2 Jul 2011

Israel: the new Silicon Valley

A new generation of Israeli entrepeneurs is overturning the country’s traditional image and turning Tel Aviv as the new centre of excellence for high-tech industry , Benjamin Cohen reports.

Israeli man on mobile phone

While most of the world is still reeling from the effects of the economic downturn, Israeli’s enthusiasm for launching new businesses shows no sign of abating.

The country attracts twenty times more venture capital money than the average European country per head of population.

And much of the money is pouring into high-tech start-ups.

Israel has the highest concentration of scientists and engineers in the world, and four per cent of jobs are for websites like Google, which has its second largest team of developers in the country.

Technology being created by Israeli developers is now being exported across the world. Online chat and first anti-virus software were invented there.

It’s an achievement the British Government will be hoping to emulate as ministers pump billions into high-tech industry in a bid to stop the UK falling behind in a rapidly-growing market.

But industry analysts say the Israeli phenomenon is due to a unique combination of factors and may prove difficult for foreign competitors to recreate.

A lack of natural resources and the way the experience of military service shapes attitudes have been credited with kick-starting Israel’s high-tech boom.

Professor Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University, said: “Israeli students who arrive here are all mature because of the army.

“They don’t accept everything they hear. So this whole dialogue of learning something, challenging it, trying to find another solution – it’s part of this whole culture of ‘let’s find something new’.”