“Start Up Nation” is one of those buzzy phrases you hear all the time but you may feel awkward asking what it even means. For the uninitiated, it’s the name given to Israel for it’s impressive and burgeoning tech scene, which has become the basis for a bestselling book of the same name.
The Economist notes that Israel now has more high-tech start ups and a larger venture capital industry per capita than any other country in the world! The book seeks to explain the unexplainable. How does a nation of only 7.1 million, a country younger than 70 years old, with no natural resources and constant conflict, produce “more start up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom?” It seems completely absurd that this tiny country, smaller than New Jersey and younger than your grandpa is constantly cited by publications around the world as being the gold-standard incubator for marketable ideas.
The book boils it down to two elements of Israeli society; military service and immigration. So if you’re reading this and think neither of those apply to you, so all hope is lost, read on.
Military service isn’t just wearing a uniform and performing training drills. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have a different way of doing business than other world armies. From being able to call their commanders by their first names, to being encouraged to correct mistakes they witness in the field, the IDF is a relatively un-hierarchical environment where creativity and intelligence are highly valued. How this translates for the non-soldier is an emphasis on outside- the- box thinking, constantly questioning and not being afraid to (respectfully) challenge authority. Additionally, lifelong bonds are forged during one’s service, creating a network of peers that soldiers will be able to utilize as useful contacts in their post-army careers. It is common knowledge in Israel that connections are king. While “making contacts and connections” may not be groundbreaking, the Start Up nation model teaches you that it can not be overstated how much these strategic connections can help you further your career.
So you say you’re not an immigrant, huh? Start Up Nation says Israelis are winning the tech scene because they have an immigrant mentality. A substantial number of its citizens moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and their parents and grandparents moved to escape the Holocaust or Jewish persecution in other Middle Eastern countries. Then there is the large English-speaking population who moved to Israel on their own for ideological or religious reasons. This creates a culture where immigration is the norm, not the exception. “Immigrants are not averse to start from scratch. They are by definition risk-takers. A nation of immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs,” explains the book. So what does this mean for you, the non-immigrant? It means you have to act like a native and think like an immigrant. Taking risks, having nothing to lose, seeing an idea from it’s inception all the way through- these are the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Israelis are not scared of initial failure because they are comfortable starting at square one.
Becoming a success is not easy and it’s not comfortable. If you are one of those people who needs stability and consistency, a lot of the ideas in this book will absolutely terrify you. But if it excites you, if it’s something you want to know more about and explore- the Start Up Nation might be for you.