Shmuel (Mooly) Eden — the former President of Intel Israel, current Chairman of the University of Haifa Executive Committee and lifelong innovation expert — shared his thoughts about the Start-Up Nation with Cutting Edge

Are innovative people born more creative than others?

I believe that people are born with seeds of creativity. It's in our DNA! Curiosity is the beginning of being innovative. For young children, the sky is the limit but, unfortunately, we encourage everyone to be the same, to think inside the box. Albert Einstein once said, Its a miracle curiosity survived formal education. I believe people are born with curiosity and the potential to be innovative, and its up to informal and formal education to nurture and encourage it.

Mooly Eden

Why are most of the people working for start-ups so young? Whats wrong with having experience?

The young generation is willing to take more risks. When theyre 25 or 30, they figure its worth working for a start-up that may or may not succeed. Whatever happens, theyll be fine. People in their 40s or 50s who have families usually cant afford to take that type of risk. Also, many of them are already in their comfort zone and success and comfort are enemies of innovation (Why do it differently?). In addition, many older engineers arent up-to-date with the latest developments in their field, which makes it hard for them to fit in to a rapidly changing world. However, one shouldnt dismiss the value of having experience. There are many jobs in high-tech that 25-year olds wont be able to do, and you need a responsible experienced manager to drive them. Its important to have both – young risk-takers and experienced professionals.

You are known for your significant contribution to Israeli high-tech. Which of your many achievements are you most proud of?

Thats like asking me which of my children I love the most! Im proud of what I could establish with the help of others. At Intel, I was responsible for leading the design of several groundbreaking microprocessors. It was a privilege to lead the team that developed the Pentium MMX microprocessor and also the Centrino platform for laptops, among others. Intels Israel operations has grown a lot. Today there are 10,000 employees and exports of over $4 billion per year. And many of the start-ups and multinationals are headed by people that grew in Intel. Im proud of the role I played in that accomplishment.

What do you think is the secret of the Start-Up Nation? Why has Israel been so successful in the field of innovative technology?

First of all, I want to make a disclaimer. For me the Start-Up Nation is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, I like it and I like the branding it built; on the other hand, I see people accepting it as a fact, which makes them complacent. People started to say that Israeli engineers are the best. Well, theyre not the best. They excel in some specific environments. I believe that we became a start-up nation because of some steps our government took 20 years ago — backing VCs, investing in academia, integrating the Russian immigration and others. And also because of Israeli chutzpah. I was quoted in Start-Up Nation as saying that its easier to be the manager of 50 Americans than of five Israelis. Thats because people here challenge everything and criticize everyone. In every other country, if a boss tells an employee to do something, the employee will go do it. In Israel, he will challenge the boss and ask why he needs to do it. Everyone argues and has opinions, but as annoying as our culture can seem to an outsider, it is precisely this environment that encourages innovation. If you throw an Israeli out the door, hell come back through the window. No doesnt mean no; it means maybe. Theres also the fact that people here are used to risk. After three years in the army, during which its not uncommon to make life-threatening decisions, risk is a part of life here.

What are the main challenges Israel faces in the future?

There are huge challenges. Today, the Start-Up Nation is actually picking the fruit of trees that were planted 20 years ago. In order to ensure that we will still be the Start-Up Nation 20 years from now, we have to take the necessary steps today. We must make an extra effort with education, and the government needs to invest more in R&D and encourage investors. The Start-Up Nation is the growth engine of the Israeli economy, but the socio-economic gap is too wide and we must narrow the gap. I'm also worried that we are on the verge of a huge industrial revolution that we arent prepared for, a Technology Revolution involving unlimited computing power, Big Data, artificial intelligence and robotics. It will be like a tsunami. Robotics will be huge. Within the next 10-15 years, many jobs will be replaced by robots and the job distribution will be completely different. Things are happening fast and we need to prepare our kids for jobs that dont exist yet, to solve problems that havent happened yet, using technologies that havent been invented yet. We need to teach them to learn. Sounds pessimistic? Not necessarily. Andy Grove, one of Intels founders, used to say, only the paranoid survive. Im often asked how we can predict the future. I quote Alan Kay, who said that the only way to predict the future is to invent it.