Last year when we organized Wearable Tech Israel with tech pioneers like Robert Scoble, Steve Mann, Sonny Vu, Yobie Benjamin and Charles Michael Yim, the intent was not only to bring the best wearable tech startups from the Silicon Valley to Israel but also to exchange some of the best practices between these 2 great startup ecosystems and fully understand why Israel has the ability to make some of the best wearable Tech and IoT products and startups in the world. Fast forward 12 months I have been advising many Wearable Tech and IoT startups, especially in North America and many people ask me “Why is Israel so good at building wearable tech startup?”. I hear this question almost every day and to my surprise many people don’t understand why Israel is in fact a country made for wearables. Israel has all the right ingredients to build some of the best wearables tech and IoT products and startups in the world..Some of the perfect examples of this include companies like PrimeSense (Now part of Apple), Meta/Space glasses, ConsumerPhysics, etc..In this article I will discuss what makes Israel so special and why some of the best wearable tech startups are coming from this country..
1. Israel’s strong military background provides all the right skills to Israeli entrepreneurs to help them build a great wearable tech and IoT startup.
First of, it is important to remember that many wearable tech products used today are technologies that were originally developed by the military.Avegant, a leading wearable tech startup in the Silicon Valley, commercialized a technology that was originally used by the US soldiers on the field. Avegant essentially commercialized this technology for the general public. This is actually very common in Israel where young Israeli people (men and women) are obligated to do their military for several years (e.g. 2–3 years). This gives the opportunity for many young talented Israelis to learn great skills and build amazing technologies that could become the foundations of great wearable tech and IoT startups. Spending many years in the military also help them learn key skills that are so important to build great startups. Let’s face it! Building a startup is tough..you have to do a lot with sometimes limited resources, and you have to think outside of the box constantly. The key to success also requires to build great team spirit, stay focus, and sometimes pivot, and change the strategy on the fly in order to survive. But most importantly it is important to learn from failures and not give up in difficult situations. All these important things are the things that most Israeli people have the opportunity to learn during their long years of duty. Not surprisingly, as a result of that, some of the best founders of Israeli wearable tech startups ended up inventing the core technology and building core teams of what would later become the foundations of their future wearable tech startup.
During our trip to Israel in May 2014 as part of our wearable tech Israel conference we had the privilege to visit the military unit 8200 which is known as one of the best if not the best military unit in Israel. Why? Because this particular unit purposely hire some of the best high school students in Israel. They hand pick them and train them to work on some of the most cutting edge technologies in the world. After 2–3 years in the military these young bright minds often end up often being hired by big tech companies like Apple, Intel or simply decide to build their own startup. The CEO of Meta/Space Glasses, who I believe came out of the military unit 8200, has been going back to his roots, trying to hire some of the best engineers from this same unit, to help him build the technology of tomorrow that could be used by Meta in the years to come.
To my knowledge I don’t know of any other countries in the world that does that. It is very possible that there are countries that have a similar approach but to me this is critical to Israel’s ability to produce some of the best wearable tech and IoT startups in the world.
2. Top Israeli universities provide key knowledge and produce top researchers to build great IoT startups. Israeli entrepreneurs can create technologies that many entrepreneurs were trying to create for decades.
Israel also has some great universities where some of the best discoveries and fundamental research are being made. They also have some of the best researchers and PhDs that end up building their own Wearable Tech startups. This is the case of the CEO of ConsumerPhysics, one of the best Israeli IoT startups, who is a researcher with a PhD. His startup, which raised $2M+ on crowdfunding then raised VC money, built an IoT device that projects a light on objects, vegetables and fruits and can count how many calories there are in vegetables, fruits..it can also recognize medical pills (Tylenol, etc..). Almost every single week I come across groundbreaking inventions from top researchers and PhDs that could lay the foundations of some of the best wearable tech and IoT startups for the next 5–10 years. But most importantly some of those Israeli researchers often have the ability to create technologies that many entrepreneurs were trying to create for decades here in the Silicon Valley. For instance just this week a group of researchers from the university of Tel Aviv invented an innovative nanotech-based “end-run” around cancer cells that could provide doctors with a new way to treat — or even cure — GBM and other malignant killer cancers. For some outsiders this might sounds as mind blowing and it is but in Israel this is the type of discovery that you see in the news almost every week.
3. Tel Aviv, on par with Silicon Valley in funding index.
Another thing that makes Israel unique is that Tel Aviv, one of its main tech cities, is on par with the Silicon Silicon Valley in terms of funding index, according to a study conducted with 50,000 startups globally by Startup Genome back in 2012. This is probably why many entrepreneurs in Israel are able to get some seed funding in order to get make first working prototype which is key to raise series A. Now in terms of raising VC money this is a bit more challenging and the Silicon Valley still remains on top in this area.
