The country has a good reputation for innovation, especially in high-tech. But its entrepreneurs still need to make more effort to get their projects noticed.
Interview with Yaniv Feldman, Managing Partner at the startup accelerator Venturegeeks. L'Atelier met him at the France-Israel Innovation Day which took place on 5 December at the French Ministry of Economy, Finances and Industry in Paris.
L'Atelier: How would you describe the technological environment in Israel?
Yaniv Feldman: The country is one of the pioneers on the technological front, but is rather less developed when it comes to venture capital models and the ability to adapt politically and culturally. We stand out particularly in the high-tech field, especially since the 90s, which were a real turning point, with huge sums invested in the sector. People come up with a lot of new inventions in Israel, but they might not necessarily get noticed. Some 60 to 70% of Intel processors were invented and developed in Israel, and ICQ, the instant messaging service, was also invented there.
L'Atelier: You say that there are lots of initiatives going on, but we’re not necessarily aware of them. How do you explain this lack of visibility?
Yaniv Feldman: Israeli entrepreneurs are good at coming up with new ideas and putting them into practice. However they are much less effective when it comes to product marketing. A large number of players in this ecosystem tend to think that they have the ability to do everything themselves and that things will work out. Self-confidence brings many advantages, but also its share of disadvantages. Even though Israeli entrepreneurs are able to get things done, and with quite some flair, we mustn’t forget that a big part of success lies in marketing the project. Startups which move to the United States adapt very well. But those that stay at home still often find it hard to sell themselves. And that’s a pity since Israel is a small country. If you don’t think “global” right from the very beginning, you’re going to have trouble expanding your company and raising funds.
Another thing is that Israeli entrepreneurs have a real feel for innovation, but find it much more difficult to think long-term. This stems from the culture of the country. There are exceptions, of course, but on an individual level, people tend to think short-term and focus on efficiency. Many entrepreneurs get an idea, and then their first thought is how to get it up and running and sell it off, often to foreign companies.
L'Atelier: Listening to you one gets the impression that “thinking global” for the most part means “thinking U.S.”
Yaniv Feldman: The U.S. does in fact attract many Israeli start-ups. But that doesn’t just go for our country. One of the reasons for this is that the U.S. market, which is after all the biggest, remains easy to target. Launching in Europe is more complex. Each country has its own way of doing things, and this often means pitching your product market by market. That’s beginning to change however.
But in any case I personally think that the concept of a domestic market will become obsolete in the longer term and the sooner entrepreneurs realise that, the easier it’ll be to grow. The idea of starting off in a given market will always be necessary, but you also have to find a way to become "local" elsewhere. And so collaboration between companies and the people who know the ropes in a country really makes sense, if you’re going to open up to local customs.