All opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Israel is known for its breathtaking historic monuments, as well as centuries-old conflicts, yet there are countless little-known technological advances developed in Israel that have transformed the world. While Silicon Valley is an area in California known for high-tech innovation, Silicon Wadi is a region in Tel Aviv with a cluster of tech companies and startups that are creating innovations that help citizens around the globe. With an economy based in entrepreneurship and free enterprise, Israel files more patents per capita than all but eight countries in the world. This reveals a robust technological drive within the Israeli community.
Israel is known as the “Start-up Nation” and is one of the most start-up-friendly nations in the world. Currently used by 140 million drivers around the world, the navigation technology/app Waze was a start-up in Israel that was later sold to Google. Globally utilized companies such as Wix, Sodastream, and Fiverr are also Israeli-born companies that have a presence in the pioneering nation. In another profitable transaction, Israeli start-up Moblieye was sold to Intel. Mobileye was launched in 1999 as a vision-based driver assistant system that helps prevent car accidents and reduces traffic congestion; this is now the main technology that enables autonomous vehicles. In 2014, Mobileye was listed on the New York Stock Exchange following the largest-ever Initial Public Offering (IPO) of an Israeli company in the United States. In 2016, MIT Technology Review ranked Mobileye the 6th Smartest Company.
Over 80 of the largest tech companies in the world have subsidiaries in Israel, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Intel. All six companies have Research and Development centers in Israel to keep them on the cutting edge of technology. Google Israel opened nearly 15 years ago as one of the first expansions outside of the US according to Barak Regev, Managing Director of Google Israel. It now has over 1,400 Google employees that focus on business functions such as customer service, as well as Research and Development for YouTube, Google search, and core products of Google. In addition to the acquisition of Waze, other technologies built in Israel are Google Autocomplete, Insights for Search, and Person Finder.
Intel Israel General Manager, Yaniv Garty, shared that many of the processes utilized by Intel are designed and manufactured in Israel, leading to a large part of Intel revenues. The IBM Israel technology research lab was opened in 1972 and is the largest IBM Research Division outside of the US. Artificial intelligence is one of the leading technologies researched in the lab.
With businesses increasing investments in technology, Bloomberg’s 2021 Innovation index ranked Israel as the 7th most innovative country. 4.2% of Israel’s GDP is spent on Research and Development, with the highest percentage coming from the business sector, followed by the university sector, government, and private non-profit sector. In the 1990s, the Israeli government started the Yozma Government Fund, giving incentives to companies that were willing to come to invest in the country, and funding from venture capitalists increased to over 500 profitable investments within the decade.
With 90% of the Israeli population living in urban areas in the northern part of the country, the country’s many startups are surrounded by their customers, which fuels the cycle of innovation and consumption. There are 140 scientists, technicians, and engineers per 10,000 Israeli employees compared to 85 per 10,000 in the US. 47% of residents over 25-years-old have a college diploma in Israel, and this is another factor believed to contribute to the technological advancements in the country. The University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and The Israel Institute of Technology are globally sought-after colleges that readily educate Israeli citizens, and the nation’s high-tech sector benefits from this education.
In the book, Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, Dan Senor and Saul Singer said, “Somewhere along the way – either at home, in school, or in the army – Israelis learn that assertiveness is the norm…” They explore the question of how the relatively young nation of Israel achieved start-up greatness amid a constant state of war since the nation’s founding and a lack of natural resources that bring in a large amount of capital. Others who have shed light on Israel’s success in technology and innovation have referenced the concept of Israeli Chutzpah. While the word chutzpah is often translated to mean “rudeness”, the concept culturally translates to “the confidence to do the impossible” . Yossi Matias, the founder of Google’s Research and Development Center in Israel, attributed the advancement of Israeli technology to this concept. Matias believes the country’s technological success is due to Israel’s dedication to continually finding ways to improve and surpass the current standard, adding, “You don’t need to ask an Israeli twice to challenge” . Israel is known as the land of milk and honey, but it is also a land of startups, technology, and innovation.
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