START-UP NATION: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle

– Dan Senor and Saul Singer –

Rate: 4/5 😀

  Just about a week ago, when I was at an admissions consulting day, a professor recommended this book to me. He stated that after I read that book, my mind would think differently and might be open up myself to new horizons. This is an economic, historical and politic book. That was the reason why I picked up this book.


  Israel was founded in 1948 when Jewish won the fight against Palestine. Since then, Arab countries around Israel have found many ways to attack Israel. These countries boycott things made in Israel. They conducted Lebanon war (1982, 2006), Gaza war… Such economic dynamism has occurred in the face of war, internal strife and rising animosity from other nations. During the six years following the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, Israel suffered one of its worst periods of terrorist attacks and fought a second Lebanon war; and yet, as the authors note, its “share of the global venture capital market did not drop—it doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent! “

  In 2006, Warren Buffett, who paid $4 billion for four-fifths of an Israeli firm that makes high-tech cutting tools for cars and planes;or John Chambers, Cisco’s chief executive, who has bought nine IswhyIsraelraeli start-ups; or Steve Ballmer, who calls Microsoft “as much an Israeli company as an American company”. Israel also has much better links with America andEurope than with the rising powers of Asia. Over the past two decades Israel has been transformed from a semisocialist backwater into a high-tech superpower. Adjust for population and Israel leads the world in the number of high-tech start-ups and the size of the venture-capital industry.Why Israel still develop rapidly although they have suffered from a lot wars, economic depression?

  How Israel has come to become such a leader in high tech startups? After a quick, light reading that you will explore the historical and cultural aspects that lead so many Israelis to pursue entrepreneurship!

+ Firstly, Innovation comes from having a unique perspective. Perspective comes from knowledge and knowledge comes from a wide variety of experiences during a long long life. The book goes beyond explaining the strong work ethic of the labor force and how the country is filled with a large number of engineers and scientists, examining the role the Israeli military plays in developing skills necessary for an entrepreneurial work force.  Israel has a compulsory military service for all citizens over the age of 18, three years for men and two years for women. In most military settings soldiers learn to follow orders, but Senor and Singer uncover the unique character of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as well. Their emphasis is on soldiers taking personal responsibility which leads to problem solving by those in the trenches and on the front lines under incredible pressure and intense real-world, life-and-death situations. In Israel, young people get experience, knowledge, perspective, and maturity at a much younger age. By the time they get to college, their heads are in a different place than their American counterparts. The training that IDF soldiers receive helps them become managers and business owners driven to overcome obstacles and develop solutions, allowing these entrepreneurs to work faster and harder than others. Another reason that every teenager wants to participate in the army is that:

“A young man who had not served would have a hard time getting a good job in business.” 

+ Secondly,Israel is a country, it seems, where everyone knows everyone. Even beyond the role of military training and a highly educated workforce, Israel has developed a culture of social networks. There is a deep understanding and commitment by Israelis to share knowledge and cooperate with each other. Entrepreneurship leads to more entrepreneurship, and the success of so many Israeli companies encourages more Israelis to share the formula for success with one another to help create even more success.  They have found a way to create a culture that nurtures and supports entrepreneurship and creates opportunities for collaboration and continued growth.

+ Another Important thing that create Israel’s economic miracle is the immigration policy. Foreign-born citizens of Israel currently account for over one-third of Israel’s population. That is three times the ratio of immigrants to natives in the U.S.A. Israel is now home to more than 70 diverse nationalities and cultures.

+ And the last things that help Israel stand in the top high-tech countries are venture-capital companies. The success of the Venture Capital industry in Israel grew even stronger with the creation of a program they named Yozma. A group of young bureaucrats at Israel’s Ministry of Finance came up with the idea for a program where the Israeli government would invest money to create ten new venture capital funds Each fund had to be represented by three parties: Israeli venture capitalists in training, a foreign venture capital firm, and an Israeli investment company or bank. As a result of these efforts, Israel’s annual venture-capital rose nearly 60-fold, from $58 million to $3.3 billion, between 1991 and 2000. Venture capital was the match that ignited the fire.

  I’m also interested in the alacrity characteristic of Jewish. For instance, When an Israeli man wants to date a woman, he cheerfully asks her out that same night. He does not wait, mulling over his chances of rejection. When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea, he will start it that week. He does not wait mulling over his chances of failure. The notion that one should accumulate all of his credentials before launching a venture simply does not exist in Israeli culture. Too much time procrastinating can only teach you what can go wrong, not what could be transformative.

Here is a funny story I find in the book:

“Four guys are standing on a street corner… an American, a Russian, a Chinese man, and an Israeli…. A reporter comes up to the group and says to them: “Excuse me…. What’s your opinion on the meat shortage?” The American says: What’s a shortage? The Russian says: What’s meat? The Chinese man says: What’s an opinion? The Israeli says: What’s “Excuse me”?  “

  For me, I think that the greatest strength of “Start-Up Nation” is not analysis but anecdote. Dan Senor and Saul Singer show us vivid stories of entrepreneurial success, such as that of  Gavirel Iddan, who got his start as a rocket scientist, with his pill cameras that explore the inside of the human body, founding Given Imaging in 2001 – the first company to go public on Wall Street after the 9/11 attacks. And for sure, it is not easy to firgure out why a very small nation of immigrants which was torn by war, has managed to become the first technology nation. in my opinion, this book may be enough to shine a spotlight on Israel success.

Before finishing the review, I want to tell you that this is a good business book for  people  who  don’t read business books, a good history for people bored by history, and a good Israel book  for people who don’t like Israel!

Hope you enjoy the book :3

– LeTa –