Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle (Anglais) Broché – 1 septembre 2011
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Four guys are standing on a street corner . . .
an American, a Russian, a Chinese man, and an Israeli. . . .
A reporter comes up to the group and says to them:
"Excuse me. . . . What's your opinion on the meat shortage?"
The American says: What's a shortage?
The Russian says: What's meat?
The Chinese man says: What's an opinion?
The Israeli says: What's "Excuse me"?
-Mike Leigh, Two Thousand Years
Scott Thompson looked at his watch. He was running behind. He had a long list of to-dos to complete by the end of the week, and it was already Thursday. Thompson is a busy guy. As president and former chief technology officer of PayPal, the largest Internet payment system in the world, he runs the Web's alternative to checks and credit cards. But he'd promised to give twenty minutes to a kid who claimed to have a solution to the problem of online payment scams, credit card fraud, and electronic identity theft.
Shvat Shaked did not have the brashness of an entrepreneur, which was just as well, since most start-ups, Thompson knew, didn't go anywhere. He did not look like he had the moxie of even a typical PayPal junior engineer. But Thompson wasn't going to say no to this meeting, not when Benchmark Capital had requested it.
Benchmark had made a seed investment in eBay, back when it was being run out of the founders' apartment as a quirky exchange site for collectible Pez dispensers. Today, eBay is an $18 billion public company with sixteen thousand employees around the world. It's also PayPal's parent company. Benchmark was considering an investment in Shaked's company, Israel-based Fraud Sciences. To help with due diligence, the Benchmark partners asked Thompson, who knew a thing or two about e-fraud, to check Shaked out.
"So what's your model, Shvat?" Thompson asked, eager to get the meeting over with. Shifting around a bit like someone who hadn't quite perfected his one-minute "elevator pitch," Shaked began quietly: "Our idea is simple. We believe that the world is divided between good people and bad people, and the trick to beating fraud is to distinguish between them on the Web."
Thompson suppressed his frustration. This was too much, even as a favor to Benchmark. Before PayPal, Thompson had been a top executive at credit card giant Visa, an even bigger company that was no less obsessed with combating fraud. A large part of the team at most credit card companies and online vendors is devoted to vetting new customers and fighting fraud and identity theft, because that's where profit margins can be largely determined and where customer trust is built or lost.
Visa and the banks it partnered with together had tens of thousands of people working to beat fraud. PayPal had two thousand, including some fifty of their best PhD engineers, trying to stay ahead of the crooks. And this kid was talking about "good guys and bad guys," as if he were the first to discover the problem.
"Sounds good," Thompson said, not without restraint. "How do you do that?"
"Good people leave traces of themselves on the Internet-digital footprints-because they have nothing to hide," Shvat continued in his accented English. "Bad people don't, because they try to hide themselves. All we do is look for footprints. If you can find them, you can minimize risk to an acceptable level and underwrite it. It really is that simple."
Thompson was beginning to think that this guy with the strange name had flown in not from a different country but rather a different planet. Didn't he know that fighting fraud is a painstaking process of checking backgrounds, wading through credit histories, building sophisticated algorithms to determine trustworthiness? You wouldn't walk into NASA and say, "Why build all those fancy spaceships when all you need is a slingshot?"
Still, out of respect for Benchmark, Thompson thought he'd indulge Shaked for a few more minutes. "So where did you learn how to do this?" he asked.
"Hunting down terrorists," Shaked said matter-of-factly. His unit in the army had been tasked with helping to catch terrorists by tracking their online activities. Terrorists move money through the Web with fictitious identities. Shvat's job was to find them online.
Thompson had heard enough from this "terrorist hunter," too much even, but he had a simple way out. "Have you tried this at all?" he asked.
"Yes," Shaked said with quiet self-assurance. "We've tried it on thousands of transactions, and we were right about all of them but four."
Yeah, right , Thompson thought to himself. But he couldn't help becoming a bit more curious. How long did that take? he asked.
Shaked said his company had analyzed forty thousand transactions over five years, since its founding.
"Okay, so here's what we're going to do," Thompson said, and he proposed that he give Fraud Sciences one hundred thousand PayPal transactions to analyze. These were consumer transactions PayPal had already processed. PayPal would have to scrub some of the personal data for legal privacy reasons, which would make Shvat's job more difficult. "But see what you can do," Thompson offered, "and get back to us. We'll compare your results with ours."
