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How the Constant Threat of War Shaped Israel’s Tech Industry

Iron Dome defensive battery (Photo: ASHERNET/Ancho Gosh-JINIPIX)

Why does Israel have such a booming technology industry? Writer Ashlee Vance for Bloomberg tells us more about why Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers have created so many successful startup companies in the Holy Land.

It’s not that surprising that the IDF would give rise to clever, interesting tech startups. Much of technology today is the result of military research into hardware and software. What’s remarkable is how Israel has turned its soldiers into entrepreneurs. Today, Israel has about 5,500 startups, and it added 1,400 new ones just last year. It has become a world leader not just in security but in chip, printing, biotech, and corporate software, as well…

This story, though, is about more than Israel’s military technology base. It’s about how the tech scene has evolved and expanded. In Tel Aviv and Herzliya, I meet with one company called Consumer Physics, which can analyze everyday objects to tell stories about their makeup, and another called SpacePharma, which is exploring ways to develop drugs in space. I travel to Jerusalem to see how such companies as Umoove are trying to build up their tech scene amid so much history and religious and political tension. And I meet with Adi Soffer Teeni, the head of Facebook’s Israel operations, to learn what the IDF experience means for women and how Israel’s technology has shifted toward consumers…

Many countries have tried to copy Silicon Valley over the decades, and they’ve almost all failed or met with middling success. Israel stands out as the exception that really has come closest to replicating an environment that floods an area with clever engineers, encourages them to take risks, and feeds them with plenty of capital. The IDF started much of this out of necessity and has since perfected the art of giving young people access to the newest technology, training them, and sending them on their way in the business world. The soldiers learn to make quick, massive decisions early on, and they form deep bonds with their comrades that carry over to the startup life. Israel has now moved well beyond its military roots and emerged as one of the world’s major tech powers.

Tags: Israeli Innovation

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