From Spoon Bending to Miraculous Start-up Culture

Published: February 17th 2010

Dan Senor
Pic: UJA
Mentalist Haim Goldenberg
Pic: UJA
UJA campaign chairs with Senor (centre)
Pic: UJA

Even though she left Haiti many years ago, she was “devastated by news of the earthquake” and its terrible destruction and loss of life.


We are “blessed to live in Toronto and to be part of a community of caring and compassionate Jews who have gone out of the way to be of help to my people,” she said, mentioning that Israel was the first nation to set up a hospital in Port-au-Prince.


She thanked the community on behalf of all Haitians.


“We say to each and every one of you that the Haitian people will remember your generosity and solidarity,” she said.


After the Midway State played another song, Dan Senor, co-author of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, spoke about his book and Israel’s culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.


He began by praising Toronto as a leader in Jewish community initiatives compared to larger cities such as New York or Chicago.


Toronto is “known globally for the leadership of the community and the Federation,” he said.


His book tries to answer the questions of the “how and why” of Israel’s incredible business success story. His journey began in 2001 when he took a group of 27 Harvard Business students to Israel to study the economic opportunities available there. At the end of the trip, the mostly non-Jewish students saw the “what” but not the “why”. He began to investigate the “why.”


He gave many facts during his talk. There are more Israeli companies on the NASDAQ than any other country except for the U.S. and China. More global venture capital is attracted to Israel than any other country in the world. For instance, European venture capitalists invest more in Israel than in Europe. Even with the difficult events taking place in Israel during the period of 2000 to 2006, global venture capital still did not level off. (For example, right before the 2006 Lebanon War, billionaire U.S. investor Warren Buffet purchased a controlling share in an Israeli company, the first time he had ever become majority owner of a firm outside the U.S.)


In fact, during the period of 2000 to 2006, Israel’s share of the global venture capital pie actually doubled!


The “how” of Israel’s story is the amazing part of the book, said Senor. When he began writing the book with co-author Paul Singer, they discussed why no one had written about Israeli entrepreneurs before.


He brought up the economic collapse that led to the recent terrible recession, listing Lehman Brothers shocking downfall.


“What happened to real economic growth?” he asked, noting that real growth can only come from the kind of technological innovation seen in Israel – a “quintessential nation of start-ups” with the highest density of such businesses in the world.

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