Yonit Golub Serkin sat down with one of Israel’s leading startup accelerators to see the whole maturity. [tech] Ecosystem from closeup. A former managing director of MassChallenge Israel, she is now an independent strategy advisor and innovation trendspotter. Before moving to Israel (WHEN), Sarkin worked with former New York City Mayor Michael She served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Development in the Bloomberg administration and later helped found her Israeli venture capital firm Moonscape Ventures. She joined the hosts of the Jewish Insiders Limited Liability Podcast, Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein (she first met Bernstein when they were both Johns undergraduates at her Hopkins University), Israel. ‘s Technology had a wide-ranging conversation about her scene, Israel and Gulf’s growing collaboration. Why would such a small country attract so much innovation in the wake of the Abraham Accords?
Below is an excerpt of the conversation.
Israel’s Startup Scene: The most important thing to remember in Israel is that, unlike other ecosystems, what is created here is innovation serving a myriad of sectors. So, no matter what sector you’re actually focusing on or what your investment strategy or thesis is, you’ll find relevant technology here to bring back into your existing holdings and portfolios. What we’ve seen here is the maturity of the whole ecosystem. Ten years ago, we would have been talking about early-stage technology innovation. It’s about building a tool, getting it and using it in your company or overseas growth stage company. What we really see today are innovators and founders who can grow their companies through these stages and create very large and meaningful companies. We have seen a number of companies not only go public, but also grow and serve communities in Israel and abroad. A lot of innovation to do, and a very quick time-to-market for many of these companies to bring their technology and products to market.
How to be successful as a startup in Israel: The first thing an entrepreneur should remember is being part of this ecosystem and what does it mean to be successful there? Our market is very small so Israel is a strange case. We speak a language that no one in the world speaks. Thanks to the Abraham Accord, we are now more connected to our neighborhoods, but were previously physically disconnected from the areas in which we operate. For entrepreneurs to be successful in Israel, they must actually be successful outside of Israel. They must already be thinking about growing outside Israel from day one, frankly. Therefore, entrepreneurs should not only be fluent in English, but also emphasize it, be passionate and effective. They must be able to build products for different markets. It’s a pretty unique skill.
Traditionally, Israeli founders have been very tech-savvy, and the gap has traditionally been in understanding other markets where they could build significant, large-scale businesses. This is a ditch that Israel’s founders have really bridged over the past decade or so. It is the ability to understand what a customer or potential customer needs, wants and uses. That’s what the Israeli founders really learned, and how they really discern the founders who are best positioned to succeed.
MassChallenge Israel: Traditionally, the MassChallenge in particular is open to any entrepreneur solving big problems around the world. It can mean food or cyber and it can mean anything. Within that we specialize and identify partners that will be really important in the nanotechnology, cyber or impact space. We want to understand companies that are committed to making an impact and creating positive solutions towards the United Nations sustainability and development goals. We’d love to see something like that, and we’re digging deep into it. Again, a place to test things and see if it works and tell the rest of the world. It has a pretty good reputation internally as a place that is not overly process driven.
Cooperation between Israel and the Gulf: There has been more than a decade of activity between the Gulf and Israel. There is no doubt that the Abraham Accords were an important catalyst for activities between the two countries. We also have MassChallenge because he launched an accelerator in the UAE, so he was running the program in the UAE. I had team members who came and went every week. This is the ability to enter another market, an interest in technology and being able to learn from each other is very important. There is a lot of important business there. We can say that we are looking at cultural education because the culture of Israel and the culture of the Gulf countries are very different. I’m not sure you can find a more different business culture than this. It takes longer than the Israeli founders first believed to really get it. Founders and Israeli techs visit there every week, opening doors to pitch their business and look for partnerships. is finding I think we are seeing some really meaningful learning from each other about how to do business. on the coast. It’s very different from doing business in the US He’s certainly different from doing business here in Israel, and Israeli entrepreneurs are learning that. What they continue to have to balance is the opportunity there and how it compares to other markets.
Background: I am deeply immersed in North American Jewish life as the daughter of a conservative rabbi and executive director of a Jewish non-profit organization. My family made aliyah for the first time in my family when I was little. It is called Aliyah Aleph. Moved here when I was a year and a half, settled in Haifa, lived there when I was young, experienced the First Intifada here, experienced the First Gulf War here when I was a child, lived here in New York Returned to Elementary school, end of middle school area. It was supposed to be a two-year sabbatical, but life gets in the way of every plan. I went to undergraduate and graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, met Jarrod along the way, worked there for the Bloomberg administration, and here I am. [in Israel] Since then.
Working at Bloomberg: Working in economic development is actually one of the most exciting jobs you can do.future
I have to say that my time in the Bloomberg administration ruined all subsequent public service in a completely selfish way. Even when we were there, it was the type of people that could gather there, and just because I was 22 when I started there, the people that gather there are a unique space and time. Even at a relatively young age this felt special.This is unique and working with incredibly bright, ambitious and driven people who have just made it happen. I didn’t get a chance to do it on a large scale again. It felt amazing and special.
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