Israeli, wildly ambitious and very direct

Last week I had the pleasure to join the Chamber of Commerce of East-Flanders (Belgium) on a tech-trip to Israel. Together with 48 Flemish entrepreneurs and academics, we visited different start-ups, established companies, incubators and VCs, a hospital and a university based in and around Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Before this visit, I knew Israel's start-up community only from the marketing and analytics technologies that we work with at MultiMinds. Tools like Sisense, ClickTale, Hotjar and Similarweb, just to name a few.

Turns out the tech scene of Israel has much more to offer than only these marketing tools. Did you know that Israel is the number 3 start-up country of the world, counting 20 unicorns with a wide variety of sector focus, but all fairly data-driven? They are called the Start-up Nation for a reason. (fyi: Belgium has 2 unicorn companies, with a bigger population than Israel (11,5M citizens vs 9M citizens)

Obviously, you can’t capture Israel in one word, but if I would have to pick one, it is ‘solidarity’. In my opinion, this ‘solidarity’ is the foundation of so many start-up success stories. Solidarity is embedded in the culture, despite the complex melting pot of the population and politics. The turbulent history and the current political landscape probably strengthen the sense of solidarity .

Similar as we saw in China last year, the Israeli government strongly supports the start-up community financially and operationally. Lots of tech and data start-ups have their origin in the military, more specifically in Unit 8200, the Israeli Intelligence Corps.

My main goal of this trip, was to learn more about the culture, business communication and the dynamics you should take into account when working with Israeli companies. Since 2018 MultiMinds is very proud to be the global digital analytics partner for Teva Pharmaceuticals, the largest generic drug manufacturer in the world and in the top 15 of largest pharmaceutical companies worldwide.

Intercultural expert Osnat Lautman shared some very interesting findings on the business culture in Israel. I recommend you reading her book “Israeli Business Culture: Building Effective Business Relationships with Israelis” to learn the details. It just became mandatory reading material for everyone in the MultiMinds team.

I’ll just pick out 3 insights from Ms. Lautman’s workshop that I have experienced myself when working with the Teva team:

  1. The communication is very direct, unlike the way of communication in Belgium. This was quite a new experience for the team, and at first, we didn’t feel entirely confident in delivering according to the expected standards. So we embraced the habit of asking, in a very direct, non-Belgian style :)
  2. But once you earn the trust, the relationship becomes very strong. And in personal contact even pretty informal. During my visit to the Teva HQ, I was welcomed very warmly, introduced to a lot of people, taken out for a great lunch, and had great personal and business discussions.
  3. And they want to move forward, with clear and strong ambitions. We don’t measure the performance of their digital channels just to update some KPI dashboards each month. Within 1 year of our partnership we already started to turn the data into the insights and take action for optimization. For a company of this size, this is unusual, trust me.

During our visits around Israel it also became clear how big the Teva brand is. Today, Teva Pharmaceuticals is the biggest company based on revenue and one of the biggest private employers in Israel. The Teva brand was mentioned in at least 70% of all the talks and presentations we got to attend.

So in each perspective of our partnership with Teva, this visit to Israel was of great value.

A final thanks for organising this great trip: Geert Moerman, Stefan Derluyn, Hilde Schuddinck and Elisabeth Minnaert. Great job! Looking forward to the 2021 tech-trip.