Hila Leizerovich is Co-Founder, CXO and Director of Product Strategy at ThinkUp, a business networking company that helps drive innovation and entrepreneurs. She joined CTech to share a review of “Chutzpah: Why Israel is a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” by Inbal Arieli.
Title: “Chutzpah: why Israel is a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship”
Author: Inbal Ariéli
Many wonder how a small country like Israel became Startup Nation. “Chutzpah” takes readers on a journey through an Israeli childhood and shows how cultural habits and spirit encourage entrepreneurial thinking and behavior.
Instead of being an anecdotal story, Inbal Arieli walks us through the various start-up phases and outlines how successful Israeli entrepreneurs have made their way.
The book captures the critical element of being an entrepreneur. I was fascinated by the ambivalence I felt reading about the behaviors that most social norms try to reduce or moderate, but in “Chutzpah” they are the “secret sauce” that turns into a powerful tool for Israeli entrepreneurs.
Throughout the book, the author refers to five start-up phases:
Discovery – An “ah!” when you feel different points connecting in a surprisingly new way. From the perspective of a child and an entrepreneur, this immediately creates a spark. The book creates a line of thought between the structured experience and the exploratory experience, and demonstrates how the chaotic playground in which Israeli children play is what gives them essential entrepreneurial skills such as curiosity, risk management , independence, teamwork, etc. value and dangerous is actually the ‘dream yard’.
Approval – Having a clear need and a solution is not enough to ensure success.
A startup must validate a feasible market and adjust the product and offering accordingly. It’s crucial to set aside assumptions, open up and listen to customer signals, and be prepared for criticism and setbacks. Apparently, Israeli culture gives children a sense of empowerment and understanding that the things they do are not for themselves but for a greater cause that will be accomplished through a team effort. Failure is not something that defines me as an individual, but it is something that happened, and we should learn from it. In fact, when ‘failure’ is detached from individual abilities, it helps to bounce back quickly. Again, there is a metaphorical axis between the individual and the collective. All of the above creates flexible, resourceful and collaborative children. And these are the same skill sets that entrepreneurs need for the validation phase.
Efficiency – This is when a startup needs to improve its offering, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and prove its performance.
Most early-stage startups deal with limited resources and need to be lean, smart, and resourceful. Entrepreneurs must navigate uncertainty.
Dealing with insecurity (thanks to Israel’s geopolitical environment) develops rapid DNA adaptation from an early age. Living with unstable situations leads to a mindset that “the show must go on…”
From a business perspective, this means:
Make the best of a difficult situation.
Works well under pressure.
Belonging: We all work together under the same circumstances, which means you have a sense of belonging. Pressure connects people.
Leading risk management.
Improvise, lead by doing yourself and be resilient.
I can truly say that these factors characterize many Israeli entrepreneurs.
Growth and stability – A startup that builds efficient processes and realizes a well-functioning mechanism is immediately expected to scale its business. Now, if we think of a time when every Israeli is supposed to step up, it’s military service.
On the positive side, you will find:
Responsibility for each other and a mutual guarantee that creates a deeper relationship.
Everyone is recruited on the basis of their skills and potential rather than their knowledge and experience. The military allows soldiers to flourish.
There is a healthy tension between hierarchy and informality since there are commands in the Israeli army, but the soldiers address their superiors by their first name. Also, everyone gets the same gear but they start improvising to adapt it to their needs. The nickname for this is “Shifzoor” (improvement and renovation).
This point could also sometimes become the Achilles heel of Israeli entrepreneurs. A temporary solution that fits “here and now” is not necessarily suitable for the long term. This stage is called Growth and Stability because entrepreneurs must look ahead and be prepared. Strategic planning at the foundation of a business is just as crucial for “real time” management.
When the mindset is survival, everything becomes “a given situation.”
However, planning can anticipate all possibilities and analyze situations. This time, the focus goes from strategic thinking to tactical thinking.
Regeneration – It’s a phrase that means a startup has strong resources, but the business environment is changing and companies need to reinvent themselves to stand out, stay relevant, and establish a better grip on the market.
The author highlights the main elements of this topic:
Use of personal skills.
Take advantage of the network and collaborations. In Israel, we connect and bond quickly.
Do you remember the individual-collective approach? Everyone is accessible; even on the other side of the world, we are linked to each other. It’s about networking, connections, working together, brainstorming, being willing to contribute, and open and warm relationships.
If you’re looking for a great example of global entrepreneurship, look for Silicon Valley-based ICON – Israel Collaboration Network.
I’m happy to say that I learned a lot.
I was exposed to many cultural differences. But above all, I understood why investors make their choices based on the team.
A good team can be led using best practices, methodologies and networking.
These will take anyone from A to B. But the entrepreneurial spirit and strong founding team that vouch for each other will see you all the way.
Who should read this book:
You should read this book if:
You are interested in the Israeli entrepreneurial ecosystem; you are about to collaborate with an Israeli startup and want to better understand the cultural context; and if you are interested in entrepreneurship and how it can be impacted by cultural differences.