When we talk about the success of the Israeli innovation ecosystem, we are often asked how, in a relatively short period, a tiny country in the Middle East emerged as a global innovation powerhouse. To answer this, people often point to unique characteristics of Israeli culture that tend to breed entrepreneurship.
Among these characteristics is resilience. Israelis don’t shy away from risk and, when they don’t succeed, they learn from the experience and implement the lessons learned. For many Israeli entrepreneurs, success only comes after failure.
Oct. 7 was one of Israel’s most tragic days. The country will never be the same again. The real test, however, is how Israel responds and rebuilds. How do we make sure this novel venture called Israel will endure and succeed?
We will likely be analyzing and dissecting the causes of the Oct. 7 disaster and the Israeli response to it for years to come. But we can already say with confidence that Israel’s population, civil society and various communities are unified in unprecedented support and compassion for their fellow Israelis. The immense mobilization of volunteers, including high-tech executives and employees, exemplifies Israel’s agility, flexibility and “get-things-done” spirit.
No less astonishing is the fact that, while many of the reservists called up and many of those who are volunteering come from the tech sector, that sector continues to serve its global customer base, professing that the Israeli tech industry delivers no matter what.
Hamas’s hideous massacre destroyed lives, families and communities. It also shattered preconceptions and predispositions. However long it will take for the war to end, it is clear that the day after there will be a different reality. Many commentators share the opinion that, in the aftermath of the war, a new paradigm will be needed that takes a wider perspective integrating regional and international stakeholders.
Just a few weeks ago—which now seems like a lifetime ago—we celebrated the third anniversary of the Abraham Accords against the backdrop of increasing reports of impending normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. While current developments have cooled these newly formed relations, the infrastructure behind them is still in place.
Over the past two years, Start-Up Nation Central has been working to build a foundation for regional relationships based on collaboration in innovation, believing that such activities will help these relationships withstand crises.
This was recently emphasized by Bahrain’s Finance Minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, who said the Israel-Hamas war should not disrupt the normalization initiated with Israel in 2020. He shared with The Wall Street Journal, “It’s extremely important in the region that we continue to build bridges. … The people who should write the future are the builders in the region.”
Part of our innovation diplomacy has been to share the knowledge and experience Israel has accumulated over the years in developing a thriving innovation ecosystem via a structured, long-term process. This includes fostering entrepreneurship and cultivating a healthy risk-taking mindset. Accepting failure also plays a major part in founding a tech start-up. But the mindset is true for all such ventures.
I once heard an Israeli CEO say that establishing the State of Israel was an innovation enterprise that embedded entrepreneurship in Israelis’ DNA. I completely agree. Like many start-ups that have faced hardship, we now need to mourn our failure. Israel should honor its dead, take care of their families and pray for the release of the hostages.
Then we will need to stand up, learn from the tragedy and rebuild. Our partners in the region are looking at us to see if we will prevail despite this terrible blow.
The network of regional connections and relationships we have built is now dormant, but not extinct. Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal National Council, rightfully said a few days ago, “The Abraham Accords are there to stay.”
When the time comes, and we hope it will come soon, we will work together with our friends and partners to create a new reality in which we will prosper together.