August 27, 2018 Blog Articles

#BuildingBusiness in Tel Aviv, 2018 Innovation Trip

Last year we ran our first ever client innovation and tech trip with our travel partner, En-novate, where we took some of our top clients to Europe’s Silicon Valley; Amsterdam, Netherlands, to inspire them through tech, design and creative leadership. Due to the success of the Amsterdam trip, we decided to host another Innovation Trip in 2018. This time however, we took our top clients to Tel Aviv, Israel.


Why We Went to Tel Aviv

Our inspiration for Tel Aviv began with the book Start-up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. The book essentially discusses the drive behind Israel’s success in building themselves up, out of a desert, and becoming a world leader in tech development. Israel has more start-up companies than Japan, Korea, India, Canada or the UK. Tel Aviv is a melting pot of the absolute highest IQ in tech development, to the extent that every major large corporation around the world either has a hub or are invested in companies over there.

Israel’s start-up culture is sustained by a massive amount of private funding and equity. With a small population of just over 8 million, most companies’ business model is to build in Tel Aviv but scale and sell to other countries who have more potential for uptake. A lot of this small country’s success has been attributed to Israel’s conscription laws.


The Impact of the Military

In any country the military generally drives innovation because people’s lives are at stake. In comparison to life after school in South Africa, all 18 year olds in Israel are conscripted to the army for about three years and only then do they study. A lot of young Israelis aspire to be accepted into elite units and many people who head up successful businesses have come from these special divisions, utlising military-inspired tech to solve everyday problems.

Therefore, as a result of conscription, many Israelis have the predisposition to lead large groups of people before they’re 25 years old. This disposition to lead creates a healthy workforce driven by an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. However, their success cannot be wholly attributed to conscription.


Israeli Culture

According to a study discussed in Start-Up Nation, much of Israel’s entrepreneurial success can also be attributed to something the Israelis call chutzpah; a spirit of tenacity, in which “no” means “yes” i.e. there is no acceptance of limitations with regards to someone’s ability or determination.

This notion is distilled right down to the army where even a low ranking officer will need to be convinced to do something before complying, as having a questioning disposition is encouraged. This can even be seen when getting a cup of coffee as there is no queue but rather a “v” as people crowd in at the counter. It may seem rude to us but it’s just their way of life, a culture to hustle to get what you need. Chutzpah is in everything Israelis do, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get a “yes” which filters through into their development of tech too.

Another cultural element which supports Israel’s growth as an innovative and entrepreneurial nation is their general view of failure. Failure is seen as something to learn from, and never something to be ashamed of. If an idea fails, you simply move on to the next thing. This perspective of failure is so prominent in business that there are specially designated events called Fuckup Nights where speakers discuss their failures and everyone learns from one another.

In addition, what was interesting is that the large companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft have a head office in Tel Aviv and that they are aligned in their offerings to employees. This results in people choosing to work for a specific company because they want to, not based on better benefits.


Learnings and Take Outs

A big learning for our team and clients on the trip is to have a proactive perspective about where the future of business is going. “This entails striving to surround yourself with the smartest people you can find and gaining as much knowledge as possible, even if that means compacting two years’ worth of experiences into one. If you can do it, do it, because that’s how Israelis’ think, that’s the pace, the chutzpah.” explains Daniel Levy, Popimedia CEO.

“This means working with suppliers who are worldly, who have cut their teeth in the European market, or here, or other emerging markets where you can bring that kind of IP (intellectual property) into an environment and maybe squeeze whatever your objective is for a year into half a year by virtue of testing other minds around the world. You have to train your brain for a fast paced, hustling type of environment to always stay ahead of the game.

Another prominent thing I took out of my experience in Tel Aviv is to reverse engineer business solutions. This entails looking to the future, if you roughly understand the answer you’re looking for, then begin from there to reverse engineer your business offering.”



These were some of the most memorable companies we visited on the trip:

Fido Solutions– This company’s offering is short term lending in developing markets, similar to Wonga. Their algorithm automatically dispenses a loan within a few minutes after innovatively determining if each applicant has the ability to pay it back. The algorithm monitors each applicant’s mobile phone which has thousands of different touch points and each has a score. For example, they would be to determine if your phone has Bluetooth, if it’s connected to a car and what kind of car it is. Based on this information they’ll have a score of the probability you’ll pay back the loan, and you wouldn’t even know this is happening.


SuperSmart– SuperSmart is an automated retail store. The founder of the store identified a problem where, in certain suburbs with high population density, the supermarkets were very full at the end of the working day, and going to simply pick up a few items could take up to 45 minutes (bearing in mind how Israelis queue). This is the problem he aimed to solve. An app was developed where a customer scans the bar-codes while shopping and then drives their trolley into a scanner which performs a redundancy check through weight and visualising the actual products. The customer just verifies the final amount in-app, and the payment is made electronically as they leave.(Click Here to watch how the SuperSmart system works).​


Maniv– Maniv is a mobility venture capital fund. In essence, the company only invests their funders’ money in the future of mobility. What was explained to us on our visit was that the future will be something like the Jetsons, with automated cars guided by an expertly installed mobile eye; which many of the newer cars already have. Consider a company like Uber; in the future you’ll call a car and any vehicle will arrive without a driver. This will have massive repercussions for manufacturing as not only will the individual no longer need to own a car but then things like indicators will not be manufactured in the same way anymore as computers will run them, and you wouldn’t really need a dashboard, just a steering wheel etc. If people don’t own cars, you don’t need parking spaces, what happens to buildings then? What happens to roads etc.?


Daniel sums it up; “I felt that while visiting these companies, I was in the presence of the greatest intellectual capacity that I’ve ever been around; people of such a high caliber of competency that they could work anywhere in the world. It was incredible.”

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Katya Cook Katya works as Marketing Executive at Popimedia. She is besotted with communication and the effect discourse has on behaviour and societal structure.
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