Gil Kerbs, VentureBeat: ‘It’s not rudeness, it’s chutzpah’ – an insider’s take on Israel’s startup success
October 22, 2012 7:05 AM–What makes Israelis so strong at entrepreneurship? There are many reasons for their success, but I think the roots of innovation are closely related to the Israeli culture and way of thinking. They lie in two concepts – “chutzpah” and “interdisciplinary thinking.” Most successful companies and entrepreneurs I saw in Israel, both as a journalist, and later as a VC investor had both.
The direct translation of chutzpah is “rudeness,” but it has a good meaning when it comes to business. When Israelis say you have chutzpah, they mean you know what you want and go for it. They mean you have great tenacity. They mean you’ll do what it takes.
Ask hard questions and expect real answers
When you arrive in Israel, one of the first things you realize is that Israelis are very direct, and this is a main feature of chutzpah. For example, when an Israeli tells you, “I think this is a horrible idea,” he’s not trying to insult you – he’s just trying to save both of you the time.
A famous story published in the book Startup Nation describes the first visit of a CEO of a big US company that acquired an Israeli startup. “At first it felt like these guys attacked me” describes the CEO – “but then I saw they just went to the hardest questions and expected real answers – it was not personal.”
Chutzpah – the confidence to do the impossible
But chutzpah is more than just being direct or honest – it also means daring to want what others can’t dream of or going after “impossible goals.” I have no idea what made Israelis think they can achieve anything to begin with, but it is clear that this is a mindset that is now handed from generation to generation.
When I interviewed people from the famous intelligence unit 8200 – a source of many of Israel’s most successful entrepreneurial ventures, one answer of a former programmer in the unit explained it all:“When a 18-year-old boy is told over and over by his superiors that he can do anything, he starts believing it. Then, he just goes ahead and does the impossible.” And indeed, it is reported that a handful of 18-year-olds in unit 8200 sometimes do what 50 engineers in the NSA couldn’t… Read more>>