Since it had taken Shvat's start-up five years to go through their first forty thousand transactions, Thompson figured he wouldn't be seeing the kid again anytime soon. But he wasn't asking anything unfair. This was the sort of scaling necessary to determine whether his bizarre-sounding system was worth anything in the real world.
The forty thousand transactions Fraud Sciences had previously processed had been done manually. Shaked knew that to meet PayPal's challenge he would have to automate his system in order to handle the volume, do so without compromising reliability, and crunch the transactions in record time. This would mean taking the system he'd tested over five years and turning it upside down, quickly.
Thompson gave the transaction data to Shvat on a Thursday. "I figured I was off the hook with Benchmark," he recalled. "We'd never hear from Shvat again. Or at least not for months." So he was surprised when he received an e-mail from Israel on Sunday. It said, "We're done."
Thompson didn't believe it. First thing Monday morning, he handed Fraud Sciences' work over to his team of PhDs for analysis; it took them a week to match the results up against PayPal's. But by Wednesday, Thompson's engineers were amazed at what they had seen so far. Shaked and his small team produced more accurate results than PayPal had, in a shorter amount of time, and with incomplete data. The difference was particularly pronounced on the transactions that had given PayPal the most trouble-on these, Fraud Sciences had performed 17 percent better. This was the category of customer applicants, Thompson told us, that PayPal initially rejected. But in light of what PayPal now knows from monitoring the rejected customers' more recent credit reports, Thompson said, those rejections were a mistake: "They are good customers. We should never have rejected them. They slipped through our system. But how did they not slip through Shaked's system?"
Thompson realized that he was looking at a truly original tool against fraud. With even less data than PayPal had, Fraud Sciences was able to more accurately predict who would turn out to be a good customer and who would not. "I was sitting here, dumbfounded," Thompson recalled. "I didn't get it. We're the best in the business at risk management. How is it that this fifty-five-person company from Israel, with a crackpot theory about 'good guys' and 'bad guys,' managed to beat us?" Thompson estimated that Fraud Sciences was five years ahead of PayPal in the effectiveness of its system. His previous company, Visa, would never have been able to come up with such thinking, even if given ten or fifteen years to work on it.
Thompson knew what he had to tell Benchmark: PayPal could not afford to risk letting its competitors get hold of Fraud Sciences' breakthrough technology. This was not a company Benchmark should invest in; PayPal needed to acquire the company.
Thompson went to eBay's CEO , Meg Whitman, to bring her into the loop. "I told Scott that it was impossible," Whitman related. "We're the market leader. Where on earth did this tiny little company come from?" Thompson and his team of PhDs walked her through the results. She was astounded.
Now Thompson and Whitman had a truly unexpected problem on their hands. What could they tell Shvat? If Thompson told this start-up's CEO that he had handily beaten the industry leader, the start-up's team would realize they were sitting on something invaluable. Thompson knew that PayPal had to buy Fraud Sciences, but how could he tell Shvat the test results without jacking up the company's price and negotiating position?
So he stalled. He responded to Shaked's anxious e-mails by saying PayPal needed more time for analysis. Finally, he said he would share the results in person the next time the Fraud Sciences team was in San Jose, hoping to buy more time. Within a day or two, Shaked was on Thompson's doorstep.
What Thompson did not know, however, was that the Fraud Sciences founders-Shaked and Saar Wilf, who served together in Israel's elite army intelligence unit, called 8200-were not interested in selling their company to PayPal. They just wanted Thompson's blessing as they proceeded down a checklist of due diligence requirements for Benchmark Capital.
Thompson went back to Meg: "We need to make a decision. They're here." She gave him the go-ahead: "Let's buy it." After some valuation work, they offered $79 million. Shaked declined. The Fraud Sciences board, which included the Israeli venture firm BRM Capital, believed the company was worth at least $200 million.
Eli Barkat, one of the founding partners of BRM , explained to us his theory behind the company's... --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Revue de presse
―Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, and bestselling author of The Greatest Generation
"In the midst of the chaos of the Middle East, there's a remarkable story of innovation. START-UP NATION is... a timely book and a much-needed celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit."
―Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay
"Senor and Singer's experience[s]...come to life in their illuminating, timely, and often surprising analysis."
―George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC?s "This Week"
"No one else, in my judgment, has written regularly about
"An edifying, cogent report."
"A rich and insightful read."
"Saul Singer's Confronting Jihad should be mandatory reading for anyone, layman or expert, interested in the real
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Congratulations to the authors.
