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Silicon Valley versus Startup Nation

I just returned from the first Global Inspiration Tour in Tel Aviv with some observations to share with you. I am curious what you think about this. About 15 years ago, Saul Singer coined the term, “Startup Nation” - something completely unplanned, as he admitted last week when we met over dinner in Jerusaleum, during our tour in Israel.


San Francisco and Tel Aviv – two cities with a very special energy


At any given time, 6000 Startups in Israel are trying to solve bigger- or smaller problems, stay in business, learn, grow - and eventually exit - to move on the next endeavour. What makes Israel such a birthplace of innovation?

In our program, we met companies like WIX, with incredible success - maybe truly a little Silicon Valley Vibes (definitely Workspace Design), had riveting conversations with foresight thinker like Erez Tsalik, met serial entrepreneurs, attended the “Future of AI” conference, dove into Exponential Growth Strategies and spoke to 8200 Veterans.


WIX Campus – Headquarter in Tel Aviv

During these conversations, I realized, how many parallels Silicon Valley and the Startup Nation have in common. Not much of a surprise, they are both per capita the most vibrant startup ecosystems in the world:

• both mark the end of our cultural belief-system. 100km east of Tel Aviv, you will find a complete different world, on the other end of the Pacific - leaving the San Francisco coastline, you will a complete different culture, as well.

• both places will not show up on any of the rankings, “city with the highest living standards” too soon. Au contraire to a lot of cities in central Europe, each time you leave your house, you will find 10 things that desperately needed to be fixed. San Francisco has one of the highest population of homeless people in the world. These tragedies lead to two effects: 1) not a day where you don’t face a situation that needs change (“can’t accept it anymore - is a perfect foundation for an innovative endeavour. 2) each time you leave your house, you have it in front of you: where else your life could have gone. It’s just natural that you take things as a right and not as a privilege, if you don’t see every day that you could have also been dropped in a different nest.

• both places host a lot of immigrants. Which basically means: a majority of people who currently live there, were not born there, or at least not their grandparents. Everyone always shows better manners, when being guest somewhere, as opposed to the "at-home-behaviour". 

• both places are highly vulnerable to drop into an existential catastrophe, any possible minute. San Francisco is built on the San Andreas fault, the worlds most active tectonic boundary - and could collapse under an earthquake any given day. Israel is in constant fight and trouble, and a war-zone is equally vulnerable to a shutdown. If you know you have to get things done, procrastination disappears from your vocabulary.

• both places have military significance. The Israeli army might be the best in the world. Military is and always has been one of the biggest drivers for innovation. Although with the current US army, I feel more of a “what technology is available that might support our agenda versus: what do we need to solve, lets develop technology for it. However, Homeland Security has their most important training and education camp in Monterey, ~3 hrs south of San Francisco.

• both places are money- and success driven. They want to be successful and make a lot of money. Their “millionaire mindset” has a different blueprint than many others. They do not envy someone else’s success, they applaud to it: if a neighbor has a bigger car, you won't be jealous but actually think, "hey thats possible for him - and its possible for me, as well!"

• both value community over everything else. Whereas the jewish community is maybe the biggest community in the world, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are a bubble in California and North America where people take care of each other, connect to support and play forward as a almost mandatory commitment. 

Last week made clear to me that you can never be innovative on a level were we are talking about an impact for one Billion people (or more), when everything you have and everything around you is nice and tidy. Your worries might circulate around losing what you have, rather than solving for the world around you. The wealth and the level of comfort in Europe might be the biggest hidden driver for the current political movement (just saying), but definitely do not support fresh thinking, change and disruption.

In recent elections, one Austrian late nite comedian asked the right wing representative: “Vienna ranks Nr 1 in terms of living standards. And you really want to change things in Vienna? Are you alright?” - and the audience celebrated this question.

If you can agree on what you have just read, I would invite you to brainstorm together, how we can make Europe hungry again (and not greedy), how we can make Europe embrace change (and not highlight possible failure) and how we can become an inspiring continent without losing what makes us so special, today. Please join us hereand share your thoughts.

Looking forward to hear & learn about your ideas and thoughts.  Best Niki

PS: Here is a little service, sharing some good resources that work for me: Reed Hoffmans (Linked-in Founder) Masters of Scale Peter Diamandis Abundance Insider TED recommended Playlists Simon Sineks Start with Why

And of course our program in Silicon Valley and some of the most inspiring places in the world: Next Tour in Silicon Valley Next Tour in New York Next Tour in Hong Kong Other Global Tours, this year

And if you have doubts, checkout some of our participants experiences

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Niki Ernst

The Businesstherapist.

Founder and CEO of IACy e.U.
The Innovationagencynetwork

Arnethgasse 44/26

1160 Vienna

Austria