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Blog: Creating a culture of high-risk and chutzpah

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By Wendy Kerr

During my visit to Israel I was curious about the role universities play in the “start-up nation”. How do they fertilise their students with an entrepreneurial mindset, what is their magic sauce for creating successful spin-off companies?

As I discovered throughout my time there, it is never just one factor but instead a rich combination of culture, government intervention and enabling initiatives that create enduring and significant impact.

The influence and impact of the military on Israeli graduates is significant. Military service is compulsory for at least two years from 18, yet instead of supressing innovation this encourages it. At this young age, Israeli youth are trained, thrust into high-pressure situations where they have to solve complex problems, develop an exceptionally strong, trusting and enduring network, receive specialist training in a wide range of technologies. All of this before they are 23.

These factors combine to result in a culture with a high-risk appetite, chutzpah and an acceptance of failure, which is celebrated and seen as essential to learning.

Typically, after they exit the military, they will take a year-long break and start university much older than New Zealand students. Their lives are quite different to our first-year students, they have families and other responsibilities, so most students work while they study. At Technion they may start to work at nearby companies such as Intel and Qualcomm, rather than waiting tables.

When they finish with education at 27 or so, they have been working for four years in a relevant industry, starting their career with more experience and maturity.

The typical journey of an Israeli entrepreneur was expressed to me as follows:

  • Military service for four years
  • University and work experience in a relevant company
  • Work for six years in a big company
  • Start their own venture

All universities I visited have strong links with industry. Relationships are based around financial and “in kind” support, the purchasing of innovation research and development and entrepreneurship education services.

So how do we compare?

I went ahead of the delegation to visit Technion (touted as Israel’s MIT), Tel Aviv University (the largest university in Israel) and The Azrieli College of Engineering (a specialist engineering university).

When comparing the programmes that we offer at the Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we compare very well with Technion and Tel Aviv Uni. Certainly, the mapping of our activities we provide on the journey from idea to exit was seen as novel and beneficial. Our Velocity entrepreneurship programme was widely admired, as was the Summer Lab programme.

Universities play a significant part in the success of Israel as a start-up nation, but we know it takes more than programmes and courses.

Where we can develop is creating an entrepreneurial culture in this country which provides the support, environment and capabilities to enable ideas to thrive.

Wendy Kerr travelled to Israel in May on the Trans-Tasman Business Circle innovation mission led by Spark CEO Simon Moutter.

 

Wendy Kerr
Wendy Kerr

social media

By Wendy Kerr

During my visit to Israel I was curious about the role universities play in the “start-up nation”. How do they fertilise their students with an entrepreneurial mindset, what is their magic sauce for creating successful spin-off companies?

As I discovered throughout my time there, it is never just one factor but instead a rich combination of culture, government intervention and enabling initiatives that create enduring and significant impact.

The influence and impact of the military on Israeli graduates is significant. Military service is compulsory for at least two years from 18, yet instead of supressing innovation this encourages it. At this young age, Israeli youth are trained, thrust into high-pressure situations where they have to solve complex problems, develop an exceptionally strong, trusting and enduring network, receive specialist training in a wide range of technologies. All of this before they are 23.

These factors combine to result in a culture with a high-risk appetite, chutzpah and an acceptance of failure, which is celebrated and seen as essential to learning.

Typically, after they exit the military, they will take a year-long break and start university much older than New Zealand students. Their lives are quite different to our first-year students, they have families and other responsibilities, so most students work while they study. At Technion they may start to work at nearby companies such as Intel and Qualcomm, rather than waiting tables.

When they finish with education at 27 or so, they have been working for four years in a relevant industry, starting their career with more experience and maturity.

The typical journey of an Israeli entrepreneur was expressed to me as follows:

  • Military service for four years
  • University and work experience in a relevant company
  • Work for six years in a big company
  • Start their own venture

All universities I visited have strong links with industry. Relationships are based around financial and “in kind” support, the purchasing of innovation research and development and entrepreneurship education services.

So how do we compare?

I went ahead of the delegation to visit Technion (touted as Israel’s MIT), Tel Aviv University (the largest university in Israel) and The Azrieli College of Engineering (a specialist engineering university).

When comparing the programmes that we offer at the Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we compare very well with Technion and Tel Aviv Uni. Certainly, the mapping of our activities we provide on the journey from idea to exit was seen as novel and beneficial. Our Velocity entrepreneurship programme was widely admired, as was the Summer Lab programme.

Universities play a significant part in the success of Israel as a start-up nation, but we know it takes more than programmes and courses.

Where we can develop is creating an entrepreneurial culture in this country which provides the support, environment and capabilities to enable ideas to thrive.

Wendy Kerr travelled to Israel in May on the Trans-Tasman Business Circle innovation mission led by Spark CEO Simon Moutter.

 


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