Professor of Management of Technology, MIT Sloan School of Management
Founder and Chair, MIT Entrepreneurship Center
In any case this present book focuses on Israel's scientific and even more technological achievements. It speaks about the Israeli reaction to the Arab boycott, and the special situation of 'confinement' Israelis feel at not having normal access to neighboring countries. Israel is a very small country physically and thus many have a certain claustrophobic sense , especially those youngsters who have served in the Army. After the Army many young people adventurously use their new - found freedom.
Two forms of this are the trekking Israelis do throughout distant regions of the world, with special emphasis on South America, and the India- Nepal region, and the 'tech-ing' Israelis do in creating start-ups at a rate all out of proportion to their numbers in the world. Israelis have hooked into high- tech communications and rode on the wave of a world economy which is increasingly electronic.
The start- ups too come in part because of an encouraging government policy, which devotes a high proportion of funds to research. But they also come because Israelis are a people continually forced to find non- conventional answers to very difficult and unusual problems.
For any supporter of Israel, and I assume that this is the real audience of this book, this book will be a real pleasure. It will provide yet more evidence of how one small state manages to make real contributions to the global economy, and the scientific and technological progress of mankind.
In Israel, it seems, there is a culture that embraces the questioning of authority, a flat hierarchical structure across society, and risk seeking behavior. For those who have traveled to Israel, these notions will not be unfamiliar to you. Furthermore, the book explores how the contacts made during mandatory army service serve as valuable social networking tools later on.
The book was exactly was I was hoping for. It is written for the layperson, and did not read like an academic journal. While most books about Israel focus on its conflict with the Palestinians, this book only brought up politics and conflict as it pertained to the subject at hand, and didn't editorialize in the process. Furthermore, the multitude of stories and vignettes made it a engaging read that held my interest for the time I sat reading it.
I wrote my first business plan in high school. The two-page plan (perhaps an overstatement) was promptly filed and forgotten instead of pitched to investors. The concept of offering free internet access to attract an audience for highly targeted advertising was later "stolen" by California-based NetZero, a company once valued at three billion dollars. This type of Chutzpa, a teenager's audacity to think he could reinvent the way people connect to the Internet, is not uncommon in Israel.
But why? Why does Israel produce "more start-up companies than large, peaceful and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the United Kingdom?" Why is it that "after the United States, Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country in the world?" These are the questions Dan Senor and Saul Singer set out to answer in their short and intriguing book.
Senor and Singer begin by asserting that the answer "it's simple - Jews are smart, so it's no surprise that Israel is innovative" will not suffice as it "obscures more than it reveals". Instead they offer a thesis based on the Cluster Theory of Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. Porter's clusters are "geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field,(1)" in Israel's case, high-tech. The closeness and interconnectedness of such institutions help foster innovation and economic growth. The authors demonstrate throughout the book how Israel serves as a cluster, if not The Cluster, of high-tech. The three main players that form this cluster, in addition to the business sector, are the Israeli government, universities, and military.
The government encourages immigration and investment in research and development. The investment is both ample (per capita, Israel spends more than any other country on civilian R&D) and smart. The authors cite for example a 16-year old, government-funding program which incentivized investors and effectively gave birth to the country's startup boom in the 1990s.
Israeli universities are world-class scientific research centers which create scientists who naturally find a home in the business sector. In 1959, with the creation of Yeda - the Weizmann Institute of Science's technology transfer company - Israeli academic institutions pioneered the practice of commercializing academic discoveries. This is a particular strength of Israeli universities today.
The unique element in the cluster might be the military. Senor and Singer explore the IDF's significant role in producing innovation. Elite intelligence and technology units train many of the next generation's entrepreneurs. Combat units empower Israelis to make split-second decisions and both assume awesome responsibilities and challenge -rather than blindly obey - their superiors. Compulsory military service is where future business relationships are made and reserve duty is where they are maintained. CEOs don't turn up their noses but seek out veterans and value their experience. The authors survey the birth of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) as a case study highlighting the security industry's role as a growth engine for other industries, and how security technologies often migrate into the high-tech industry.
This cross-pollination between government, academia, military and the business sector greatly contributes to Israeli innovation. But the heart and soul of the cluster is Israeli society. The interconnectedness between these institutions works primarily because of Israel's small size and close-knit society. Israeli startup veteran Yossi Vardi's statement that "everybody knows everybody" in Israel is a cliché but not without some truth. But there's more to it than size.
