Israel, as you have surely heard, is one of the biggest tech hubs in the world, with more entrepreneurs per capita than any other country. Besides the startups that are part of the Israeli ecosystem, you'd have a difficult time finding one top tech company that does not have R&D in Israel. That includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, IBM, and pretty much everyone else.
In 2015 alone, this country, which is the size of New Jersey, raised north of $3.6B dollars for its companies, a jump from $2.2B dollar in 2014. In other words, the Israeli ecosystem is taking off, and there is a strong value proposition to be a part of it.
To learn more about the Israeli startup ecosystem, I sat down with my friend Hillel Fuld, who is Israel's top marketer and the co-founder and CMO at ZCast, a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting. He is also a contributor to numerous sites like TechCrunch and Mashable, and has been featured on CNBC and in Forbes for his thoughts on the Israeli tech scene.
Anyone who follows Hillel online (the man is active on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat) knows he actively covers the Israeli tech ecosystem while sharing his thoughts and wisdom about startup marketing.
What is your background and why did you move back to Israel?
I'm originally from NYC and moved back to Israel after seeing the growth and the opportunity to get involved in the tech scene. I can tell you it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Israel is the number one place for tech entrepreneurs and the quality and quantity of innovation here is unparalleled. Israel is a fantastic environment for startups and we have some of the world's leading R&D talent. As a tech geek who gets to see new startups every day, I am living the dream!
What are some of the competitive companies in Israel?
There are many successful companies in the Israeli ecosystem including, of course, Waze, wix, and Mobileye, whose technology is in Tesla to power their autonomous vehicles. There is a long list of Israeli companies reaching the level of global tech leaders. Companies like Taboola, Outbrain, Ironsource, and Palantir. The most interesting part about the Israeli startup space is the influx of larger companies opening up R&D hubs here that support the smaller startups.
What does the venture capital space in Israel look like?
Many top tier VC's including Sequoia, Battery Ventures, Sound Ventures, are opening up second offices here. Incubators and accelerators like YC are continually investing in Israel-based companies. Large Asian companies such as Baidu and Alibaba have made recent investments in Israeli tech as well.
What about homegrown Israeli incubators?
Out of the 50 incubators that are based in Israel, about 20-30 started in Israel. Some prominent ones include TheJunction and TheHive, but the Microsoft Accelerator and the Google Launchpad are active parts of the ecosystem as well.
What are some of the opportunities in Israel?
Israel is best Known for Cyber Security but has lately had a heavy focus on enterprise, big data, Drones, Agriculture, Healthcare technology, all with a heavy focus on revenue and early traction as an indicator of success.
What are some of the opportunities to improve Israeli startups?
The biggest hurdle for Israeli entrepreneurs is their ability to tell their story and going to market. With a heavy focus on engineering and technology means, startups get so deeply rooted and lose focus on the "why." Subtlety isn't really a part of Israeli culture and that definitely manifests itself in the local marketing talent through a stronger focus on sales and less long-term marketing. Lastly, most Israeli companies often relocate their sales and marketing to the U.S., but that is also a trend that is beginning to shift with more local companies beginning to do their marketing locally.
Is the government of Israel helping the ecosystem?
Fortunately, the government has been heavily involved and supportive in both capital deployment and setting up resources to allow Israeli entrepreneurs to succeed. The Chief of Scientists invests in companies with no equity, to name one example.
What is your key to startup success?
Obviously, there is no one rule, but I personally love meeting passionate and talented entrepreneurs who love to tell me what they built and how they built it. I then sit with them and explain to them why they built it, who their competitors are, how they can go to market, and what is their best strategy for business development. That is what keeps me up at night, helping the ecosystem grow and transition from "startup nation"to "unicorn nation." That shift will happen soon -- it has already begun!
What are your thoughts on the Israeli startup ecosystem?