You’re driving down a tree-lined street. Large buildings surround you, each bearing a logo accompanied by a recognizable name in big bold letters. To the left is Google. To the right is IBM. Up ahead you see Microsoft and Facebook and Intel. Where might you be cruising that allows you to be in the presence of all these great tech giants? If you say the Silicon Valley in California’s Bay Area, you are very close conceptually but about 7400 miles off geographically. You are actually in Israel – the nation that has become known as the Silicon Wadi. The word “wadi” is Arabic for a valley or ravine that remains dry, except during the rainy season.
Israel has become the go-to Middle East headquarters for many of the multi-national tech behemoths. Because of this massive technological presence, it has naturally become a center for innovation and entrepreneurship. Recently, Israel was ranked as the third best tech startup ecosystem just behind the US and the UK, bumping Canada back to fourth position.i Startups are new, privately-owned businesses that are often high-risk and are funded personally or through friends and family or through crowdfunding. This entrepreneurial spirit has not only spawned a remarkable number of creative businesses but has made Israel a magnet for even more big-name companies. Along with titans listed above, you can find Motorola, Amazon, H-P, eBay, SanDisk, Apple, Micron Technology, and many others.
The unique nature of the Silicon Wadi lies not just in its fertile ground for planting startups, but for growing them into massive money-making businesses. In fact, Israel has the highest rate per capita of unicorns.ii Sadly for your school-age daughters, this is not referring to mythical horned horses trotting around Haifa (although in Tel Aviv, there’s no telling what you’ll see these days). A unicorn is a privately held startup that is valued at over US$1 billion. They are so named, because a private company with that kind of valuation is incredibly rare. Currently, there are 41 Israeli-founded unicorns, with some of them reaching double, triple, and quadruple unicorn status.iii This is just those that currently remain privately owned. It does not take into account the Israeli startups that have gone public or that have been acquired by other companies.
One particularly interesting area of the Wadi is Yokneam. Located at the base of the Carmel Mountains overlooking the Jezreel Valley, Yokneam is essentially a “startup village”. Positioned near Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Haifa, it is ideally situated to be a technological research and development hub.iv Not only does this town of less than 24,000 people, surrounded by forest and farmland, house many satellites of big-name corporations, such as Panasonic, Medtronic, and Mellanox Technologies, but it is also home to more than 100 cutting-edge startups.
The Silicon Valley is still number one when it comes to technology giants. But if you’re looking for men and women who are entrepreneurial, cutting edge, and ready to take a risk, leave the Valley and head for the Wadi. And who knows? You just might spot a unicorn or two.
i Spiro, James. “Israel Is Ranked Third in the World for Tech, but Can It Hold Its Spot?” CTECH – Www.calcalistech.com, 29 Oct. 2020, www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3866873,00.html.
ii Leichman, Abigail Klein. “Israel Becomes Scale-up Nation with More Unicorns per Capita.” Israel21c, 26 Oct. 2020, www.israel21c.org/guess-what-nation-has-the-most-unicorns-per-capita-israel/.
iv “About Startup Village Yokneam.” Startup Village Yokneam, www.startupvillageyokneam.org/about-startup-village-yokneam.