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Beyond the IDF's Elite Intelligence Unit 8200

Israel – and her military – have long been known for the technological breakthroughs they continue to come up with. Now Geektime takes a look at the IDF’s Unit 8200, which produces more startups per capita than Stanford University:

Much ink has been spilled over the fact that Israel, a small country with slightly over 7 million people, has over 4,800 startup companies and attracts more venture capital per person than any other country in the world: $170 per person as opposed to $70 per person in the U.S.

One factor that has been trotted out to explain this phenomenon is Israel’s mandatory military service for most teenagers.

In fact, the number 8200 has become almost synonymous with Israeli startup culture. Mooly Eden, who heads Intel’s Israel branch, relates that every time he goes abroad, someone asks him if he served in 8200, Israel’s elite, technologically sophisticated intelligence unit. In fact, if you speak Hebrew and can’t afford tuition at Stanford, serving in 8200 may be your next best ticket to entrepreneurship…

While it’s true that serving in 8200 or other tech units of the IDF offers a fast track to entrepreneurship, we talked to several entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who said that any military service, even in non-intelligence roles, gives you the characteristics you need to succeed. In other words, the Israeli hi-tech industry isn’t just 8200, 9900 or the IDF computer unit. It’s also combat units like Givati and Golani, the armored corps, paratroopers and air force.

To prove our point, we interviewed several hi-tech success stories with a wide array of military backgrounds…

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