Here are six important lessons for entrepreneurs around the world.
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Israel is home to more startups per capita than any other country, and its high-tech companies have graduated to the Nasdaq in droves, giving the nation of only 8.2 million people the third-highest number of listings on the exchange, after the much larger United States and China.
I recently discussed this phenomenon with Hillel Fuld, CMO of Zula, a provider of team communications technology, who also blogs about the Israeli tech scene and advises several other Israeli startups. Here are six important lessons for entrepreneurs around the world that we can learn from Israeli startups:
- To outperform great marketing, focus on delivering an excellent product that solves a real need for customers. As examples of great Israeli companies with surprisingly little focus on marketing, Fuld cites the content recommendation engines Taboola and Outbrain, both of which have concentrated on product and sales since their inceptions. Today, Outbrain claims that its engine makes 150 billion recommendations a month, and a recent report states that 86 percent of Americans are exposed to Taboola at least once a month–meaning that, perhaps without knowing it, more of us are interacting with these engines than using Facebook or Yahoo.
- Reach the right customer. Besides working hard to create a great product, Fitness22 CEO Benny Shaviv, according to Fuld, spent significant amounts of time studying app-store optimization to propel his various fitness applications to the top of query results. With no investors and next to no marketing, Fitness22 has achieved tens of millions of downloads–with its apps appearing at the top of relevant search results.
- Don’t let external challenges impact your moving forward. During Israel’s mass tech explosion of the past two decades, the country has been plagued with multiple rounds of terrorism, some of which have led to all-out wars. At times, startups have had to function without key personnel who were called up for reserve military duty. During these periods, however, innovation grew, and venture capital investment rose to more than a billion dollars a quarter. We all face external challenges–let them serve as motivators, rather than as reasons for becoming discouraged or throwing in the towel.
- Don’t stop building. Israeli entrepreneurs who successfully exit companies frequently do not retire; they build something new. And, in many cases, the entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t diminish with age. Fuld likes to point out that Bob Rosenschein–who sold Answers.com for $127 million in 2011–started his present venture, Curiyo, when he was nearly 60 years old.
- Recharge regularly. Saturday is a true day off in Israel; for some Israelis it’s a time for religious observances; for others it’s a beach day. But either way, the downtime allows for renewed energy and focus at work the following week.
- Give everyone a voice. Israeli startups are less structured and focused on formalities than their counterparts in many other parts of the world. People are encouraged to vocalize their opinions even if they disagree with more senior team members and managers. Such a culture can help prevent mistakes from being made by reducing the likelihood of someone refraining from sharing valuable insight that others overlooked.