By Eli Sperling
2017 has already been a landmark year for the Israeli technology sector. Breaking all previous acquisition records, in March, Israeli autonomous-driving technology company, Mobileye was sold to Intel for $15.3 billion. Likewise, in the first quarter of 2017 alone, Israeli tech companies raised over $1 billion of investment capital in just 155 transactions.
Israel is widely referred to as the “startup nation,” with more Nasdaq-listed companies than any other country in the world, aside from the US and China. Israel’s robust tech sector finds its roots in numerous factors within Israeli society, institutions, geography and geology.
The Israel Defense Forces serve as a significant source for grooming Israeli tech talent. The IDF’s cyber tech unit, 8200, which is credited with some of the world’s most creative and impactful cyber security and warfare tactics, often scouts Israelis with a high aptitude for computer technology as early as high school. Those that make it into the elite unit receive high level tech training, hands on experience developing cutting-edge software, and a strong network of similarly advanced tech pioneers. Accordingly, Unit 8200, founded in the 1950s, has produced leaders of some of Israel’s most successful tech companies, including ICQ, Imperva, EZ Chip, Elbit, and many others.
Israel’s education system is similarly an important component of the startup nation. With more than 90% of its students graduating from high school, and the world’s second highest number of four-year degrees per-capita, Israel has the highest number of scientists and engineers per-capita in the world.
Additionally, beyond the infrastructure in place to develop the skills necessary for high-tech innovation, Israel’s unique circumstances as a tiny country with limited natural resources and constant existential security threats has bread a culture of ingenuity as a means of survival.
Just a few examples are: the highly-advanced Iron Dome missile defense system, which has proven to be 90% effective in intercepting all-too-common barrages of enemy rockets; desalination technology, which has brought Israel from being in constant danger of running out of water, to having a water surplus that is in fact sold to neighboring countries; as well as numerous agricultural technologies that have allowed arid regions in Israel with limited water and nutrients to flourish as centers of food production.
Developing a successful piece of technology or a startup company requires training, vision, ability to adapt to changing conditions, a network of talent and investors, and the capacity to produce significant results in a short period of time and with limited resources. Israel’s unique circumstances have produced institutions and mentalities amongst its tech minds which have made the Jewish state a perfect storm for leading the world in technological advancement.