Start-Up Nation: The Sto­ry of Israel’s Eco­nom­ic Miracle

Dan Senor and Saul Singer

By – September 16, 2011

Israel, a coun­try the size of New Jer­sey and sur­round­ed on all sides by hos­tile nations, has more com­pa­nies list­ed on the NAS­DAQ stock exchange than the next five for­eign coun­tries com­bined. In this book, Dan Senor and Saul Singer, two Mid­dle East experts, explain how Israel’s unique his­to­ry and chal­lenges have cre­at­ed such a favor­able envi­ron­ment for high tech entrepreneurs.

In short, the authors cred­it a com­bi­na­tion of five char­ac­ter­is­tics: Israel’s strate­gic iso­la­tion, the cen­tral­i­ty of its mil­i­tary, its close con­nec­tions with and sup­port from its dias­po­ra, and its pio­neer­ing ori­gins. With ref­er­ences to his­to­ry and by means of per­son­al anec­dotes, Senor and Singer intro­duce the read­er to many of the peo­ple who have helped make house­hold names of com­pa­nies such as Intel, Cis­co, Google, and many oth­ers equal­ly impor­tant but less famil­iar as well as to vision­ar­ies such as David Ben-Guri­on and Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres who cre­at­ed a nation that val­ues and encour­ages innovation.

A Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions Book, Start-Up Nation is high­ly read­able and opens the reader’s eyes to Israel’s unique­ness and explains how it dif­fers from oth­er coun­tries also known for their high-tech indus­tries such as Chi­na, Japan, Sin­ga­pore, and South Korea. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, notes.

Peter L. Roth­holz head­ed his own Man­hat­tan-based pub­lic rela­tions agency and taught at the Busi­ness and Lib­er­al Arts (BALA) pro­gram at Queens Col­lege. He lives in East Hamp­ton, NY and San­ta Mon­i­ca, CA and is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Jew­ish publications.

Discussion Questions

1. Senor and Singer note Israel’s mul­ti­task­ing men­tal­i­ty” (p 187). In your expe­ri­ence, in which ways are Israelis mul­ti­taskers? Why has this men­tal­i­ty become ingrained in their cul­ture? How is such a mind­set unique­ly help­ful to Israel? 

2. In the book, authors Senor and Singer inter­view an Israeli air force com­man­der who tells them, We don’t cheer­lead you exces­sive­ly for a good per­for­mance, and we don’t fin­ish you off per­ma­nent­ly for a bad per­for­mance.” They go on to sug­gest that Israeli cul­ture is tol­er­ant of intel­li­gent fail­ure.” Where do you think this tol­er­ance comes from? Have there been sit­u­a­tions in your own life where sim­i­lar tol­er­ance helped you? 

3. On page 66, Alex Vieux, CEO of Red Her­ring mag­a­zine says, the oth­ers [oth­er com­pa­nies] are always mak­ing a pitch for their spe­cif­ic com­pa­ny. The Israelis are always mak­ing a pitch for Israel.” What are the advan­tages to a com­pa­ny tout­ing its nation as opposed to itself? 

4. Much is writ­ten on the role that Israel’s mil­i­tary plays in the country’s suc­cess. Accord­ing to Start-Up Nation, manda­to­ry mil­i­tary ser­vice fos­ters lead­er­ship, team­work, inno­va­tion, and self-reliance. Do you think that manda­to­ry mil­i­tary ser­vice (or manda­to­ry ser­vice of any kind) is some­thing that all coun­tries should adopt? Is it pos­si­ble that manda­to­ry mil­i­tary ser­vice might work bet­ter in Israel than it would in oth­er countries? 

5. In the book, there’s a quote from Yuval Dotan which reads, If most air forces are designed like a For­mu­la One race car, the Israeli Air Force is a beat-up jeep with a lot of tools in it….Here, you’re going off-road from day one. The race car is just not going to work in our envi­ron­ment.” What do you think Dotan means by this? Is this to say a race car mod­el wouldn’t work in Israel?