Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in the Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. The country has been ranked highest in the region on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America. In 2007, Israel had the 44th-highest gross domestic product and 22nd-highest gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity) at US$232.7 billion and US$33,299, respectively. In 2007, Israel was invited to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes cooperation between countries that adhere to democratic principles and operate free market economies.
Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology, and diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached US$42.86 billion. Israel is known for its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and life sciences. This developement have evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion.
Silicon Wadi is an area with a high concentration of high-tech industries in the coastal plain in Israel, similar to Silicon Valley in California, in the United States. In fact, Silicon Wadi is considered second in importance only to its Californian counterpart. The area covers much of the country, although especially high concentrations of hi-tech industry can be found in the area around Tel Aviv including small clusters around the cities of Ra’anana, Herzliya, Caesarea, Haifa, the academic city of Rehovot and its neighbour Rishon Le Zion. More recently, clusters have been established around Jerusalem, with its two new science parks at Malha and Har Hotzvim, as well as towns such as Yokneam Illit in the North of the country and Israel’s first “private city”, Airport City, near Tel Aviv.
Many international technology companies have research and development facilities in this region including the likes of Intel, IBM, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Philips, Cisco Systems, Oracle Corporation, SAP and many more. Because of this, Israel is often referred to as the Silicon Wadi and is known to be second only to Silicon Valley in the level of its innovation and ingenuity. In fact, Newsweek Magazine recently named Tel Aviv as one of the world’s top ten “Hot High-Tech Cities”. Intel developed its new dual-core Core Duo processor at its Israel Development Center located at the Merkaz Ta’asiya ve’Meida (Scientific Industries Center) in the city of Haifa. In 2006, more than 3,000 start-ups were created in Israel, a number that is only second to the US.
Yossi Vardi is known as Israel’s startup guru. For nearly 40 years he has helped to found and nurture over 60 companies in industries that include software, Internet, telecommunications, and energy. At 26, in 1969, he co-founded his first business, Tekem, one of the first software firms in Israel. Vardi was also the founding investor in Mirabilis, which created ICQ, the first Internet-wide instant messaging program. The company was launched in 1996 by his son, Arik, and three friends, and sold to AOL in 1998 for about $400 million. The sale helped open the floodgates for numerous Israeli entrepreneurs.
Today Vardi remains active in investing and building startups, including Answers.com; Gteko, which was sold to Microsoft; Airlink, which was sold to Sierra; and Tivella, which was sold to Cisco. His expertise has been sought by companies all over the world. He has been an adviser to the chairmen of AOL, Siemens, and Amazon, among others.
Yossi Vardi is inviting creative entrepreneurs to his “invite-only” conference, called Kinnernet, every year. His creative conference is supporting the entrepreneurs spirit in Israel and is one small element why Israel is considered one of the most advanced Hotspots in Southwest Asia.
Article via Ahead of Time.