‘Startups as far as the eye can see, all the way to the sea’

Ahead of Under 30 Summit EMEA, Forbes editor Randall Lane lauds Israeli entrepreneurship.

Forbes "under 30" summit.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Forbes "under 30" summit.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Entering the 14th-floor hotel lounge following a morning stroll along the Mediterranean Sea, an enthusiastic Randall Lane grabbed a glass of water and sat down at a small table, his trademark fedora still perched on his head.
After prodding the reporter with questions – as any lifelong journalist is wont to do – the editor of Forbes magazine was eager to discuss a country that has “invented and is reinventing itself.”
“When you look at the world’s great entrepreneurial cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are way, way up there, and it’s apparent to anyone who spends any time here,” Lane said. “We were able to see that the Start-Up Nation reputation is true. The Start-Up Nation ethos is pervasive.”
The Forbes editor spoke with The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, ahead of the magazine’s upcoming Under 30 Summit – an event expected to draw hundreds of the most promising young innovators to Israel this April for the second year running. In Lane’s mind, Israel provides a “very natural” environment for the summit, due to the country’s position as a leading entrepreneurial hot spot combined with its unique cultural ties and history.
“It’s an amazing event that happens to be in Israel but also does an amazing job showcasing the Israeli start-up and tech ecosystem – which is why we’re here,” Lane said.
After launching its popular 30 Under 30 lists in 2011, Forbes began hosting Under 30 summits for its American honorees in 2014, with the first event occurring in Philadelphia that year. As these US events proved increasingly successful, the magazine decided to begin organizing such conventions abroad, holding the first such event – the Under 30 Summit EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) – last year in Israel, followed by the Under 30 Summit Asia in Singapore.
For the second year in a row, Lane will be hosting the Under 30 Summit EMEA in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, from April 2 to April 6. In addition to holding panels with leading global innovators, the summit promises amenities such as regional food and drink, bar crawls and group tours. Approximately 750 young entrepreneurs from 35 countries and 25 industries – 40% of whom are CEOs and founders of their ventures – are expected to attend.
“They come early and they stay late and they don’t sleep,” Lane said.
Like last year, approximately one-third of the participants at this year’s summit will come from the US, one-third from Europe and one-third from Israel and the rest of the Middle East and Africa region.
While that latter third will mostly include Israelis, Lane stressed that there will be some representation from African countries, as well as Palestinian entrepreneurs. This year, Forbes is working with the Portland Trust, a British nonprofit that works to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians through economic development, to host a mentoring track for Palestinian entrepreneurs during one of the middle days of the convention.
“We want to be able to leave here having been a strong force for entrepreneurs in the whole region,” Lane said.
In addition to the special track for Palestinian mentorship, the summit this year will also include other small group opportunities, like a visit to archeological sites, a cybersecurity gathering and a venture capitalist meeting. While last year’s events only took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, this year all the participants will also have the chance to go to the Dead Sea and Masada on the final day.
“We’re just going to go all night,” Lane said. “Think about ending this thing with the metaphorical new beginning – one of the best places for sunrises in the world.”
Although Lane had done backpacking in Israel about two decades ago during his twenties, his interest in the country was rekindled only a couple years ago, when he was invited to speak at an ROI Summit, an annual convention held in Israel for young Jewish innovators. A particularly memorable portion of that trip for Lane was a visit to the SOSA (South of Salame) Tel Aviv start-up hub.
“I was just absolutely struck by the entrepreneurial ethos here, and it’s hard to describe if you’re not here,” he said. “The feeling, the eureka moment, was in SOSA. I spoke there and I went up to the roof there, and you could see start-ups as far as the eye can see, all the way to the sea. It has that Silicon Valley feel but with this incredible location and history.”
Ahead of the Under 30 Summit EMEA, Forbes revealed the 2017 members of its Israel 30 Under 30 list at a ceremony attended by Lane on Sunday. The list includes 60 of the country’s top young innovators, whom the magazine describes as “bringing disruption and game-changing transformation to business, technology, media, government, sports, culture and more.”
Among the Israelis chosen for this year’s list are Yarden Gerbi and Ori Sasson, who both won bronze medals in judo in the 2016 Summer Olympics, as well as Yair Bitton, co-founder of Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party. Also included is Navonel Glick, CEO of global humanitarian organization IsraAID, and Hasan Abo-Shally, founder of Hasoub, an NGO seeking economic and social change through innovation. On the list are also Nadav Shoval, co-founder and CEO of website community manager Spot. im, and Rachel Krauss, business development manager at big data company Palantir.
The list was compiled by Forbes Israel’s team, in consultation with local industry leaders, academic institutions, tech accelerators and venture capital funds.
Despite the title “30 Under 30,” most of the Forbes lists have grown to include many more than 30 members. The 60-member Israel list features 30 leaders in hi-tech and 30 in “non-tech” sectors, while the 600-member US list, published in January, includes 20 categories with 30 individuals each. The goal of these lists is to unearth amazing entrepreneurs before anyone else is able to do so, Lane explained.
“This exercise reveals the next generation of great entrepreneurs before anybody else sees them,” he said. “This is something where we have all industries represented – this is more of a horizontal psychographic.”
At the Under 30 summits, the young entrepreneurs who excel in all of these industries are able to meet each other and form alliances across a variety of sectors, according to Lane. The same type of collaborative entrepreneurial spirit could apply to Israel and its neighbors, with the drive to innovate serving as a common ground, he explained.
“We really believe that this project is a very positive force for coexistence and for understanding,” Lane said. “Entrepreneurship is a universal language. There are no borders.”
In order for Israel to maintain its competitive edge, as the global tech scene continues to grow, Lane stressed the importance of “staying hungry,” as well as ensuring continued access to capital and enabling partnership with big companies and universities.
“It’s not being content to be where you are,” he said. “It’s constant innovation and disruptions perpetual.”