"The greatest contribution of the Jewish people in history is dissatisfaction," Shimon Peres tells the authors. "That's poor for politics but good for science." Peres notes that when a new shipment of the latest technologies arrives from the U.S, within five minutes Israelis are taking it apart and trying to improve. This is true throughout Israeli society. Israelis are constantly inventing and reinventing, thinking and rethinking, trying to improve themselves and everything around them. Additionally, Israelis are not afraid to fail, and most possess the right balance of personal ambition and an individualistic drive with a spirit of collaboration and sense of community. These are all critical success factors for a healthy startup culture.
Try as they may to steer clear from the "Jews are smart" theory, Senor and Singer end up recognizing that the unique conditions of Israel as a Jewish State and Israelis' unique sense of purpose that results are the core of Israel's success as a startup nation. The personal and professional journeys of Israelis Shai Agassi and David Frohman are prime examples. Had Shai Agassi stayed in California, he would have likely been appointed the next CEO of SAP, one of the most lucrative and sought-after jobs in Information Technology. But Agassi, whose story is told in great detail in the book's introduction, decided to help free Israel and the world from oil dependency. An ardent Zionist, he launched Project Better Place, the most ambitious electric vehicle project in history, and chose Israel for his pilot site.
David Frohman helped build Intel from the ground up in California. The obvious career choice for him was to stay put and benefit from Intel's growth and success, yet Frohman returned in 1974 to the Jewish State to realize the then improbable vision of turning Israel into a world leader in chip design. During the 1991 Gulf War, with missiles falling on Israeli population centers, Intel instructed Frohman to "do whatever you must do." Why did Frohman keep Intel's plants open? And why would Intel employees choose to continue showing up to work, as the authors note, "the more brazen the attacks, the larger the turnout?" Senor and Singer answer in a single word - davka, a unique Hebrew word loosely translated as to spite'. Israelis possess a sense of purpose that drives them to thrive davka in the face of security threats and adversity.
After 242 pages of an easy and enjoyable read, one realizes that the answer to the authors' question was hiding in the book's title all along. Israel does not just produce startups, it is a startup. Israel is a young, entrepreneurially spirited, small yet fast-growing, fast-paced, nimble, impatient, risk-taking, anti-hierarchical, creative and - perhaps most importantly - successful startup. If Zionism was a daring two-page business plan (with Herzl as a starry-eyed entrepreneur knocking relentlessly on doors of European venture capitalists), then Israel is its equally unimaginable successful outcome. Today, "The new pioneering Zionist narrative is about creating things," entrepreneur Erel Margalit tells the authors. Startups are not grown in a vacuum; they need the right breeding grounds, an incubator, if you will. And what better country to serve as a startup incubator than a country that is a startup? Therein lies the author's main revelation.
Senor, a former Deputy White House Press Secretary, and Singer, a Jerusalem Post writer, and are first and foremost excellent storytellers. What makes the book a must-read are the dozens of anecdotes and case studies. The authors' two comprehensive rolodexes translate into more than 100 top-quality interviews. They spoke with senior Israeli officials such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, met with chief executives at Google, Cisco and Intel, and interviewed military experts, Jewish historians, and some of the key figures in Israel's venture capital and high-tech scene, including Erel Margalit, Chemi Peres, Yossi Vardi, Jon Medved and many others. The outcome is fascinating. The authors' access to industry experts also brings to light lesser known tales, such as the account of a power struggle between Intel Haifa and Intel Santa Clara, which may be the highlight of the book. Senor and Singer unveil a 2003 drama, little known outside the semiconductor industry, in which Intel Haifa managed to save the company and perhaps the entire industry from an almost certain downfall by thinking out of the box and using Israeli chutzpa to relentlessly force senior executives into a paradigm shift.
It is not clear who the target audience is for this book. First and foremost, the authors hope it will become the ultimate playbook for CEOs, a compilation of lessons American executives can learn from Israelis about innovation. Senor and Singer quote HBS Professor Jon Kao, who says that the United States is "rapidly becoming the fat, complacent, Detroit of nations." The authors repeatedly state that America has much to learn from Israeli innovation but struggle to find exportable lessons and end up focusing mostly on what is unique to Israel. Consequently, their recommendations seem forced and not completely hashed out. They derive from the Israeli experience, for example, that mandatory service - either in the military or in some sort of national service - could help foster innovation. But what would this system look like? How would this affect the deeply-rooted capitalist ethos of American society? These questions remain unanswered. Perhaps the book is meant for business students. It is certainly not academic, but Senor's HBS background and investing involvement are apparent through the use of business jargon and academic theories. It is not implausible that a chapter would be used by professors in the field of business innovation, but more than that is unlikely. Most seriously, the authors touch upon but do not offer an adequate explanation of how to take startups to the next level and create larger, viable corporations that thrive over time. Israel may have the same problems.
