Today on the way to work my CEO had to pull over in the middle of one the busiest highways in Israel. After pulling over he ducked for cover and hoped for the best. Luckily for him, the start-up nation’s Iron Dome anti-missile system was there to protect the civilians living under fire.
3.5 million Israeli civilians (nearly 50 percent of the country’s population) are living under the direct threat of rocket fire. Many of these civilians woke up this morning and made their way to Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ramat Gan and Rehovot, all of which are Israel’s start-up cities. There are roughly 12,000 startup founders in these cities. When day-to-day business takes place abroad, Israel’s start-ups must keep pushing forward no matter what the political situation is at home.
At our start-up, it’s business as usual – in the most unusual way. We are located in Ramat Gan, and although we are 70 km away from Gaza the sirens here have been going off regularly and we are all working close to the safe room (rooms with reinforced concrete walls and no windows).
I would like you to picture the following scenario: You come into your office 8:20 a.m., and at 8:30 a.m. you hop on Skype for your first call of the day. The call starts and after just a few minutes a siren goes off and you have to drop everything and end the call before it even started. This isn’t imaginary.
This happened to me today. I couldn’t continue the call in the safe room because most of them don’t have WIFI reception.
Missing a Skype call is just the tip of the iceberg. I and the company founders are lucky because the majority of us live in the center, but I can only imagine how hard it is for my friends with families in the south.
Schools, camps and extracurricular activities have been canceled. For the time being, Israelis are not allowed to gather in large grounds within 40 km of the Gaza border.
Many start-up founders have been forced to leave their wives, families and homes to do reserve duty.
You might be asking, “Why not work from home?” Working from home isn’t any better for business owners. In fact, for all the 1.5 million people who live in the south of Israel coming to work in the center of Israel is actually safer than staying at home. Can you imagine living and working like this? My heart goes out to the people of the south and especially to the people who are running start-ups and mom-and-pop shops in these unnatural conditions. They have a responsibility to keep their families safe on the one hand and on the other business must continue as usual, even during times of war and political unrest.
To add insult to injury there is no guarantee from the government that loss of business will be compensated in any way.
If you missed an important meeting abroad because of flight cancellations, tough luck.
In the challenging start-up nation the only thing the government can promise you is that running a business under fire will be the challenge of your life.