Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some Background

I am a venture capitalist who straddles the Atlantic, working in Israeli high tech for a US based investment partnership, Bessemer Venture Partners. Venture capital has been my life for the past 12 years, since I immigrated to Israel from the US. Back then, the venture capital market in Israel had only just begun to sprout, and in my search to find interesting companies, I quickly discovered that Israel itself was a start-up. And like generations of immigrants before me, I too was an entrepreneur of sorts in a national endeavor to build a more prosperous country. All of this gives me what I presume to be a unique perspective on venture capital and Israel, as I am not a native of either country, though I hold citizenship in both.












Founder of Bessemer(left) and the Founding of Tel Aviv, 1909(right)

Bessemer was founded in 1911, when Israel was still a quiet, desolate province of the vast Ottoman Empire. I use this juxtaposition to illustrate how far Israel has come since its founding almost 60 years ago(the picture above is the founding of Tel Aviv in 1909). For those in the high tech industry, venture capital and Israel might seem as natural as milk and honey, but one often forgets that Israel is probably the only country in which to quote Sir Isaiah Berlin “socialism preceded capitalism; trade unions acquired power before industrialists.”(“The Origins of Israel”)

Regardless of this overlooked fact, I continually marvel at how the country is able to produce so many entrepreneurs, who take one financial risk after another until success is theirs. The per capita statistics of entrepreneurialism in Israel rival the Silicon Valley, which is why I am happy to practice my trade in Israel.


However, I do not let my amazement and pride at Israel’s success prevent me from being critical or officious at times. Typical of an immigrant who assimilates through careful observation and emulation of the new country and its people, I have thoughts on many of the cultural idiosyncrasies and habits that characterize business in Israel. In short, some of posts will express delight, while others express frustration.

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