The leaders of tomorrow, here today

The make-up of the Under 30 Summit means a limitless professional ceiling for these young superstars, as well as a professional timeline of at least a half-century.

Forbes "under 30" summit.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Forbes "under 30" summit.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As 600 of the world’s greatest young entrepreneurs and game-changers in every field gather here for the first-ever global convening of the “Davos for Millennials,” the Forbes Under 30 Summit, I’d like to get ahead of what’s become an invariable question: of all the countries in the world, why did we choose Israel? Just as there are famously three meanings of the word Israel, our rationale is threefold.
First, there’s numbers. We’re all familiar with the Startup Nation statistics: the highest per-capita rate of research and development spending, the most venture capital investment per capita, the largest number of startups outside Silicon Valley. Tel Aviv feels as alive and buzzy as any place I’ve ever been – Palo Alto meets the Riviera – and Mayor Nir Barkat is trying to replicate that startup ethos in Jerusalem.
As Shimon Peres told me when I spoke with him several days ago, “We made our situation exceptional because of the people. Culture was based on five percent of work and water, 95% on innovation.” There’s no more fitting place for young superstar entrepreneurs, drawn equally from the US, Europe and Israel and the Middle East, than Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Second, there’s purpose. For all the knocks against millennials, it’s unquestionable that this generation seeks positive meaning in their professional lives. As a speck of free-market democracy in a sandbox of monarchies, theocracies and dictatorships, Israel provides that purpose. And given that, from a detached viewpoint 8,000 km. away, any solution to the Jewish-Palestinian divide involves a robust two-state solution, we can take advantage of our cohort’s youth and unlimited potential, and lay the foundations for dialogue. Our slogan this week: Co-Invest, Co-Create, Co-exist.
In keeping with that mission, we’ll hear from unicorn startup founders who’ve forged great fortunes in a borderless world. We’ll mash up nationalities and technologies – including the first-ever live concert in virtual reality – at a music festival in the Tower of David. And we’ll place hundreds of participants into the field, sending successful Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees to Rawabi to mentor Palestinian startups, teaming 75 of our honorees with 75 young Arab and Jewish entrepreneurs at hackathon to create products that foster cooperation and dialogue and matching more than 100 others with 24 schools in and around Jerusalem to inspire the next generation, boy and girl, Arab and Jew, secular and religious.
In doing all this, we’re hoping to establish long-term sustainable relationships.
All of which leads to our final reason: time. Israel’s entrepreneurial verve is a permanent fixture. Ditto all the friendships that will be fostered here over the next few days.
The make-up of the Under 30 Summit means a limitless professional ceiling for these young superstars, as well as a professional timeline of at least a half-century (given perpetual healthcare advances, it could be well more than that).
Yes, change moves slowly in the Middle East. But the 600 participants of the Under 30 Summit EMEA can wait it out. Even if the political situation makes a regional agreement unlikely now, this generation can start working together, speaking the universal language of success, with grander conversations to be had down the road. A peace built upon both self-interest and mutual respect is the kind of peace that’s built to last.
It starts today.
The author is the editor of Forbes Magazine and the driving force behind the magazine’s 30 Under 30 franchise. The first 30 Under 30 EMEA Summit is taking place this week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with over 600 participants from around the world.