When it comes to the leading tech ecosystem in the world, Israel is a hard miss with its strong society and culture that nurtures innovation.
Techsauce Global Podcast has spoken to Avi Jorisch, a seasoned entrepreneur, and author of five books including a successful “Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World” (2018).
For the past two decades, Avi has been running different ventures and funding Technology that improves the lives of citizens around the world, be it solving major grand global challenges climate, water, food, disaster, resilience, AI, and the list goes on. In particular, he has been prominently promoting and teaching the world how innovative Israel has been and in this Podcast, he shared with us his take on what makes Israel a Tech powerhouse today.
For a country that is half a desert, traditionally surrounded by enemy countries, Israel has achieved quite an impressive feat to get where it is today at the frontier of the tech ecosystem. For Avi, he pointed out that the secret is the combination of different traits, ideas and prioritize that represent Israel’s uniqueness in cultivating innovation. These ideas include the idea of Disaster, Failure, Diversity, and Reverence for Secular institutions.
Israel as a paradise is a far-fetch of imagination in any regard. The country is not rich in water, oil, and gas, if anything it is a country with a tremendous number of problems shared with its neighbors. So it goes that every lemon available in the country gets to turn into making lemonade. With resource scarcity, Israeli are forced to work on technologies and takes their innovation to go beyond the local, to the global scale.
Humans are not fond of failure, but the truth is that failure is the key to success in everything. It is the adversary that pushes one resilience to the peak, in business and personal life. For Israelis, failing a third time is a charm, as they adopt this idea to their culture. There is a real recognition of having to fail to succeed
Avi pointed out that the Israeli innovative or innovation ecosystem has always been powered by diversity. Diversity is celebrated in Israel, having Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other people of religions of every stripe and variety make Israel’s ecosystem an innovation powerhouse.
Israel revered its secular institution – all its universities. Since ancient’s times, Israeli tradition and teaching have been the mission to bring light to the world, cure the sick, feed the hungry, and help the needy. It is the Jewish concept that has been quintessential as the root of Israel’s cultural DNA that manifests in today's modern success. Israel today is exporting its best asset tech, for the benefit of humanity, to enrich and defend its people, and make the world a far, far better place.
Israel has been granted the great privilege and the obligation to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the 20th century
Quoted by Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion. The catalyst for Israeli’s mindset for outward innovation as Avi told us, is that it is not about doing the right and doing well that are mutually exclusive when there are a global challenge afflicting billions of people - It is how Israel prioritizes innovation as a solution for the greater public and citizens of the world.
Avi is inspired by the idea that Israel is 60% desert yet a water superpower. The source behind the country’s success in water realms boils down to five different innovations as Avi believed namely, Drip irrigation, Desalination, Wastewater recycling, and Kakadu.
For Drip Irrigation, Aviv mentioned that the method innovated in Israel during the 1960s has efficiently doubled the yield of crop production while saving a tremendous amount of water with plaster emitters that have become the world's most valued innovation in modern agriculture.
Secondly, Desalination. Though founded and developed in the United States, it was perfected through Israel's reverse osmosis. Currently, Israel has five desalination plants in the country, covered for over 50% of Israel’s Water Drinking needs intriguingly enough as Avi told
Israel has built over 300 desalination plants all over the world, including the largest desalination plants in the Western Hemisphere in California, and the largest desalination plant in China and India.
Not only that, but the country also itself recycles 90% of its wastewater the commodity itself is “extraordinarily expensive” in Israel. Every drop of water is cleaned over five times (in contrast to general three to four times around the world) which is then repurposed for drinking and agricultural uses.
Another innovation Aviv noted is called “Kakadu” an AI company that gathers data from water authorities and identifies 100% with certainty when there is a leak spot in the pipes. And then there is the two-button toilet, Avi’s favorite Israel innovation.
Combining these innovations paved the way for Israel to efficiently manage and utilize its water system to become a water superpower among its neighboring countries and regions.
With many cores factor that makes Israel's ecosystem so strong, through different countries have different ecosystems, different challenges and one size solution does not fit all.
For Israel, Avi points out that the country has created numerous programs that have been successful in helping kickstart a lot of startups that impact the scale of many countries.
There is the first government program called the 8020 or 5050 that will provide 80% startup capital while its founder only put up 20%. The successful company only pays back 80% but if they fail, the fund is written off as a grant. In a way, it is one of the models that promote failure and innovation in Israel.
Another idea is the private equity funds that specifically focus on global challenges.
Avi firmly believes that this model should be employed in many, if not all countries around the world as for sovereign wealth funds and major family offices, to find a local fund that they can invest in, that does both of those things that identify a healthy return and remits that technology back to fulfill a very specific need in that country, thus creating a healthy ecosystem of startups.
So regardless of if one size does not fit all, certain techniques could still apply to certain problems, and this is where funds are able to help bring returns and remit the technology back to that country.
For Avi, the sky’s the limit, he nudges us to look forward to the next decade as he believed that for the first-time humanity is in the position to solve the problem it creates within its span of existence.
“Scientists are predicting that by the end of this century, we will have experienced 50,000 years of human change the things that your children and mine will see by the end of their lifetimes are unimaginable”
When it comes to collaboration Israel has engaged in what Avi likes to call “Water diplomacy” with countries that it does not even have a diplomatic relationship with, employing its innovation notably for its agricultural tech and even MedTech.
Of course, Avi is keen on the idea of how the collaboration could be enacted together between Thailand, Israel ASEAN region, and all neighboring countries, believing that everyone has an amazing privilege and responsibility to collectively work together.
“I'm excited by all that we can do together and investing in technology and in a better future for our children to solve these, these massive problems that we have”
Though specifically, he mentioned that there is already a running program here in Thailand to connect its local startup with one’s Tel Aviv in Israel. Certainly, when it comes to funding, he happily stated that if anyone who is willing to invest in Israeli technology, make a healthy return and create an impact back in Asia, he would happily indulge in a conversation
For the past few years, COVID has not been so opportune or pleasant. Though Avi, recommends that every crisis presents an opportunity, we should think creatively when there are problems as there is inevitably a solution.
“If you can wrap your mind around creative solutions to the problems, not only will you help and enrich yourself, you're in a position to help and enrich those around you”
Leaving with leaves us with one of his favorite quotes from Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.
The biggest mistake in life was not dreaming, but rather not dreaming big enough
So, Thinking and dreaming bring is the first step that we could bringing more light to the world.