They say the world is connected through six degrees of separation. And this makes sense. When you think about the well-connected people we’ve met (professors, guest speakers, bosses) it’s easy to hypothesize just how far our networks probably reach.
In Israel, they say the number is two degrees of separation (or ‘maybe one and a half’ according to our tour guide). The country of Israel and the Israeli people are incredibly interconnected in a meaningful way. In many senses, this is intuitive. Israel is a generally homogeneous country – of the roughly 9 million people living in Israel, about 75% are of Jewish descent (the remainder is generally Arab, with less than 5 being non-Arab, non-Jewish). The country is also relatively small and has a high population density (on par with New Jersey, which is the most densely populated US state). Between this population density and 92% of Israelis living in urban areas, connecting with one another becomes easier and more frequent. And finally, Israeli cultural norms and religious beliefs create more opportunities for connection. Take the compulsory military service for example: for every Israeli, it becomes an additional networking opportunity, introducing individuals to peers and mentors to later call upon for advice, funding, or connections.
Okay, but what does this interconnectedness really mean? To put this in context, it means that a VC fund we visited in Tel Aviv can easily compete with funds in Silicon Valley because of the caliber and reputation of The Tel Aviv VC fund’s network. It means that one start-up we visited has hired the majority of its 50 person team through friends rather than through a hiring agency. It means another start-up we visited, whose first round of funding (a casual $9 million) took one week (and one connection) to raise. And last, (but certainly not least), in the words of one of my Israeli fellow students, it means ‘Guys treat women here very well – because word travels fast if you don’t’. But what this all adds up to (sans the dating implications), is that work and progress in Israel is accelerated: less time hiring, raising money, finding experts means less time preparing to do your job and more time actually doing value-add work. It’s easy to see why Israel is so well known for innovation.
Next stop, Jerusalem.