A small group of Irish innovative startup entrepreneurs came to Israel recently. They had been shepherded there by Clyde Hutchinson, instigator of the Irish Israeli Business Network (www.iibn.org and www.linkedin.com/groups/Ireland-Israel-Business-Network ). Clyde believes that there is a mutually beneficial and inspiring relationship between Ireland and Israel to be found in business. He is a pioneer on this in many ways, prophesying a creative innovative Ireland linking up with the predominant global startup nation that is Israel today. I’m a believer in lessons learned and lessons shared so I think he is on to something.
Consider this; there are more companies from Israel quoted on the Nasdaq than Europe combined. Ireland and Britain have five companies quoted there. Japan has six. Canada does pretty well with forty-five. Israel has sixty-three on the Nasdaq Exchange, more than any country in the world other than the US itself. That’s right, sixty-three. Recall too that this year alone there has been $5 billion, not million but billion, in acquisitions of Israeli startups.
Clyde’s pioneering group arrived – I suspect with an air of anxiety about the security situation and uncertainty about what lay ahead – to attend the Digital Life Design (DLD) Conference in Tel Aviv, hosted mainly by Yossi Vardi, widely regarded as the godfather of Israeli startups. The DLD Conference is Israel’s largest international hi-tech gathering, attended by hundreds of startups, venture capitalists, angel investors and leading multinationals. The DLD Conference is comparable in purpose though not scale to the Dublin Web Summit (over 4,000 attended last year; its Facebook today has 56,000 likes) which is happening on 30th and 31st October next. Our Web Summit is fully booked out so if you want to go next year check it out here and register www.websummit.net . I am delighted to say that some thirty Israeli companies will attend, along with Yossi Vardi.
The Irish trip to Tel Aviv was supported by Enterprise Ireland and by the Trade Promotion Division of my Department. Enterprise Ireland’s David Scanlon, who was supportive of this initiative from the start, came with them. At the Embassy my deputy Julian Clare and I responded positively to a suggestion by David and Clyde that the visiting delegation needed a networking event.
Yossi Vardi himself hosted an opening reception for DLD delegates at the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace, a fabulous new building in old Jaffa in the heart of Tel Aviv, its large open courtyard facing onto the crashing sea and the wide expanse of the Mediterranean, impressive even in the dark evening. Clyde found me and introduced me to our Irish visitors. I was curious about who they were, what they did: I mean what were the startups developing, how were they funding their businesses, how indeed do you turn a startup into a business? What were their impressions of Israel?
Articulate, energized and visionary, their answers were focused and precise. It was fascinating to hear their assessment of the Irish ecosystem for startups, its creative ferment, its learning curve compared to Israel, its need to find models for success, to find Angel investors and venture capitalists. They were impressed by Israel, intrigued by its mix of energy, innovation, hard-nosed business, by the breath of its ambitions, by the sight of development side-by-side with under-development, the intoxicating mix of antiquity and modernity,
The following evening we hosted the networking event at the Residence. Some seventy guests – an admixture of Israeli startups, business experts and venture capitalists – mingled and got to know our Irish visitors. In my remarks to our guests I said that every conversation sparkled with energy and ideas about the world today and the future as its is shaped by the digital revolution. For in the world of startups, creativity, challenge and dissent are the platforms for success. And if dissent is the key to success in the world of startups, then that was something we and Israelis have in common.
Who were our Irish entrepreneurs making their pitches? Conor Murphy and his company Datahug, nominated for the Ernst and Young Awards this year in the innovation category. Datahug analyses communication data to provide companies with a dynamic map of connections to access future business and markets. We had Pat Phelan, CEO at Trustev, specializing in next-generation identity verification and fraud prevention. Christian Ryder is a founder of FoneSense which will pay you every time your phone rings. Grainne Barron, founder and CEO of Viddyad which allows you to make professional commercials online quickly and cost-effectively. Fionnuala Healy, CTO and Co-founder of Gotcha Ninjas, a cloud based educational and motivational learning platform for students and parents.
From talking to our Irish innovators, the thrill of the startup, it seemed to me, is that its task is not to make a successful business by anticipating the future – like buying shares or investing in a futures market – but by making and shaping the future and how we live in it. And doing that means challenging orthodoxy and authority. Another ingredient, as Conor Murphy pointed out to me, is the capacity to learn and to reinvest from earlier investments and acquisitions: building experience and eventual success on the foundations of failure, experience and lessons learned.
Challenging authority and taking failure as a key part of the road to success is pretty much the central message of Start-Up Nation, the account by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, of Israel’s phenomenal entrepreneurial success story. For anyone interested in Ireland’s economic development I’d highly recommend it (stats on Israel’s success above were sourced there).
And while its available on RTE’s LivePlayer, have a look at the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards show for some inspiring stories about Ireland’s innovating business people here http://www.rte.ie/player/il/show.
Many thanks then to Clyde for his commitment to the Irish-Israeli connection. Check out his website and if you’re on Linkedin you’ll find his group and news of its activities and discussions there. Thanks too to our Irish entrepreneurs for taking a punt on the trip to Israel. More blogs on the hi-tech sector in Ireland and Israel will follow.