The book clearly tries to appeal to Zionist audiences. The Jewish authors are unabashedly Zionist and are clearly ideologically motivated. Singer dedicates the book to his brother, an officer in the IDF who was killed in Lebanon. Senor dedicates the book to his father who helped start the Weizmann Institute's pioneering solar energy research program. While the authors need not completely distance themselves from the subject matter in such a book, at times it reads like a Ministry of Foreign Affairs or an "Invest in Israel Hasbarah" (Israel advocacy) book. Their juxtaposition of Israel with Gulf States is helpful in highlighting why growth without civil liberties, creativity, and an engaged population cannot build a cluster of high-tech innovation. But the authors seemed to have too much fun with the analogy, as if to say "look what Israel can do and its Arab neighbors cannot." As a Hasbarah piece, it is indeed the long-lost, mature, sophisticated and beefy cousin of the Israel21Cs and "Israel invented the Cell Phone" burgeoning positive messaging resources, but that's the problem: by definition it isn't a Hasbarah project.
The average business student might enjoy the book as light reading, but it is not likely to be assigned as an academic textbook. CEOs might read it to learn lessons from the stories told, but it falls short of becoming "a playbook for every CEO." There is too much technological jargon for non-techies and at the same time it is probably too journalistic for industry insiders. And for those interested in innovation outside the Jewish/pro-Israel community, the book's Zionist focus might be too hard hitting.
It is impossible to understand Israel as a startup nation without examining the many components that make it so. While there is something for everyone in the book - academic, businessperson, Zionist, technologist and story lover, it is the possibly rare reader who combines all of the above who would take greatest pleasure in the book. That may imply a narrow readership - although I can think of at least one now-post high school business plan writing Israel advocate who thinks it's a must read. There may also be seven million other potential readers, Israeli entrepreneurs who fuse many interests to form an entrepreneurial spirit. But if the authors are right in asserting that all those interested in innovation could stand to benefit from following Israel's entrepreneurial model, this book may be a good place to start.
i Harvard Business School - Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness Web Site - [...].
This is a good book. It provides a very nice vision for those who are interested in economic development, industrial policy and especially innovation/entrepreneurship policy. There are invaluable hints regarding those topics, however much they are hidden in between the lines. Nevertheless, as I said, the tips are invaluable and very teaching.
The main question I had in mind while reading the book was whether I could take home some of the experiences and lessons described in the book. Some definitely cannot be imported. They are those idiosyncratic things which are very much Israeli and Jewish-specific:
- For example the role of Jewish diaspora and the resultant "connectedness" that came with it,
- the geographical positioning of Israel, the 'culture' of Israeli jews,
- war-related chance-based motivations,
- reverse Jewish brain-drain en masse and
- the never ending US-support of Israel (though, in the book, you hardly trace any mention of this tremendously important fact, which I believe, is a major bias of the book).
There are, however, many other factors that you can take home regarding innovation and industrial policy, like:
- The importance of talent & human resources,
- critical roles of cross-training, of
- venture capital financing,
- multidisciplinary approach to business problems,
- proximity of the elements of an ecosystem,
- of sense of community membership for the success of business clusters, and
- culture of risk-taking, failure-welcoming and 'chutzpah'.
- Also very important is the book's verification of the positive and critical role of government intervention in a country's entrepreneurial push and economic development.
Those are very valuable aspects of the book.
Moreover, the book is also very enlightening for those people like me who have very little knowledge about Israel and never interested in learning about that country's inner workings. Because, while you read with a focus to find clues regarding innovation and entrepreneurial policy, you learn the history, predicaments and some aspects of the inner workings of Israel's economic system. This, I personally found very interesting; kind of buy one, get one free.
In a nutshell, even though this is a deliberate 'marketing' effort for Israel, it is still a very valuable book for those interested in industrial, entrepreneurial and innovation policy. It is, however, not at all a guide for company-specific innovation policies and certainly NOT a business-related book.
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