4. Non profit organization like Start-up Nation becoming a model for many other countries trying to build their own community.
Non profit organizations like Start-up Nation, which represents the Israeli startup model which is considered by many as a world’s reference, works with thousands of Israeli startups. Because of the reasons mentioned earlier many consider Israel’s Start-up Nation model as one of the best in the world. In fact, many Japanese, Chinese and Korean groups come spend time in Israel to learn about the Start-up Nation model in order to replicate such model in their home country.
5. Israeli culture is entrepreneurial..and risk taking. Tel Aviv has the 2nd highest concentration of startups in the world.
In my opinion the Israeli culture tends to be very entrepreneurial or at least more entrepreneurial than many other nations. In some ways I see a lot of similarities between the culture of the Silicon Valley and the culture in Israel..a culture that can be described as risk averse and where failure is not necessarily seen as “real” failure but as the best way to learn and success in the long run. This is extremely important when trying to build a wearable tech and IOT startup where you have to compete against thousands of other startups and think outside of the box. As a result of that, Tel Aviv has now become the 2nd highest concentration of startups in the world, right after the Silicon Valley, which is quite remarkable.
6. Companies like Google doing amazing job providing skills to young entrepreneurs..even young children, pregnant women and young mothers.
Last year I had the pleasure to meet the head of Google Israel at Google HQ in Tel Aviv and I have to admit that companies like Google are doing an amazing job helping young entrepreneurs learning all the required skills (programming, PR/marketing..) in order to help them build their own startup. Google Israel has in fact become a model for Google HQ in Mountain View as it organizes free meetups for young entrepreneurs. Google goes even beyond that by providing help to very young children and pregnant women who want to build their own startup. For example, It is not uncommon to see 10–13 years old children hanging out in the evening at Google HQ in Tel aviv (I experienced it first hand☺) in order to build their new satellite or rocket, or attend a meetup of young pregnant women (with babies) working on their first startup. How amazing is that? From what I understand Google is now looking to bring some of those best practices to Google HQ in Mountain View for some obvious reasons. The new Zuckerberg might very well come out of those meetups for very young entrepreneurs. In my opinion, we need this type of structure and culture here in the Silicon Valley to nurture such great talents.
7. Tel Aviv: Second largest startup ecosystem in the world after Silicon Valley
Many people don’t know this but Tel Aviv is actually the second largest startup ecosystem in the world right after the Silicon Valley. I think this is the evidence of how strong this ecosystem is and how well the Startup Nation model works.
8. Many successful Israeli crowdfunding campaigns.
Crowdfunding is a hot topic among many startup and it is also a blessing for many Israeli wearable tech and IoT startups that are bootstrapped and are looking for funding to finish their working prototype. Plus with a little bit of preparation and a little bit of money, this could be the breakthrough for many of those Israeli startups that have amazing technologies that could change the world. Platforms like Indiegogo or Kickstarter are great vehicles for some of those amazing israeli startups. In fact in 2014 ConsumerPhysics ended up raising $2M+ on Kickstarter entering in the record book of Kickstarter. I know many other Israeli wearable tech and IoT startups looking to replicate a similar success.
9. Many big tech companies (Intel, Apple, Samsung, etc..) on a shopping spree in Israel.
Not surprisingly many tech giants like Samsung, Apple or Intel have been on a buying spree in Israel, acquiring some of the best wearable tech and IoT startups out there. For instance Apple bought hot Israeli startup PrimeSense in November 2013. Back in July 2013, Intel also bought Gesture recognition Israeli startup Omek for $40M. In March 2014, Intel also invested $15M intoOrCam an innovative Israeli startup from Jerusalem that developed connected glasses for people who are visually impaired. I expect many more Israeli wearable tech and IoT startups to become prime M&As targets in the coming years for many OEMs and tech giants in order to help them gain market share and gain a significant competitive advantage in areas like wearable health, connected glasses, VR/AR, etc. I know several Israeli wearable tech and IoT startups that developed groundbreaking technologies and could help those companies in a big way.
Bottom line: Israel’s strong military background, along with its undeniable engineering talent, strong entrepreneurial culture and passion for wearables and IoT are among the key reasons that can explain why Israel is a country made for wearables and IoT. In regards to that, we will bring many of those great Israeli wearable tech and IoT startups and entrepreneurs are our Wearable Tech and IoT conference on July 8, 2015 at the Bar Iian University. You don’t want to miss it! Please visit www.gizworldconf.com /israel and book your ticket now before it is too late. You will have a chance to meet some of the best wearable tech and IoT startups from the silicon Valley, Canada and the rest of the world. We will also discuss some of the best practices between Israel and the Silicon Valley to help you create your own IoT startup so come and join us.