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How to build a start-up nation

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The correct mindset, a solid connectivity infrastructure and good government support are essential elements when building and sustaining a startup tech culture, writes ERIC EDELSTEIN.

If it is a key imperative for tech businesses to replicate their business models and product innovations on an international scale, some key insights and lessons can be learnt from Israel, dubbed “start-up nation” for successfully builing an intimate tech culture and community with global impact.

1. Connectedness

Everyone in the tech world in Israel is connected. They talk, they engage and they discuss – it is essentially one big community working together. With 150 000 people in the Israeli tech industry, everyone seems to know each other and each person is as easily accessible as the next. Connecting face-to-face has proven to be the best way to build long-term contacts, with the aim of nurturing and growing mutually beneficial opportunities. Once the connection has been made, then sustaining the relationship through virtual communication is an efficient and effective way of doing business across continents.

South Africa has a way to go in achieving this type of community cohesiveness, making innovation hubs or networks like Entrepreneur Traction valuable platforms to encourage collaboration, knowledge-sharing and a real sense of growth and value from being a part of an intelligently connected tech network.

2. Mind-set

Israelis seem to be in a different headspace when they enter the workforce, compared to other nationalities. After serving in the army, they generally take a gap year before embarking on a working career path. As a result, they have a more mature perspective and mindset. They know what they want and are confident and resourceful – all essential qualities for a start-up nation mentality.

Being focused on big picture thinking, Israeli tech entrepreneurs generally see the world as a small place and are motivated to jump on a plane in order to make things happen in other countries. An example of a successful business model stems from the strategic thinking behind many tech innovations originating in Israel and setting up the development, sales and marketing side of things in other countries. This process of localising Israeli tech innovations within other countries requires a big mindset and small view of the world! These business owners travel intensively in order to do whatever it takes to start up and replicate their business models and tech innovations in other countries.

3. Government support

Research has indicated that governments that proactively support and fund tech accelerators and incubators, achieve a positive impact on the economy. Israel’s government consistently injects funding into tech initiatives by directing funds in a focused manner. This results in the successes of such initiatives having a snowball effect: ultimately sustaining themselves and having a positive impact on the economy.

Entrepreneur Traction has identified a gap between the South African government and local tech entrepreneurs. While our government is involved with funding entrepreneurs – we believe there is a lack of understanding the substantial growth potential and opportunities in the local tech start-up space. By showcasing high-tech and high-growth business opportunities, together with smart, promising tech entrepreneurs, to local government, we are confident that this will contribute towards closing the gap.

Closing words

There is no magic formula to create, establish and replicate a budding tech business or innovation across the globe. Observing and learning from tech entrepreneurs and tech communities that are consistently producing successful case studies is a solid starting point. Inspiring support from government is another. But the part that tech entrepreneurs have the most control over is creating the “right” mindset, often stemming from and inspired by a connected and value driven tech community culture.

* Eric Edelstein, co-founder of Entrepreneur Traction

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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