Israel: A Portrait of a Start-Up Nation

November 12, 2011

2 Min Read
Israel: A Portrait of a Start-Up Nation

For a tiny nation, Israel is incredibly adept in high-tech enterprises. And the innovation scene in the country is world class, explained Ran Kornowski, director of interventional cardiology at Rabin Medical Center (Petah Tikva, Israel) at TCT2011. The country has a highly skilled workforce and the people naturally have a problem-solving orientation, he explained. The country has become a model for entrepreneurship and has hence earned the informal title “start-up nation,” Kornowski said.

And he had many figures to back that claim up: the country was recently ranked sixth in global innovation out of 139 countries by the World Economic Forum. “Ahead of much stronger economies such as Germany, France, and even China,” he added. “We have had six Nobel Prize winners within the last seven years within the field of chemistry, biochemistry, and economics, indicating that something is done right in our country.”

Israel also has a competitive edge in life science. It is ranked first in the world for medical device patents per capita; fourth in terms of availability of qualified scientists and engineers. There are more than 1000 life science companies there and more than 500 medical device firms. “54 new life science companies were founded last year,” he said. “Interestingly, cardiology is the leading sector within the medical device branch,” Kornowski added.

The country does face a number of challenges, however. VC support has also been strong historically but it was not immune to the fallout of the global economic crisis of 2008. Another challenge is the fact that most Israeli companies are sold at the early stage, which keeps most of the companies closes to innovation model rather than maturing into a revenue generating entities, Kornowski explained. In addition, the distance from major markets makes it difficult for Israeli companies makes it difficult to commercialize products. There is also a lack management skills to deal with the global economy, he said, adding that the he hopes the geopolitical climate will also improve.

The country is used to tackling difficulties head-on, however. “We say in Hebrew, ‘what doesn’t destroy you, makes you even stronger,’” Kornowski said.  

Brian Buntz

Image from Flickr user elicrisko.

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