Business Book Review: Start-Up Nation


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Buckle up for an exciting ride into Israel’s entrepreneurial history! Today is an interesting book review on Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. Dan has a background in business and government and Saul Singer in government and journalism. Dan lives in New York and has studied in Israel and lived, worked and traveled in the Arab World. Saul grew up in the United States and now lives in Jerusalem. Enjoy their insight!

WHY READ IT?

This book is a fantastic summary of creative ideas, innovations, startup and entrepreneurial genius that have been churned up by Israel. The business innovation coming out of this small country is second to none. In fact, in 2007-2008, Israel received the highest amount of venture funding per capita, which is more than any other nation in the world. The facts indicate there is tremendous insight into how and what Israel, one of the smallest countries on earth, is doing to impact much larger conglomerates and nations in the world.

What this book does not do is parallel the faith history of the country or any principles of faith that are tied to the factor – so if you are concerned about Jewish evangelicalism here, don’t be. The focus is really on what has made Israel so unusually entrepreneurial – some history, some culture, some psychology, some education – and how the rest of the world can learn from what is done well.

QUICK REVIEW

Israel boasts the highest density of start-ups in the world – a total of 3850 start-ups, one for every 1,844 Israelis (mic drop). In 2008, per capita venture capital investments in Israel were 2.5 times greater than in the Unites States, more than 30 times greater than in Europe, 80 times greater than in China and 350 times greater than India (mic drop again).

Israel was also home to the fifth largest entrepreneurial venture in modern history, with an initial investment of $200M towards a startup called Better Place that redefined the car, oil and electricity industry (eventually garnering over $850M in investment before coming to a global standstill). Better Place was the first to adapt cars that ran completely on batteries, and the firm made a good run for it with battery swapping stations and the sale of 750 cars before its major pause, claiming that the industry is not yet ready for electric cars. The list of their super studded innovations are still many to remember and learn from (but they also brought a bit of a stain to the energy investment space that it still hasn’t quite recovered from).

This book was written in 2009 and captures Israel’s business growth since 1948 – including 60 years of great innovations that came out of Israel, including:

  • Fraud Sciences: The company developed a technology that identifies computer fraud. The firm’s leadership set up a meeting with eBay, who thought they were the market leaders in terms of fraud detection. However, after Fraud Sciences took a sample of PayPal’s files and ran a test, the firm demonstrated that its technology was 70% better and took 95% less time than eBay’s team. eBay bought the company for $169M in January of 2008. The firm created a solution that was at least 5 years ahead of eBay and its technology.
  • Intel: During the computer boom, there was one major problem facing all computer chip designers – heat! Though the problem was stifling technology development all over the world, it was Intel’s Israeli R&D group who came up with a simple solution – to design chips like transmissions, i.e the faster you go, step them up from first to fifth gear. Though this concept meant Intel had to change its whole marketing and product design, company leadership says this innovation saved the company.

3 INTERESTING BOOK INSIGHTS

1. Survival: Israel has been in a military conflict zone for generations, and therefore conscripts every male and female teenager for military service. Some people believe that this mandatory military service is what has given rise to Israel’s dedicated and indefatigable battle-tested entrepreneurs – if we’re honest, a lot of success in business is just out-lasting the crowd.

2. Questioning of Authority: It is common in the Israeli military to question authority, which is in stark contrast to the culture of the military in the U.S. or most other places in the world. We are definitely not saying that one is better than the other (heavens, we do not want to touch that debate with a million-foot pole), but questioning of authority gives someone a chance to innovate, think and harness creativity to prepare for the ultimate creation of great business solutions.  

3. Mashups: Mashups define Israeli businesses, based on a cultural value for multitasking and combining different expertise to come up with a brainchild that offers the perfect innovative strategy and plan. Mashups are a way of thinking that, in Israel, opens up new business opportunities by borrowing from different disciplines to create a new concept. The book explains that business mashups are common in Israel because Israelis have multi-disciplinary backgrounds – including technical prowess and soft skill finesse.

OVERALL SUMMARY/CONCLUSION

Israel is the only nation in the world that has demonstrated consistent ingenuity and guts in the area of entrepreneurial leadership. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Israelis are some of the best engineering executives in the world because of their unconventionality, their eye for detail and their high levels of integrity and proficiency in strategy.

You will like this book if you are:

  • Passionate about innovation and how to grow as an entrepreneur
  • Looking to turn genius thinking, pain and incentive into a success story
  • Ready to learn from Israel’s testimonies of business ingenuity

Buy Start-Up Nation here.

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