“Start-up Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer addresses the trillion-dollar question: How is it that a country of a mere 7.1 million people has per capita venture capital investments 2.5 times greater than in the US (more than 30 times greater than in Europe), the highest density of high tech start-ups in the world (1 for every 1,844 inhabitant) and more companies listed at NASDAQ than all companies from the entire European continent?
The book is about Israel, and while much can be attributed to the extraordinary history of the country and its hostile environment, other factors such as a culture of leadership, risk management and “can do” attitude are at least equally important . “When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea,” the authors state, “he will start it that week.”
The book points out that while clusters of excellence with tight proximity to great universities, large corporations and start-ups (as well as to suppliers, an engineering talent pool and venture capital) are important, this is not enough. In Israel, a typical high tech start-up receives about 10 times more seed funding than in Europe although the turnover rate of start-ups is much shorter and faster, even compared to US standards. In addition, as compared to Korea, Singapore, China and even to the EU and US, the country has a culture of constantly challenging authorities and wide-held beliefs and of team orientation and networking.
And while macro-economic factors can only be altered slowly, cultural attitudes can be changed more easily on a coporate and personal level, and this is why the book makes an inspiring reading.