My Experience at a VC Firm in Israel
My name is Daniel Soroudi. This summer, I was an intern for Samurai Incubate Israel, working with Shirley, Yakir, and Ravid to immerse myself in the Israeli-Japanese ecosystem for the benefit of Israeli start-ups.
I was born in Los Angeles; I was raised in Los Angeles; I live in Los Angeles. Yet I traveled over 7,500 miles to the much smaller city of Tel Aviv, Israel for an experience that I could not find anywhere in Los Angeles. Here’s what I learned about venture capital in this unique ecosystem.
Unlike America, Israel has a mandatory draft. While serving, citizens learn military-trained discipline. This training does not only add value to the army, as I have realized. It also provides every person with a “Get-It-Done” mentality that resonates well after their time in the military, shown especially in their work lives. Israel has more start-ups per capita, raises more venture capital per capita, and spends more money on R&D as a percent of total economic spending than any other country on earth. These are all testaments to Israel’s overall discipline and initiative.
This society is centered on economic change and flexibility of thought to produce innovation. I have seen the rapid growth that occurs in Israel’s ecosystem. I have seen how the Israeli government dedicates entire departments to innovation, and how everyone constantly looks for the next opportunity to succeed. These are byproducts of the discipline and individuality that starts even before the army.
Mindset and Culture for Success
Israelis are extremely direct. They even have a word for it: dugri. This straightforward method of communication may come off as rude or disrespectful, but it also allows for a far more efficient and streamlined process.
Israelis can debate and argue with one another about their personal beliefs and then go right back to working well together. Everyone has their own opinions, but nobody lets those beliefs influence personal judgements or relationships. This dugri bleeds into every other aspect of Israel’s ecosystem. Founders speak their mind and get what they need — an attitude that supports their “Get-It-Done” mentality. I have witnessed this effect personally at Samurai.
Additionally, the Israeli market is too small for the aspirations of this ambitious country. That’s why Samurai helps our portfolio companies focus on a larger market — specifically in Japan. We also help start-ups connect with Japanese corporates to reach ends that would not be possible without the collaboration. These companies create technology for everyone, and that’s why they’re so successful. They don’t just focus on the needs of their small country; they focus on Americans, Japanese, Canadians, you name it, and work together to move towards a better overall society.
Growing up in America, I always believed that how you present yourself reflects how you want to be perceived. Israelis don’t share this belief. In Tel Aviv, my co-workers and I could wear shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers at work without being looked down upon. In fact, some people in the offices adjacent to mine wore flip flops and a tank top! Don’t be fooled though — Israeli society is professional regardless of how people dress. Founders and CEOs of start-ups do the same high quality of work irrespective of dress.
Consequently, within the spectrum of “Business Casual,” they tend to lean towards casual, even laid back, and see little-to no negative repercussions.
Why? Here’s my theory: Israeli founders are constantly moving. They’re always productive, and believe that their results speak for themselves. They don’t need to act in any special way to impress investors. They don’t need to dress formally to give off the persona of seriousness. In my experience at Samurai, they live the persona.
The only way for a small and young country like Israel to achieve everything she’s achieved is to raise productivity through the roof! Every person must do a large variety of work and take on a great responsibility. So they do. At Samurai, I found that my responsibilities pulled me in multiple directions. I went to pitch meetings, conducted market research, built databases, and wrote articles like these! Similarly, throughout the entire start-up ecosystem in Israel, everyone has a hand in everything. In this way, Israelis can get as much done as possible. A country whose inhabitants do more with their time will end up ahead, and Israel is a perfect example of that philosophy put into action.