Can the Startup Nation model be replicated in other countries? Oren Gershtein is counting on him.
The venture capitalist and founder of IdealityRoads has already been instrumental in exporting how Israel is spurring tech companies to New Zealand and Argentina and there are more countries in the pipeline.
Gershtein points out that the Israeli model cannot be reproduced exactly, but it can be implemented with the right adjustments. Everything revolves around the principles of PPP public-private partnerships.
Israeli startups have long benefited from PPP.
First the Israeli Innovation Authority (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist) is making a small investment which is the public part. Then private investors join.
There is no evidence that any technological ecosystem in the world has succeeded without public support, Gershtein told ISRAEL21c. Most importantly, the public sector understands its responsibility to reduce risks to the private sector in the first step.
In Israel, this included the pioneering Yozma program in which the Israeli government provided 40% of the capital raised by outside investors (the government invested $ 100 million in Yozma between 1993 and 1998) and the BIRD(Binational Industrial Research and Development) Foundation, which provides grants of up to $ 1 million to US-Israeli joint ventures.
These days, the Israel Innovation Authority manages around 40 PPPs. It provides a much lower initial investment, equivalent to around 15% – the remaining 85% from the private sector.
Gershtein says he has been involved in launching more than 75 startups, most of them through his post as CEO of Van Leer Tech incubators, one of the most active Israeli technology accelerators, for almost a decade. He left Van Leer in 2013 to launch IdealityRoads.
Innovation in New Zealand
When New Zealands Callaghan Innovation Agency approached Gershtein in 2013 on how to launch technology entrepreneurship there, Gershtein guided the Kiwi government to create three incubators that have awarded grants of 600,000 NZD each to technology companies.
The model weighs more heavily on the public sector 75% including 25% of private investors.
Gershteins IdealityRoads actively advised Callaghan for three years. Some 45 startups that Gershtein said would not have been created otherwise due to the level of risk have continued to raise $ 50 million in private capital.
New Zealand is now taking it to the next level, with the launch of four additional incubators in 2020.
One of these incubators will be managed by a consortium including an Israeli crowdfunding investor OurCrowd. It will focus on agritech and food-tech with NZD 1 million in subsidies for each company.
and in Argentina
The same PPP model was used by IdealityRoads to help establish 10 technology incubators and three scientific incubators across Argentina.
For technological accelerators, the budget is shared 50/50 between the State and private investors. For scientists, two thirds come from the public sector and one third from private investors.
In Argentina, work began in 2017 far from the capital of Buenos Aires, in the province of Santa Fe (one of the 24 provinces of Argentina) and the program manager was not initially the government but Grupo Sancor Seguros (GSS), headquartered in Santa Fe, the country’s largest insurance company.
The GSS team and Gershteins IdealityRoads started meeting for about a week every month or so, to learn how to build businesses to be global from day one, how to use intellectual property to increase competition, how to create a transaction flow, how to grow businesses and how to raise funds, explains Gershtein to ISRAEL21c.
What started in Santa Fe has now spread across the country, with the federal government assuming the role of funding ESGs. Gershtein notes that a dozen startups have emerged, from biotechnology to medical devices to smart agritech based on drones and trucks.
All this because the board of directors of this insurance company had the vision to make a change through innovation.
See Israel firsthand
What is the next step for Gershtein and exporting the Startup Nation model abroad?
They were in touch with countries in the Middle East, with Cyprus and Greece, to explore opportunities where a knowledge-based economy could make a huge change, he said.
In Greece, IdealityRoads advises Patras Science Park, a business incubator that has launched a proof of concept program to transfer research from Greek universities to the market. The program has a budget of 50,000 each for a maximum of 10 projects per year.
For each country where Gershtein consults, travel to Israel is a mandatory component.
We bring them here to see the country firsthand, he explains. It’s one thing to describe what entrepreneurship looks like in Israel or have them read the book Start-Up Nation. It’s another to make them talk to a young CEO who raised millions and followed a strategy to conquer half the world.
One element that always surprises aspiring foreign entrepreneurs: the capacity of the Israelis to accept failure.
It comes very naturally to us, says Gershtein. In other cultures, it makes no sense. It is therefore important to show that everything is not brilliant. That there are challenges, but for the Israelis, if you fail on the road, then you are just doing the next thing in your area of expertise.
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