Who Wants to Be a Start-up Nation?

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The book “Start-Up Nation” presented Israeli technological innovation and creativity as nothing short of miraculous. Yet while delegations from around the world hare for the Holy Land to study the Israeli formula, we’re actually debating whether this start-up focus is even a good thing. Is creating companies with the explicit purpose of selling them, as opposed to investing in them and turning them into megaliths, actually sabotaging the country’s future?

The debate rages on, splitting the movers and shakers in Israel’s high-tech industry. Some say that in-and-out entrepreneurship is part of the Israeli genome and that there’s nothing wrong with it. Others fret that sanctifying start-ups and fast exits wastes talent and leaves Israel’s economy vulnerable, as Guy Rolnik notes in this magazine.

How so? Companies should be built to last. An economy can’t be based on fly-by-night fledgling companies that sprout wings only to get eaten by foreign giants, the latter argument goes. A country that builds companies to last is itself built to last, they say: A country where companies pop up and are sold in the blink of an eye may itself be a fleeting entity.

In this magazine, TheMarker takes a closer look at the many facets of this debate. Ora Coren delves into the argument of which companies do more for us start-ups or multinationals. Asher Schechter and Tali Heruti-Sover look behind the scenes at Amdocs and Iscar, two Israeli companies that were indeed built to last. Yoni Kish talks with Jim Collins, the man behind the term “built to last,” to discuss how Israel can turn its strengths into long-term advantages.

Meanwhile, Elah Alkalay speaks out in the name of small companies, discussing a few with creative ideas that the state would do well to foster. And Ami Ginsburg points out that during these uncertain economic times, investors may actually be wise to turn to small-caps.

On the state-of-the-nation front, Hagai Amit takes a look at the people who are taking on bigger and more ominous loans just to buy a home for the family, while Eytan Avriel suggests that reality as we perceive it may be nothing more than shadows.

And finally, David Rosenberg comes out swinging for those bastions of our economy who have been taking a beating the tycoons. After all, unlike some other countries’ tycoons, they’re not known for their thuggish bodyguards, trophy wives or offshore bank accounts. And some of them, like the Wertheimers and the Strausses, have built truly great companies.

Illustration by Marina Zlochin