The CEO of Facebook in Israel issued a stark warning to entrepreneurs in so-called “Startup Nation” last week as the country’s tech scene continues to gain attention around the world.
Speaking at the DLD Innovation conference, Adi Soffer Teeni said Israel’s position as the number one spot for innovation outside Silicon Valley isn’t as secure as some people might think it is.
“I do think we are second to the Valley but the gap is big and we need to acknowledge that,” Teeni told an audience of approximately 300 founders, developers, and investors. “We need to be humble, and we need to understand that in order for us to continue to deliver the innovation that we bring, we need not to be sassy. Not to think everything that happens here will continue to be magic. “
She added: “This is serious stuff. This [tech] is literally the future of Israel in my opinion. What we need to understand is a big part of what we have today is down to the fact that we didn’t have any other choice.
“Israel became ‘Startup Nation’ originally because of our grandparent’s generation. But now the new generation of ‘Startup Nation’ is about building big businesses that have millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of users all over the world. Europe is starting to build small ‘Startup Nations’ and we need to keep the gap. That’s the goal.”
Indeed, cities such as London, Berlin, Stockholm and Paris have developed their own thriving startup ecosystems that have spawned a number of successful tech companies in recent years. London, for example, was home to more than 13 tech startups in 2015, with a valuation in excess of $1 billion (£770 million).
Teeni said in order to ensure Israel stays out in front, entrepreneurs in the country need to focus. “This is [done] by having mature management,” she said. “This is [done] by understanding that this is not just about technology. This is about building businesses.”
Facebook opened an office in Israel around three years ago and today the company has a “small” research and development team on the ground as well as another team that engages with those in the Israeli tech ecosystem.
Other companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Intel also have a significant presence in Israel, with each of the multinationals choosing to use engineers in Israel to develop many of their most important products.
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