"Why Israel, of all places?", I thought. When colleagues from the Czech Republic approached me with a first request to organize a trip to Tel Aviv, for journalists, I hesitated for quite some time.
It is indeed true that Deutsche Telekom was one of the first German companies to get involved in Israel, and that it has been active there since 2006, via a joint venture between Telekom Innovation Laboratories (T-Labs) and Ben Gurion University. And it is true that we have been scouting the Israeli market for interesting partners and attractive investments since 2012, working through our Partnering Office, the incubator hub:raum and Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners.
So when still more colleagues, from other countries in which Deutsche Telekom is active, also expressed an interest in learning about the Israeli startup and innovation scene, I realized the time had come for me to travel to Tel Aviv and accompany the colleagues to their appointments and meetings there.
That was how one day I found myself in a plane heading to Tel Aviv. And yet, to be honest, I didn't really feel comfortable about the whole idea. Not simply because the security situation there is rather volatile, as everyone knows. But also because I was concerned about whether it would be possible for a German to travel to Israel, just like any other traveler, and hope to be welcomed as a guest.
As it turned out, my concerns were completely unfounded. Not once did anyone there express any reservations about the fact that I am German. In fact, Germany is perceived very positively in Israel. It's clean. It's secure. It's reliable. It's Europe's engine. And it has a wonderful capital, Berlin, a city many Israelis feel drawn to.
I encountered a great deal of friendliness and openness. And that, in turn, has changed the way I feel about my own country. Yes, it's important to look critically at the past, but it's much more important to look forward, positively. That's something I learned in Israel. Everything is possible. No matter how unfavorable your starting position may be.
Another thing that greatly impressed me was the incredible energy with which people in Israel develop and implement ideas. It's truly a culture of "doers."
And its can-do approach has made Israel the world's second largest innovation hub, second only to Silicon Valley. Here are a few figures to illustrate this:
- Israel has over 5,000 startups, and nearly 1,000 new companies are founded there each year.
- 400 international companies have research and development offices in Israel.
- Israel's high-tech industry accounts for 15 to 17 percent of the country's annual GDP, and 50 percent of its exports.
- Since the end of 2014, Israeli startups have attracted over a billion U.S. dollars worth of investments.
- One out of every six computers around the world is protected with Israeli anti-virus software.
Please also see our other blog on this topic.
All of this is very impressive, and we Germans need to be thinking about what we can learn from it. This is why Deutsche Telekom is present in Israel and is cultivating contacts there. For those who would like to know more about Deutsche Telekom's activities in Israel, here are a few additional facts:
- To date, Deutsche Telekom has invested nearly 50 million euros in its joint venture – an institute – with Ben Gurion University.
- The T-Labs institute provided the initial spark for the Advanced Technology Park at Ben Gurion University that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- Deutsche Telekom has a total of 45 employees in Israel.
- Since 2012, we have screened hundreds of potential partners there – and more than 220 just in the past year. We have active partnerships in Seven active portfolio companies are being financed via T-Venture / Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners – for example, SafeBreach and Morphisec.
I'm looking forward to additional projects and activities by and with our colleagues in Israel!