In April 2013, my co-founder Stevan and I decided to take the unusual step of relocating My Currency Transfer & it’s staff from London to Tel Aviv. Israel is a major tech capital of the world and boasts more companies listed on NASDAQ than all of Europe combined.
Today, I’m grateful at the opportunity Thomas has given me to share some of the main similarities & differences between start-up life in London & Tel Aviv.
Calibre of Entrepreneurs
We certainly got the impression that Tel Aviv startup entrepreneurs are more mature, and start their business ventures much later in life compared to a young upstart from London. I think this is due to mandatory military service in Israel, which normally happens at an age where UK entrepreneurs would be at University.
For me, the military has an incredibly positive influence on Israeli entrepreneurs, and has no doubt contributed to the success of the ‘Startup Nation.’ In the army, it’s survival at all costs.
Young Israelis put themselves on the line, sacrificing themselves for a bigger cause. This battlefield experience, combined with the absolute necessity of being a team player, is certainly a huge benefit when making the move from army to start-up life.
Meetups & Events
In both countries, you can literally go a whole week without having to pay for a beer or dinner. There are countless numbers of meetups, hackathons and events for the startup community. In London, we were based at co-working space in Old Street, a real epicentre of entrepreneurship. We loved getting involved in the numerous startup competitions & ‘pitch’ nights.
You can certainly compare this to the Tel Aviv startup event circuit. Most organised talks & meetups we went to are based around the Rotchild Area, in the centre of Tel Aviv. Finding relevant events was probably a little more difficult than in London, but a quick # search on Twitter or various Facebook groups steered us in the right direction.
Fear of Failure
In my opinion, Israel has much more of a tolerance for failure compared to London based entrepreneurs. Many Israelis proudly display on their business cards ‘Entrepreneur,’ something I have never really come across in London.
It’s almost part of their identity & represents a nation who view entrepreneurship as a pretty trendy profession. Parents and Grandparents in London may boast of their son or daughter, the ‘‘lawyer’’ or ‘‘accountant.’’ Playing it safe is not considered so sexy.
Recently, Tel Aviv got voted one of the top 10 beach cities in the world. We really enjoyed the feeling of living and working in an outdoor culture. Our staff loved the thrill of waking up in the morning, going for a run on the beach, coming back to the apartment, showering and then jumping on a bike to work.
According to Phil Blackwell, our Head of Design ‘‘ I certainly felt more alive and wake in the mornings. It was real pleasure escaping the daily commute on the Subway. Rush hour simply didn’t come into the equation.’’
In Tel Aviv, it’s also much easier to move around. Despite there not being an underground like London, travel time between meetings wasn’t as much of an issue compared to London.
However, one aspect of startup life we much preferred in London compared to Tel Aviv is punctuality. In London, if a meeting is scheduled for 3pm, it happens at 3pm.
In Tel Aviv, the general culture of meetings happening on time is more relaxed. At times, this could be a little infuriating! However, we enjoyed the Israeli charm and ‘chutzpah’ – Israelis are a direct bunch and really do call a spade a spade!
Two vibrant & forward thinking tech communities
To conclude, I think both countries can be proud of the vibrant & ambitious tech driven communities that are being built. It’s no surprise global leaders like Google, Microsoft & Apple have a strong presence in both. Whilst we are still at the early part of crafting our own journey, I’m proud we have a strong setup in both.