‘Innovation’ may seem like a nebulous concept, but there is a place on the map where it is truly defined. What’s more, the mindset of the Startup Nation can help you, too!
‘Innovation’ may be one of the most prominent buzzwords in recent memory, one uttered by professionals, companies and governments alike; but despite everyone claiming to be it, achieving and measuring it remains a difficult proposition.
But there are some notable success stories.
Despite constituting 0.10% of the world’s population, Tel Aviv was recently ranked #6 in the ‘startup ecosystems around the world’ report. How did they pull it off? Well, while local technology has helped drive the tremendous local innovation, you could also say that innovation itself is embedded into the cultural DNA of Israel. Indeed, with over 6,000 active startups and an economy dominated by industrial high-tech and entrepreneurship, Israel certainly earned its nickname ‘The Startup Nation’.
Israel is an entrepreneurial powerhouse and a hotbed for pioneering technologies, and high investment returns. As it stands, leading multinational companies are represented there, from to Microsoft, Motorola, Google, Apple (three R&D centres), Facebook, Berkshire-Hathaway, Intel, HP, Siemens, GE, IBM, Philips, Lucent, AOL, Cisco, Applied Materials, IBM, J&J, EMC, and Toshiba, to name a few.
As Deloitte noted, “Israeli startups raised a record $4.8 billion from investors in 2016, while high-tech and startup companies were sold for $10.02 billion through acquisitions or IPOs. Israel is also home to the highest number of engineers per capita and has the world’s 2nd highest R&D expenditure as percent of GDP (4.3%)”.
As Deloitte also noted, the innovation of private enterprise has been built with government support. “The Israeli government founded the Technology Incubator program in the early 1990s. Today there are over 25 incubators across the country, all of which have been privatised. The incubators offer government funding of up to 85% of early-stage project costs for two years. They nurture companies from seed to early-stage, thus minimising the risk to the investor. More than 1100 projects have so far graduated from the incubators, with over 45% successfully attracting additional investments from different investors,” they wrote.
Moreover, the Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of support programs, on an annual budget of about 400 million dollars. The main program is the R&D Fund, which offers R&D grants of up to 40% of the approved R&D program cost. Other programs operated by the IIA include bi-national funds (joint R&D programs with foreign counterparts such as China, Canada, USA, etc.), which are entitled to financial assistance of 50% of the Israeli company’s R&D costs.”
In Israel, innovation is regarded as a continuous way of thought and behaviour. Another element is the confrontational culture, one that promotes an environment where thoughts and concepts are constantly challenged. This is paired with an individual mindset that favours a constant exploration of tactical solutions and out-of-the-box alternatives.
All of the above translates into a manner of achieving results, despite the real-world constraints that the industry may face. Yet, not every professional may thrive in confrontational conditions, but everyone is capable of pursuing innovation, whatever your cultural upbringing may be.
For those who would like to be more innovative in your role, may I suggest practicing these steps below, and try to incorporate them into your daily life.
Be proactive. Look beyond your specific role, definitions or title.
Be resourceful. There is always a way.
Be experimental. While experiments may not succeed, you should learn, recover and get back your feet quickly.
Be known for delivering fast; exploit tactical solutions.
Be autodidact and curious. Constantly evolve your learning and explore.
Be an inspiring and decentralised leader. Convince colleagues of your vision. After all, you can’t do it alone.
Be persistent, not stubborn. Take time to question the feasibility, the financial and the personal worthiness of your pursuit.
Be a challenger. Constantly question current implementations, processes and structures.
Be a straightforward, be a clear and succinct communicator.
Be passionate about what you do, and how you do it.
For over 20 years Global Financial Technology Expert Chen Lahav has been leading technology and professionals in the FinTech domain while developing his speciality – global FinTech innovation. Currently, Chen consults early-stage start-ups and ASX listed companies on technical implementation, innovation and leadership in FinTech, adjacent and complementary domains.
Chen Lahav is the Chief Technology Officer at Chen Lahav Consulting.