Good food, friendly people, a vibrant nightlife, a very busy and stressful traffic with daily gridlocks and beeping car drivers – well, this may sound like Bucharest, but I’m talking about Tel Aviv, Israel.
Besides all similarities between Bucharest and Tel Aviv, there are considerable differences. And I don’t talk about geographics like the beautiful 14 km-shoreline along the Mediterranean Sea all the way to Jaffa – you can also explore by bike – that reminds visitors more on a place like Miami Beach or Malibu than the Middle East. After all, this a investment- and financial website and not a travel-magazine, so back to business.
The sand dunes of Tel Aviv are nonetheless a factor. Exactly because the city was built historically on sand in an area unsuitable for farming, it had to develop in other areas and chose to become a hub of business and scientific research. With success, today Tel Aviv is a major high tech-hub and currently ranked second worldwide – just behind the Silicon Valley – in a global study called ‘Startup Ecosystem Report’ checking the different cities’ suitability to nurture the success of startup companies. There are several hundred startups active in Tel Aviv, although even locals have lost count given the rapid changing scene.
There are two major factors behind the fact, that Tel Aviv became the Sillicon Valley at the Mediterranean Sea and therefore is also called ‘Silicon Wadi’. One important reason has indeed it’s roots in the constant conflict Israel is facing with it’s neighbors. The army created a unit – ‘Unit 8200’ – where young soldiers (both men and women) are trained to become top-experts in cyber-security.
This knowledge transformed into civil society through several alumni of ‘8200’ have gone on to found leading Israeli IT companies. Among them Gil Shwed who co-started ‘Check Point’ and is considered to be the inventor of the modern ‘firewall’ on computers.
In plus – and that might be as important as specific IT-skills to be successful in business – I was told on a recent visit in Tel Aviv, that soldiers in Israel learn something you wouldn’t expect: ‘Rosh Gadol’ or take responsibility, think ‘outside the box’ but also think independent or critical and constantly challenge or question decisions of your superiors – something that is most likely not to recommend in the romanian army (and that also would led to big troubles in the swiss army, I served about 20 years ago).
The second factor for the vibrant startup-scene in Tel Aviv is a very optimistic approach. If someone has an idea about a business – he or she won’t be discouraged by skeptics in the first place, but rather supported by a positive ‘go for it!’- attitude. This is for sure no guarantee for success, but this attitude served as a magnet for the important venture capitalist who flocked to Israel to finance startups in recent years. And the ability to attract foreign investors – as a sidenote – is not reduced to ‘young’ companies in the IT-sector. When very selective investor Warren Buffett, who avoids IT-companies for his portfolio, bought his first company outside the US, he took over 80% of Israel’s precision-tool maker Iscar in 2006 for 4 billion USD. When he visited Israel in 2013 and bought the other 20% for a further 2 billion USD, Buffett described the country as the ‘most promising investment hub’ outside the US.
This week, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pays a state visit to Israel. According to the presidency, talks between Romania and Israel are aimed at ‘improving cooperation’. There are most likely other topics than the startup-up scene in Tel Aviv on the agenda. But let’s hope that Klaus Iohannis will bring back home the spirit everyone feels there about the importance of entrepreneurship and helps to improve conditions here to realize and monetize good business-ideas. So that not only good food, friendly people, a vibrant nightlife and infernal traffic are comparable between Tel Aviv and Bucharest.
Tel Aviv – attracts both tourists and investors