‘SA should look to Israel as lesson in boosting entrepreneurial ecosystem’


Israel’s success as a startup nation can be attributed to the notion of “if you don’t have it, you either go without it or innovate, invent, and do better”.

So says Carel De Wet, the general manager of cloud service vendor iCloudius. He was talking at Salesforce’s “What Western Cape’s Tech companies should learn from Tel Aviv’s Startup Nation” event, held at Workshop 17 in Cape Town today.

“It’s not as if they have better technology than we do. It’s not that we don’t have the same resources or the skill… We just need to take it to the next level,” says De Wet.

He believes that a key reason Israel became such a successful entrepreneurial nation was because they stuck to their projected path.

“In 2000 there was a study done by the Bank of Israel and they said that if the country does perfectly well, from their government, institutions, right through to their financing and their economy, they could potentially grow to a market of 750-billion Israeli shekels ($207-billion) which is about R3-trillion,” says De Wet.

Israel, he said, went on to exceed this expectation by 37%. He attributed Israel’s success to the country sticking to the 15-year plan.

Similarly he said South Africa and the Western Cape, in particular, should also focus on the long-term growth, by fostering startups. A key way to do so is to assist accelerators and incubators, he added.

“One of the key parts (Israel) used were the accelerators and the incubators where they helped technology companies start up and that’s what’s happening in the Western Cape,” says De Wet.

“Companies can start up, they have access to funding, skilled workers and they’re able to get into the incubators and accelerators and roll out a product in a much shorter time frame by using the expertise of international companies or experts.”

Israel had great backing from the government to bolster VC funding and education

Another condition attributed to the success of Israel is the attitude, says De Wet.

“It’s their chutzpah. It’s not only having the belief but the persistence to push through with it, not giving up on the dream, not giving up on the belief on what you feel you must do to make this world and your company a better place.”

He stressed the importance for startups to not just remain within the local market, but to branch out and find others internationally from which they can receive funding.

“It’s very important that you’re not stuck in your own currencies and that you’re tapped into the wider world and the financing available to you.”

Probably the biggest factor to Israel’s success is that startups have access to funding.

“There are over one billion dollars available to them in VC funds so that they can start new businesses there’s always a market for them to take their great ideas and get funding in order to develop it, build it, market it and sell it,” says De Wet.

For South African startups however he says the challenge is more access to funding.

“There is funding available but how do you get access to it, what is it that you must do to make yourself as a startup attractive? How do you get your hands on that money in order to be able to fund or grow your development strategy going forward.”

He said Israel also benefited from the significant amount of investment that the government has made in education especially around science and engineering.



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