Is Israel the next Silicon Valley

Why we should rather make a pilgrimage to the start-up nation of Israel

Silicon Valley wants to change the world, Israel's Silicon Wadi wants to constantly reinvent itself and China wants to become a world power. What do we want? On the final evening on the beach in Tel Aviv, we discuss what lessons we can take with us from the trip. We're sitting in a great beach bar, the waves are rustling, the beer is on the table. But there is no party mood. Instead, a passionate and constructive discussion flares up in which, astonishingly, it is not just about what the individual has learned from the companies visited and their services. It's not primarily about what you take with you for yourself and your company. It's about something so much bigger than any of our companies. It's about Germany. It's about Europe. In short: it's about our future. For our economic and our social future.


We all agreed that we in Germany and in Europe did not yet understand the seriousness of the situation. How serious is the situation? The digitization.

"Germans are afraid of failure - Israeli start-ups are not"

At the DLD Innovation Festival in Tel Aviv, companies and organizations of all kinds meet to discuss the opportunities and challenges of digitization. In a video interview, DLD founder Steffi Czerny talks about the differences to Germany.

We asked the Israelis why they are so successful with their start-ups and their innovations. In essence, people have always replied in the same way: "Because we have to! We live on an island, surrounded by unfriendly neighbors. Our market is too small to survive, we have no natural resources, but we have people and ideas for that. We have to be innovative. "

History has trimmed the collective consciousness of Israel to master immense threats and challenges. The Israeli economy is dynamic, agile and designed for permanent change. Digitization is approached positively. Will the digital challenge be mastered? This question does not arise. Of course you can manage digitization. Israel is a creative, productive start-up nation and proud of it.

Our realization on the beach: The Germans, the Europeans lack the basic conviction that we have a problem at all. We are wedged between the GAFA (M) s (don't forget Microsoft) from America on the one hand and Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and the Chinese Silk Road project on the other. The others have long since understood: There is a battle for the predominance of data, for access to customers, for the best minds and for the platforms of the economy of the future. Whoever leads here will determine the next age, he will keep his prosperity and he will also be able to enforce his idea of ​​the world.

The Americans and Chinese are fighting for this supremacy by all means, while we have not even understood that the sausage is now at stake. If we lose, we don't just lose the race for a fancy new marketing solution. We will lose our way of life, our prosperity. We have to act now, otherwise we will soon only react and ask ourselves what actually happened with our export world championship. We are currently at risk of hitting our parents' economic legacy against the wall. So what exactly is Israel doing differently? How are the Israelis preparing for digitization? It starts with the attitude: You have a positive vision of the new, digital world: "We live and breathe innovation and digitalization." In Israel, it is cooler to work in a start-up than to drive a great car - start-up founders or at least employees as a status symbol. The state has implemented an innovation minister and passed a law that obliges the government to innovate.

The military is an important building block of the start-up nation. Many Israelis go into military service as inexperienced greenhorns at 18, come out at 21 and have learned to work under high pressure, lead people, manage large budgets and get projects to their destination. It is not just about serving the weapon. Unit 8200, for example, is concerned with the question of which attack which one of my opponents will carry out when next and how can I react to it. This is a unit of the Israeli armed forces for telecommunications and electronic reconnaissance, which is responsible for obtaining signals -Intelligence information and is responsible for code decryption. The algorithms that help find these answers seem easy to apply to our daily marketing questions.
"The Germans, the Europeans lack the basic conviction that we have a problem at all."
There is enough money from venture capital from Israel, the USA or China. Europe wasn't even mentioned by our hosts when asked! If you cannot find an investor as a founder because the idea seems too crazy, the state will help. If you finance 15 percent of your start-up yourself, then the state gives 85 percent - mind you, without interest and without repayment. Successful start-ups are geared towards international markets right from the start.

We met startups without a single Israeli client, but almost all of them had an office in the US or China. The city of Tel Aviv has converted its old city library into a co-working space. You pay 60 shekels a month - that's almost 15 euros - and get a table, conference rooms, internet and a lot of help with founding your start-up. "The Library" is the birthplace of Tel Aviv's start-up industry.

We have been able to experience start-ups at different stages of their life cycle and have met with people who set up start-ups to help other start-ups to be successful. From early-stage start-ups, which ultimately sharpen their business model, to start-ups with their first real customers who are looking for further partners with impressive directness and openness, to globally successful companies like Taboola, who are very open with us discussed further growth plans. Taboola will most likely be the next unicorn from Israel and break the one billion sales mark in 2019. According to its own statement, Taboola is "the largest recommendation platform" in the world. The two letters "oo" are not part of the name by chance. The founders would like to consciously draw the comparison with Google. Her motto is: "You have to have visions and they shouldn't be too small, otherwise you won't get the best employees."

According to an analysis by ComScore, Taboola is in second place behind Google for desktops and almost on par with US smartphones. The company employs around 250 developers. The shock for us at the end of their presentation: The Taboola-AI predicted the course of the World Cup based on the surfing behavior of the users - Argentina will be world champion! We'll see how smart this algorithm is! If this is confirmed, I would definitely subscribe to shares in Taboola. Coolix was a smaller, but all the more likeable start-up. They not only had the coolest idea, it is also absolutely relevant to our business. You have software that creates a link to e-commerce from videos. Content management is combined with a terrific user experience and thus creates unique, interactive e-commerce videos. After the presentation of eight start-ups at the Adtech Startup Competition, Coolix also made the race.

And which start-up do I personally wish success?

Knowmail wants to help us tame the flood of emails with the help of AI and to prioritize the emails according to importance. If they are successful, then I too will finally be able to control my flood of communication. I will no longer spend 30 to 50 percent of my time processing e-mails, and even 50 percent of that time reading pointless e-mails. I will be able to use this time meaningfully for my customers and employees or even for myself. And of course - if it is in my power - to move Germany a little bit further. Because it is the highest level of railway that entrepreneurs, managers, politicians, representatives of associations, philosophers and everyone who bears responsibility recognize that our future is at stake and that we have to act now when it comes to digitization.