The Secret to Israel's Startup Success
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Countless regions in the world have tried to mimic Silicon Valley's unparalleled tech prowess with varying degrees of success. With more startups per capita than any other country in the world, Israel's "Silicon Wadi" seems to have cracked the code.
The Israeli startup recipe has been well-documented: concentrated tech clusters, a global outlook from the get-go, useful skills gained in mandatory military service, a healthy dose of "chutzpah" and, voila, a tech hub is born.
But there's an oft-missed component that may be even more important to the sustained success of Silicon Wadi. The secret ingredient of the Israeli startup world is "paying it forward."
When my company, Wix, was still in its early stages, it never ceased to amaze me just how helpful colleagues from other Israeli ventures were. Whether offering key introductions, or timely advice, not only were these experienced tech masters willing to make the time, it was always done with a sense of commitment, not just obligation. Whenever I asked why, the answer was invariably the same: "We were helped when we were starting out. Now it's our turn."
Here are three ways that you can help build a thriving community of likeminded entrepreneurs -- a move which will certainly pay you back in spades:
1. Give (and take) advice early and often.
Tips from experienced tech entrepreneurs are priceless. Be generous with offering key introductions or timely advice yourself. Make the time to guide others and do it with a sense of commitment, not obligation.
We get daily visits at our Wix.com offices in which brainstorming and sage advice from entrepreneurs at many startups is passed around over cups of coffee. The time we spend may not always provide a eureka moment, but lessons from the stories of success and failure of other entrepreneurs can serve as a critical resource.
What's more, our years in business have given us a wealth of contacts, which helps us play tech matchmaker.
2. Do. Not. Poach.
Even with all the talented developers, marketers and engineers out there, there never seems to be enough. So when a startup needs to fill a key role, it's only natural they look at a local rival as a talent base ripe for the picking. But poaching employees is a dangerous strategy that will only lead to animosity and resentment -- the opposite of the camaraderie necessary for developing a thriving tech community.
As I said, the larger number of great companies in your hub, the more likely talented individuals will gravitate there. This doesn't mean you can't hire people who worked for a local company, it just means you shouldn't actively lure them away -- unless they are a major multinational -- in which case, go to town. Sorry Microsoft.
3. Think of your competitors as colleagues.
A tech community operates in a tight sphere, and you're likely to cross paths with fellow entrepreneurs over and over again, so keep that in mind when dealing with other players in your field.
Think of competing entrepreneurs as colleagues, and don't be afraid to publicly sing their praises when deserved. Be respectful of the achievements of others who may be in a position to reciprocate in the future.
4. Get them while they're young.
A successful startup ecosystem is based on creating a supportive community whose members are proud to be involved and are excited about helping others get involved too. It's about creating role models so that high school graduates realize it's cool to major in computer science or engineering.
Speak at local schools and universities about the unrivaled life of what we call in Hebrew, the "Startupist." Making the tech community the place to grow professionally will ensure that you develop a talent pipeline necessary to maintain a powerful tech sphere.
We've seen a rise in successful startups generate a rise in worldwide interest, bringing in critical corporate partnerships as well as an upsurge in media attention for the entire Israeli startup community. This in turn has led to a larger pool of talented people vying for jobs in the high-tech sector.
In short, by respecting and helping each other, we've been helping ourselves. Pay it forward. It always pays back.