Paying it Forward and Getting A Lot Back

On April 3 Noam Bardin, a founder of Waze, posted an article on LinkedIn where he discusses his thoughts about the venture capital industry from the point of view of an (Israeli) entrepreneur, albeit one with a $1.15 Billion exit (such companies are now known as “Unicorns“, a term coined just this year!)

Conventional wisdom used to be that Israel could not produce consumer internet companies, one of the reasons being cultural differences. He posits that the world has somewhat flattened and that this generation (whatever that means) of Israeli entrepreneurs shared much of the same experiences in their youth as their American or even European counterparts.

One of the big challenges faced by any founder is raising capital (if they choose to go that route) from investors. The rule is “raise at home before you raise abroad”. US VCs, according to Bardin, usually negotiate “about the upside while an Israeli firm will negotiate about the down side”. From personal experience I can concur.

What I found missing from his story was the fact that there is maybe one or 2 degrees of separation within Israel’s high-tech community, and while there is competition, usually the sense of cooperation and camaraderie comes first. In Waze’s case a large part of early adoption came through word of mouth (that’s how I started using it, and then spread the gospel…) – “help support our brothers in the Valley!”

I think that a lot of first-time entrepreneurs (and second time…) don’t really understand how the VC industry works, and the differences between US VCs (who are trying to be more transparent) and Israeli VCs (who aren’t really, with few exceptions). Over-generalizing: US VCs look for something they can grow, Israeli VCs look for something they can sell. That’s changing a bit (Aleph might be one indication that this is so), and Israeli VCs are now a bit more approachable and public, but in many cases that’s just a façade.

Here’s my challenge to Israeli founders with an exit under their belt. What’s really missing in Israel are successful founders coming back and putting their money where their mouths are. If you look at a lot of Valley seed or pre-seed deals (or A round…) you will often see a string of founders attached to the round. In Israel? Not so much. We can grow a lot of Unicorns here, but we need successful Israeli founders to be part of the Care and Feeding of Unicorns by putting their time, experience and money into early stage risky companies.

They put in capital and experience, and maybe get to be in on the next Unicorn. Do you think they’re up to this challenge?

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