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There’s so much to love about Israel, the awe-inspiring history of Jerusalem, the hubbub of Tel Aviv, the welcoming people, to name but a few. And, having returned from my first trip there in a few years, to present at a seminar organised by our Code Red agency in Israel on “How to Launch a Cyber Security Company in Europe”, it felt a bit like taking coals to Newcastle. There’s probably no other country on the planet that’s so in touch with the concept of “Going Global”.
Yet what struck me once again as it had on previous visits, was the sheer work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of the people. The cyber security industry is not only “alive and kicking” in Israel, it is positively doing summersaults; due in no small part to the role of the elite military Israeli Defence Forces, like Unit 82000, which is unquestionably at the heart of the cyber start up community. It’s little wonder that cyber security exports from Israel are second only in size to the US, which – when you consider the size of Israel a country of just 8.5 million inhabitants – is an astonishing achievement. There is today around 430 cyber security start-ups, generating exports of more than $60 billion – suffice to say who was I to teach them anything!
Given the very limited appeal of the home market, the desire to export is in the very DNA of the people and the march of exports to the USA is pursued with an almost messianic zeal. What’s also immediately apparent, is the integral role of VCs and universities like Ben- Gurion University in developing and nurturing the skills needed to create cyber security global giants like Check Point and the more recent IPO success of Cyber Ark. Today, many ex Check Point alumni are at the helm of a new generation of disruptive security companies like Illusive Networks and SentinelOne (full disclosure we do the PR for SentinelOne) and – judging by the latest line up of Gartner’s Security Cool Vendors – there are many more cyber successes waiting in the wings. The one thing you notice about the Israeli people is their connectedness. Everyone knows everybody else, which means that if you do a great job for one then everyone gets to hear about it. Conversely of course the same is true!
It’s also interesting to observe that, whilst the home market holds limited potential from a sales standpoint, the intense battle to attract and retain the brightest minds in the cyber security firmament is feeding the local demand for PR services. Whilst it’s clear too that the VC funds in Israel are following their US peers in reducing the numbers of investments, there is little doubt in my mind that we will continue to see mindboggling innovation from this land of cyber security promise for many years to come.