I love Israel. Having been there 7-8 times over 5 years when I worked for a company (Mercury Interactive, acquired by HP) that had its development center there, I believe they have some of the best developers, product thinkers and execution oriented folks.
They are also amazing at marketing. They have successfully convinced the world that they are the “startup nation“.
Never mind that they have 1/3 as many product startups as India produces annually and never mind that Indian companies acquire or get acquired twice as much as Israeli companies. Indians also make up 52% of Silicon valley startup founders, whereas Israelis make up less than 8%.
Take a look at those 3 data points and tell me they are not facts. The PWC report is for 2012, so its relatively recent. The # of companies we track in India versus Israel startups in our database is three times as well. The # of companies on Angel list or Crunchbase reveals a similar statistic.
What are the arguments I have heard against India being the startup nation?
1. Quantity not quality: We produce numbers, but not quality. Many of our startups are clones of Silicon Valley companies featured on Tech Crunch 3 months post launch. I looked at the 3 top Israel incubators and found that over 60% of the companies they were helping were clones as well.
2. Exits: We dont have a significant number of $billion or hundreds of million $ exits. I have found that while we do not have those exits, the number of companies listed on the stock market in the US for both Israel and India are comparable.
3. Market access: Israel has excellent knowledge, insights and know-how about US markets. Since Israel itself is a fairly small market, most Israeli entrepreneurs focus on US markets solely, even though they are geographically closer to Europe. Technically the # of people with market knowledge of the US in India far exceeds that of Israel, but they are not in product startups but at large companies.
4. Services mindset & positioning: Thanks to the ginormous success of Indian services companies who helped position India as the “world’s backend” (comparable to China being positioned as the world’s manufacturer) we have been already positioned as low value, low margin, consulting providers.
5. Late start: Even though Israel is 60 years old and India as a nation is a little older, we had a late (2001 or so) start to technology startups. Compared to Israel which had some interesting companies (need references here, what I have heard is mostly anecdotal) in the late 90’s as well.
Why do I still say Indian startups should look at Israel as a role model?
1. They champion their startups very well. They are very well vested in their startups success. They are constantly talking about how good their startups are, how they are possibly better than the valley and why they have the best talent in the world focused on startups.
2. They take significant risky bets. The # of investors in Israel (seed, angel and institutional) is comparable to those in India even though the number of startups is a third.
3. They look out for each other. The community is so well connected with each other that they genuinely look out and help each other. I dont know of any other place that supports their own as much as Israel does.
If you have been to Israel or have lived / worked with Israeli’s please tell me in the comments if there are a few data points I missed.
If you have any good data (not anecdotes, I have enough of those) to counter any of my arguments, feel free to call those out as well.