creativity and the bravery required to stand by your ideas.

For instance, after the American company PayPal bought the Israeli startup, Fraud Sciences, PayPal president Paul Thompson visited the Fraud Sciences office in Tel Aviv and remarked, “I’d never before heard so many unconventional observations. Junior employees had no inhibition about challenging how we had been doing things for years. I’d never seen this kind of completely unvarnished, and unintimidated, attitude. I found myself thinking, ‘Who works for whom here? Did we just buy Fraud Sciences, or did they buy us?’”

Yet another driving factor in Israel’s ability to innovate is its immigration policy that welcomes a diverse array of imaginative thinkers into the workforce.

Want a part of the action? There are over 200 Israeli startups in New York City and many companies also have offices in San Francisco and Boston – and yes, they’re hiring. Or, if you’re considering interning abroad, there are many opportunities to get in on the ground floor of a flourishing start-up in Israel. And the good news – English speakers are always in hot demand to help bridge the gap between Israeli and American technology companies.

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