Guinness World Records says it has recognized Israel’s Science and Technology Ministry for holding the “largest chemistry lesson.”
Guinness spokeswoman Anne-Lise Rouse confirmed the feat Thursday.
When a grey-haired grandmother clutching a smartphone mounted the stage at Montreal’s Start-up Festival this summer, young Israeli entrepreneur Guy Rosen knew he had pocketed a very special award.
His company, Tel Aviv-based Onavo, offers an application that shrinks mobile phone data to help users save money – and appeals to any age. That made Onavo the winner of the Grandmother’s Award for best start-up, judged by tech-agnostic ladies in the later stages of life.
Standing in his office in Tel Aviv, Mr Rosen recalls the moment: “They went on stage and said: ‘We love Onavo and we understand what it does… it is such an easy app to understand’ – we just save money, that’s it, period, they loved us.”
Guy Rosen is one of Israel’s many young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs who, fresh out of the army, decided to set up a tech firm.
Tiny Israel, a country embroiled in conflicts for decades, has managed to transform itself from a stretch of farmland into a high-tech wonder.
Formula for success
Israel currently has almost 4,000 active technology start-ups – more than any other country outside the United States, according to Israel Venture Capital Research Centre.
In 2010 alone the flow of venture capital amounted to $884m (£558m).
The result: high-tech exports from Israel are valued at about $18.4bn a year, making up more than 45% of Israel’s exports, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Israel is a world leader in terms of research and development spending as a percentage of the economy; it’s top in both the number of start-ups and engineers as a proportion of the population; and it’s first in per capita venture capital investment.
Not bad for a country of some eight million people – fewer than, say, Moscow or New York.
Serial entrepreneur Yossi Vardi says there is a whole blend of factors responsible for turning Israel into a start-up miracle. He himself has invested in more than 80 Israeli high-tech firms – among them the first web messaging service ICQ. He sold many of them to technology giants such as AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco.
“If you look at how this country was created, it was really a start-up on the large scale,” says Mr Vardi, who has been dubbed the godfather of Israel’s high-tech industry.
“A bunch of crazy people came here, trying to pursue a dream of 2,000 years.”
Over just a few decades, Israeli start-ups have developed groundbreaking technologies in areas such as computing, clean technology and life sciences, to name a few.
“Look at… agriculture, at the defence industry, at the universities here,” says Mr Vardi.
“The high-tech is a popular story right now, the internet gave it a lot of visibility, but the story of the culture and the spirit is part and parcel from the kinds of the cultural genes of [the Israeli] people.”
But there is more to this start-up scene than certain aspects of Israeli culture – the lack of hierarchy, a constant drive for individualism, regular risk taking. The government played a key role in the rapid rise of this start-up nation.
“The government jump-started the industry,” explains Koby Simona from Israel Venture Capital Research Centre.
One was the creation of the Yozma programme in 1993, a so-called fund of funds set up to invest in local venture capital funds that would channel money into new technology firms.
Soon numerous start-ups dotted Israel’s industry landscape, and venture capital funds mushroomed all over the country – a blooming industry that quickly attracted foreign investors.
Israel’s defence forces are also boosting entrepreneurship.
Military service is compulsory, but besides regular military units, the army also has designated hi-tech units, where computer-savvy conscripts are constantly prompted to come up with innovative ideas in disciplines such as computer security, cryptography, communications and electronic warfare.
“The military enables young people in certain units to get technological skills, to run large technological projects at a very young age, where they need to improvise in order to get fast solutions,” says Prof Niron Hashai from the Jerusalem School of Business Administration at Hebrew University.
Once back in the real world, many military alumni use the newly acquired experience to launch their own technology start-ups.
And then, of course, there is Jewish immigration – a key driver of the country’s economy since its foundation.
The biggest and the most important wave of immigration came from Russia, says Prof Hashai.
“Many were very smart people with technological background,” he says.
“Maybe they were not so much entrepreneurs, but when these guys meet Israeli-born guys, many interesting things happen.”
Members of Kibbutz Hatzor, which holds 20% stake of soy company, to enjoy proceeds from NIS 100 million exit. Deal worth about NIS 500 million; company traded on NIS 221 million market cap, thus deal represents staggering 117% premium
Giant US agricultural cooperative CHS is acquiring Israeli soy proteins company Solbar. The company is listed on TASE and owned by Kibbutz Hatzor (20%), Mivtach Shamir Holdings (17%), FIMI fund (28%) and Ori Yehudai (2%).The members of Kibbutz Hatzor will enjoy a NIS 100 million (about $26.5 million) exit in a deal worth about NIS 500 million ($133 million).
Amazingly, just three years ago Solbar was on the brink of bankruptcy until former Strauss Elite CEO Shaul Shelach was brought in to reorganize the company.
CHS is a giant US agricultural cooperative with annual sales of $30 billion in the agricultural goods, energy and financial sectors.
The deal between the two companies was signed Wednesday night. A month ago, Calcalist revealed that FIMI and Mivtach Shamir were negotiating for the sale of Solbar.
The deal is valued at NIS 15 ($4) per share. The share’s closing price on Wednesday was NIS 6.84 ($1.82).
The Americans plan to make a tender offer and delist the company from TASE, hence the company’s shareholders will gain from Solbar’s exit as well. The company is traded on a NIS 221 million ($59 million) market cap, reflecting a 117% premium on the company’s value.
A new report released Wednesday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals encouraging figures about the healthcare situation in Israel.Israeli life expectancy is among the highest in the world, and fifth among OECD countries, infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world, and a significant improvement has been recorded in the treatment of chronic diseases.
And yet, Israel’s situation is not so good when it comes to the treatment of asthma and lung diseases.
According to the report, most OECD countries recorded a significant rise in life expectancy rates in recent decades thanks to the improvement in living conditions, public health interventions and the improvement in medical care.
Israel has one of the world’s highest life expectancies, standing at 81.6 years in 2009 – about two years more than the OECD average of 79.5. Japan had the highest life expectancy in 2009 – 83 years.
The difference between male and female life expectancy in Israel in 2009 stood at 3.8 years in favor of women. Men live 79.7 years on average; women live 83.5 years. This difference is relatively low compared to the OECD average, which stood at 5.5 years in favor of women.
Why is it so? The answer may be found in the report’s other data. Infant mortality rates in Israel, like in all other OECD countries, have dropped in recent decade. The Israeli rate is relatively low, standing at 3.8 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to a 4.4 average in OECD countries.