How Australia can create startup culture as successful as Israel's

Tel Aviv is Israel’s startup capital. Uriel Sinai/Getty

There are things Australia can learn from Israel’s startup scene, according to the assistant minister for innovation Wyatt Roy.

Roy recently toured Israel with a group of Australian entrepreneurs. Hoping to learn something from a startup scene that is growing 26% year-on-year and employs 20,000. In a country with just 8.4 million people, there are 298 “foreign research and development” centres and the tech industry employs 300,000 people.

The need for change was highlighted by the government’s recent innovation report. It labelled Australian companies as “inward looking” and emphasised the importance of an entrepreneurial culture.

“Australian corporate culture needs to overcome an inward-looking tendency and pay more attention to the role of geographical proximity and clusters in nurturing a fertile eco-system for innovative entrepreneurs to emerge,” the report reads.

“According to the OECD, the entrepreneurial culture in a country is reflected in the attitude that individuals have towards entrepreneurship, the likelihood of choosing entrepreneurship as a career, ambitions to succeed and to start again after failure, or support provided to family and friends to start up a business.”

But talking to Israeli investors Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal, founders of iAngels, there are things things Australia can emulate, and others we can’t.

According to Moyal, the Israeli startup community has evolved over a number on decades, and has been shaped by a confluence of unique factors such as a lack of resources, a good education system, compulsory military service and a particular personality trait — dissatisfaction.

“Israelis are dissatisfied. They go out with a kind of feeling of dissatisfaction and a lot of the innovation that has been created in the last several years came from a place where we saw a problem and we wanted to fix it,” says Moyal.

“And so a company like Waze, which was acquired for a billion dollars by Google recently… also came from a kind of dissatisfaction with traffic and the loss of productivity that comes with it.”

Moyal says the combination of dissatisfaction and a number of natural challenges, including few natural resources and a small population, have forced Israeli’s to be innovative, think globally and learn from failure. And more importantly, this is instilled from a young age.

“From a very young age, we are being taught that being an entrepreneur is something that is very good,” Moyal says.

“Even if you fail, there is the understanding that you can go all in, you can take that risk and its supported by everything we learn from a very, very young age.”

While many of Israel’s innovative features can’t be emulated, as many of them have evolved out of necessity and through unique circumstance, Assia emphasises the advantages of encouraging entrepreneurism and teaching skills early. Something Australia can and should emulate.

“I don’t think [Israeli startup culture] can be imitated point for point, it is very, very different in terms of circumstances. But Australia has everything to offer in order for an ecosystem in the tech space to evolve,” says Assia, citing our status as a rich country and one with increasing venture capital.

“Many things are inherent, but many things can be learned. And programs that teach you how tot think out of the box and be creative; learn about marketing, learn about global reach, are some things that can easily be incorporated into learning programs even in middle school.”

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