Why is Israel the “Startup Nation”? Human capital | Opinion

Editor’s note: Natalie Gochnour, associate dean of the David Eccles School of Business and contributor to Deseret News, traveled with a delegation of business and community leaders on a World Trade Center Utah-led trade mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates United. Here’s an insider’s look at what happened on the trade mission in the third in a six-part series.

Only three countries have managed to land a spacecraft on the Moon: the United States, China and the Soviet Union. All were superpowers and enjoyed strong support from their national governments.

In April 2019, Israel attempted to be the fourth country to successfully land on the moon. Unfortunately, the little robot, known as Beresheet, did not quite succeed. After taking a selfie above the lunar surface, mission control lost communications about 489 feet before crashing into the gray earth below.

Entrepreneur Morris Kahn helped found the Beresheet mission. Shortly after the failed landing attempt, he said, “Well, we didn’t make it, but we definitely tried.” The day after the crash, in an extraordinary vote of confidence and a sign of perseverance, the founders received over $1 million in donations to try again.

Amit Kurtz, a general partner at an Israeli venture capital fund who met with members of the Utah Economic Opportunity Commission, said in telling the story, “We are a country of resilience. We failed. OKAY. Let’s go back and succeed.

It is the combination of big dreams, perseverance and an educated population that inspires visitors to Israel. This country of just over nine million people punches way above its weight and has been crowned “startup nation.” Their positive attitude is unmistakable. Governor Spencer Cox put it this way: “Israel changes you.”

At the business delegation’s opening dinner, Senate Speaker Stuart Adams challenged the group to build on that experience and make Utah better. On Day 4, the delegation fanned out into multiple tracks. Dan Hemmert, who heads the governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, observed that at one point Utah had eight different meetings going on simultaneously.

I attended the innovation meetings and learned lessons about how Utah can replicate Israel’s success as one of the most successful tech ecosystems in the world.

Israel’s innovation statistics are the most impressive in the world. In meetings with the Israel Innovation Authority and a major venture capital fund in Tel Aviv, we learned that Israel ranks first in the world in terms of number of startups per capita, R&D spending as a percentage of GDP, venture capital investment per capita, and unicorns per capita.

Whether it’s USB drives, voice mail, drip irrigation, instant messaging, pill cameras, wearable robotics or hundreds of other groundbreaking innovations, Israel is a world capital of innovation.

The people we met argued that the main reason for their success can be summed up in two words: human capital. Sagi Dagan, vice president of strategy at the Israel Innovation Authority, said: “All we have in this part of the Middle East is our brains.

This is a sentiment shared by Shimon Peres who served as Israeli Prime Minister and President. We visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. A plaque on the wall quotes Peres saying, “In Israel, a land devoid of natural resources, we have discovered the greatest resource of all: human capital, which is richer than any of the earth’s resources. It is human capital that makes Israel the Startup Nation.

At lunch with Israeli futurist Adi Yoffe, a group of us learned more about Israel’s commitment to human capital. She told us that to understand Israel, you have to understand the Jewish spirit. She explained that Jewish children read and write from the age of 3. She highlighted the lasting imprint of the Holocaust and how it motivates service to family and country. “We want to establish our families to last,” she said. That’s why they invest so much in their success. “Success in Israel (comes) from the will to survive and create something new,” she said.

The focus on education in Israel got me thinking about education in the Hive State. Utah scores above US averages in academic achievement, especially as measured by standardized tests. But, after seeing Israel’s innovation ecosystem, I wonder if we are doing enough?

Utah, like the nation, suffers from low proficiency rates in math and reading (both below 50% for fourth graders and below 40% for eighth graders). university entrance exam results. How can we be the Startup State if we don’t upskill all Utahns? I think we can do much better.

The selfie of the Israeli mooncraft bore a label on Israel that read: “Small country, big dreams”. This visit to Israel taught me that when it comes to education, Utah should consider even bigger dreams. Startup State should learn from Startup Nation.

Natalie Gochnour is Associate Dean and Director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

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