(This is the third of a 3-part post which talks about the tremendous lessons we can apply from closely looking at how the preeminent Startup Nation – Israel – attained tremendous economic success through the deliberate development of startups. Previous posts: part 1, part 2)
5) We Need To Just Ship It, Ship It Good
In 2006, in the height of the Lebanon War, missiles began to rain down on northern Israel. Understandably, the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffet, was worried. The first company he ever bought outside the US – Iscar – had its plant and R&D labs in the north of the country and was a primary target. Eitan Wertheimer, the chairman of Iscar, called his boss and explained:
“Our sole concern was for the welfare of our people, since wrecked machines and shattered windows can be replaced. But I am not sure you understand our mindset. We’re going to carry on with half the workforce, but we will ensure that all the customers get their orders on time or even better.”
Afterwards, Wertheimer further reasoned:
“It took us a brief time to adjust, but we didn’t miss a single shipment. For our customers around the world, there was no war.”
Now, I don’t know about you – but that is amazing!
Sure, for some it might be carrying it a bit too far, but this best illustrates Israel’s commitment and mindset towards keeping its promises – especially to its global clientele.
Buffet, the Dumbledore of investments, obviously calculated this risk when he bought 80% of Iscar just 2 months before the bombing started. He knew the facilities could get destroyed in such an event – but he also knew that the value of Iscar lay far beyond the physical. More than anything, he was investing in Iscar’s people – their ingenuity and ability to keep promises. He was investing in their ability to ship.
Even in times of war.
In local news, I remember feeling quite shocked and scandalized during the recent Habagat episode when there were some BPO’s who were asking their employees to go to work despite the rains.
Looking at it from this perspective has forced me to at least reconsider that feeling a bit.
If we cannot keep our contractual promises, then how can we be trusted as a global partner? We just need to find ways to get it done.
People, if you have a startup, or are planning to put one up -remember this mantra: just ship. I can’t tell you how important this is for a burgeoning startup.
6) We Need To Adapt A Migrant Mentality
Israel is a nation of migrants. Foreign-born citizens of Israel currently account for over one-third of the nation’s population (think about that for a bit). Israel is now called home by more than seventy different nationalities.
Now why is this significant?
Simply put, a community of immigrants is almost always a community of entrepreneurs. A great number of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs are first or second generation migrants, living in a foreign land.
Israeli venture capitalist Erel Margalit explains in the book:
“A lot of it has to do with immigrant societies. In France, if you are from a very established family, and you work in an established pharmaceutical company, for example, and you have a big office and perks and a secretary and all that, would you get up and leave and risk everything to create something new? You wouldn’t. You’re too comfortable. But if you’re an immigrant in a new place, and you’re poor,” Margalit continued, “or you were once rich and your family was stripped of its wealth – then you have drive. You don’t see what you’ve got to lose; you see what you could win. That’s the attitude we have here – across the entire population.”
Now, obviously, we cannot artificially create an environment where suddenly migrants would come to Philippine shores by the millions to ignite entrepreneurship.
But knowing what the fruits are of the migrant paradigm, I can’t help but think – perhaps we can re-channel and use our own local context into a the type of desperation which breeds innovation. Perhaps we can draw from something else.
Our underdog mentality – the one we Filipinos seem to love so much? Instead of automatically thinking ourselves as inferior (which I write a bit about here), perhaps we can re-channel this into a chip on the shoulder which can fuel our drive to create something great.
Perhaps we can use the poverty our people are experiencing as added motivation to do a startup which can make a difference.
We need to feel that wall against our backs. True, circumstances dictate this. But attitude is also a key ingredient. We can DECIDE to feel a sense of urgency.
Bonus: We Need To Work For One Startup
And that of course, is our country.
In working with HR departments, I’ve come across a behavioral phrase that has been used a bit extensively in performance feedback forms of managers:
“Prioritizes the welfare of the company versus the welfare of his team.”
This is one thing the Israelis have learned to do.
It is certainly difficult. As a startup, it is very easy to adopt the mindset of “me versus the world.”
But perhaps the effort to incorporate a slight tweak can work wonders.
It’s us versus the world.
(Kindly share to those you think will find this useful!)