Friday 17 January 2014

Weekly Wrap Up: The Key to Israel's Tech Success

Israel, often synonymous with the term “start up nation”, has over the past few years seen the giants of the tech world swallow up some of its best start up companies. Many commentators believe Israel is on a roll following Google’s payment of $1bn for mobile traffic app Waze, Facebook’s purchase of data compression company Onavo, and Apple’s acquisition of Primesense. Israel is now the second largest source of innovation after Silicon Valley and the third largest source of listings on Nasdaq after North America and China. For a small country always in a hostile environment, what is the key to its unparallelled success?

Perhaps the answer to that question lies in region of the country’s compulsory military service. The founders of Onavo, for example, served in the army’s intelligence division Unit 8200 prior to founding the Company; a Unite renowned for producing graduates whom are behind some of the country’s most renowned start ups.

The UK is now attempting to mirror Israel’s start up success by encouraging ex services personnel to launch their own businesses; examples can be seen in what are now thriving businesses, including Mergermarket, Trailfinders and Go Ape.

Similarly in the US, large companies such as FedEx, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Walmart were founded by former members of the armed forces. Ben Brabyn (former Royal Marine and founder of Heropreneurs) set up a charity designed to help ex force personnel to start up businesses. He extols Israel as a fruitful start up hotspot and states that it should be no surprise that it is recognised as such in a country where every citizen has to serve in the military.

Where Israel lags behind is that it has not grown its companies into big leagues because of gaps in management and experience, as well as a restless entrepreneurial culture that trumps exits over organic growth. However, this is beginning to change, and Tel Aviv as the tech cluster is pushing heavily for the government to relax visas so it can attract foreign skilled workers and to open it up to global talent.

The challenge is now for London to position itself as a city of choice for tech companies looking to list, and not lose out to the number of such companies that are currently choosing to go to the US. London must look to capture a slice of this pie and to attract companies to Silicon roundabout so as to further develop its own tech sector.

Britain’s bilateral relationship with Israel is enormous: two-way trade reached more than £3.81bn by the end of 2012, compared with the £3.7bn recorded for the previous year. Britain is on track for UK Trade and Investment’s target of topping £4bn by the middle of the decade. Such a relationship is invaluable to the UK and to London and will ensure London retains its competitive advantage.

Abchaps went along to the Proactive Investors One2One investor forum to view presentations by Mwana Africa plc, Edge Resources and NioCorp (on the recommendation of RFC Ambrian). The presentations were very compelling, reminding us of the importance of having a sociable CEO as the mouthpiece for a company seeking investment.

Always keen to learn more, we also hosted two market lunches to discuss how the City’s optimization is playing out the Tech sector.

Our friends at finnCap, currently number one broking house to AIM companies, have strengthened its offering with the launch of a new investment trust, thanks to two senior appointments - Paul Harrington, formerly of Westhouse Securities and James Simpson of Jefferies.

Baker Tilly also announced Rob Donaldson, previously of Baker Tilly, as its new head of Corporate Finance;  while Norton Rose Fulbright appointed Geoff Peters, formerly Freshfields Bruckhaus, as a partner within the Company’s energy M&A team.

If you ever fancied your chances as a bit of a Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, now is your time to shine. Head down to the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall on Friday night for ‘Tails & Twirls’. Dance the night away doing the quickstep, foxtrot, rumba, charlston and some cha cha cha to a live band and vintage records. 

Alternatively, the get involved as Brooklyn Bowl, the iconic Williamsburg music venue / bowling alley, makes its European debut right on London’s doorstep. Setting its roots at the O2 arena it offers 12 bowling lanes, bar areas and food served from the famous New York restaurant Blue Ribbon.

Finally, if you wanted a quieter, more cultured weekend then head down to the Business Design Centre, Islington, for the 26th edition of the London Art Fair. Treat your eyes to the wondrous, contemporary art and design being showcased by a number of notable British artists such as David Hockney, Francis Bacon and David Shrigley.

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