Chutzpah Lessons From The Israeli Startup SceneMar. 24, 2015
By Omar Téllez, Executive Board member and former president of the public transit mapping service Moovit.
I’ll always remember my first time at Ben Gurion airport.
After a 12-hour trip from JFK, I was called to the front of the immigration line: “The guy wearing the Moovit tshirt, please come forward!” For a second I thought I’d done something wrong and was going to get in trouble, but then the immigration officer said with a heavy accent “Welcome to Israel! We are proud of our startup and want the world to know that we are a high tech powerhouse,” as he gave me my passport and waved me off.
I must have saved at least an hour in the line, but all I could think about was how excited I was to be in a country in which even the immigration corps supported the ecosystem that I was part of, and, yes of course, how glad I was that I had worn that t-shirt.
No wonder they call it “Start-up Nation” I said to myself, as I took a cab to my hotel and wondered what other things I had to learn about this thriving ecosystem in Israel.
Uri Levine, a good friend from Silicon Valley and Waze founder, had asked me to come to Israel to check out two crazy guys that had done a soft launch of an app that they claimed to be “The Waze of Public Transportation”. Uri was on their board, and thought they could use some help to take Moovit internationally.
While I knew that the Israeli startup world was booming, I was blissfully unaware that on a per capita basis, the Israeli high-tech and venture capital sectors were larger than in any other country in the world. What’s even more surprising, I would later learn, is that the Israeli high-tech startup exit amounts increased by 980% over the past five years to a record of $9.2 billion in 2014 (like Mobileye, Viber and Waze are examples of recent record exits).
For the full column on TechCrunch click here.