Geeks meet geeks for UK/Israel technology parley

By Zoe Winograd, August 16, 2012
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It was a unique moment when our geeks met their geeks to discuss what the UK can learn from Israel’s work in successful innovation.

The cyber world materialised last week in an event held at the Tea Building in Shoreditch, east London — an epicentre for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors —when Londoner Saul Klein, partner at investment firm Index Ventures, spoke alongside American-Israeli Saul Singer, co-author of Start Up Nation. Mr Singer's book Start Up Nation was published in 2009 and explains Israel's prominence in global hi-tech innovation.

London's tech-savvy entrepreneurs filled the audience, including Mike Butcher cofounder of TechHub (a network of spaces devoted to technology start-ups) and European Editor of TechCrunch. The innovators used this opportunity to plan ventures between Israel and the UK.

Mr Singer explained that it was Israel’s deep-rooted history of struggle and adversity that contributed to its entrepreneurial success. He said: “There are two main ingredients to make a successful start-up – drive and risk- taking. It took a lot of drive and a lot of risk to make the country of Israel. This energy went in to start-ups and social entrepreneurship to make Israel a tech-power house.”

He continued: “Innovation is built on a country’s strengths. Israel’s strength is adversity, Silicon Valley has its own strengths. Israelis are impatient, we don’t like to plan, we don’t like hierarchy, these are our strengths in terms of entrepreneurship.” This mission-oriented attitude towards life had created the country's perfect combination of creativity and efficiency — “a work hard, play hard culture.”

Both speakers stressed the great potential for a synergy of ideas and execution between Israel and the UK. Mr Singer argued that both the UK and Israel have much in common when it came to successful growth. “Like London, Israel is not a monoculture, it is a multi-culture. Multi-cultures contribute to innovation.”

They both agreed that the differences between the countries benefited future collaborations too. “London has the market, knowledge, capital and talent which should be used in business partnerships with Israel,” said Mr Klein, who also founded start-up companies Lovefilm and Seedcamp, an organisation which helps European entrepreneurs build technology businesses.

Last updated: 4:59pm, August 16 2012