START-UP NATION addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel – a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources– produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?
With the savvy of foreign policy insiders, Senor and Singer examine the lessons of the country’s adversity-driven culture, which flattens hierarchy and elevates informality – all backed up by government policies focused on innovation. In a world where economies as diverse as Ireland, Singapore and Dubai have tried to re-create the “Israel effect”, there are entrepreneurial lessons well worth noting. As America reboots its own economy and can-do spirit, there’s never been a better time to look at this remarkable and resilient nation for some impressive, surprising clues.
Despite being written almost a decade ago there are still some interesting lessons and insights from this book. It was also interesting to read it, because, for several years recently, as a series of Irish startup events the Israeli model was held up as something that Ireland should aim to emulate. As time has passed, and Ireland has achieved it’s own growth, the comparison has proved to be more nuanced and complex.
Critics might point out that the example touted in the early chapters ‘BetterPlace’ proved to be a massive failure, rather than the game changer it was hoped it would be for electric cars. However with the completion of Tesla’s national US network of charging posts to ease ‘range anxiety’, it is possible that the Israeli startup was just a little to far ahead of the curve in it’s goals.
The book has some good quotes and insights from significant startup influencers including Yossi Vardi, and Shimon Peres who launched whole new tech industries with a startup ethos. As Israel raised it’s agricultural yields over 25 years Peres explained “agriculture is 95% science, five percent work” p226. The book’s authors aim to look at what is, and is not, unique to Israel, to attempt to decipher how much of it’s success can be replicated elsewhere, something that many countries like Singapore, South Korea, Finland, Ireland and many others have tried to do.
Reading it in 2017, it still has some good ideas, food for thought, and inspiration that it is becoming more and more possible to achieve great things – hopefully this might help to be a positive counter to some of the more surprising, underwhelming events of 2016.