We’re not a start-up nation, Or even a nation at all, as the envy and spite aroused by the IBM-Trusteer deal reveal

We’re not a start-up nation

The Trusteer deal exposes Israel of 2013 as a collection of cultures, countries, world views, and tribes.

20 August 13 12:57, Yanki Margalit

Congratulations to Shlomo Kramer and Mickey Boodaei, the investors, and the hundreds of employees of Trusteer Ltd. An impressive business success. You established and built a real, global information security company with a reputation. Congratulations to IBM (NYSE: IBM) on its 14th acquisition in Israel and on the establishment of an information security center in the country.This achievement combines so many good things: entrepreneurship, technology, persistence, professional, and the personal achievement of practical people, who rarely get much exposure. I am amazed anew every time to see the jealousy and envy that accompanies these achievements in Israel. I have collected here some of the “words of wisdom” of Israelis this past week:

“Another Ashkenazi success. We’re lucky to have Ashkenazim”; “They got everything from the state. Thieves”; “Tax evaders. They’re selling through Iceland”; “Getting rich at the expense of Unit 8200”; “This looks like the Chromatis deal. Everything will collapse”; “Another company for IBM to destroy”; “They stole money from the Chief Scientist”; “They’ll fire all the workers”; “They’re exporting all the companies from Israel”; “Israel’s venture capital industry has failed again. Where’s Pitango Venture Capital?” And worst of all, “Shlomo Kramer is boring.”

What nonsense and wickedness accompany success! This is not the first time, and it will probably not be the last, that success of this kind generates jealousy and hatred among many of us. Why?

In some people, envy of success is part of their nature. In others, seeing success stimulates a drive us to act, creates a will to succeed, and makes to roll up our sleeves. Then again, denigrating success can be a mechanism to help cope with a sense of failure: “He succeeded because he is immoral, not Israeli, or has connections. I am less successful because I am not like him. I am better. If someone puts $200 million into his personal bank account, and I can barely make ends meet, at least he should also feel bad.”

But envy is not the whole answer.

It’s hard to praise a successful exit

The problem starts with the fact that we’re not a high-tech country or a start-up nation. We not a country of innovation and progress. We’re a collection of different countries, which are growing apart. The Israel of 2013 is a collection of different cultures, countries, world views, and tribes. In the States of Israel, there is at the moment a small high-tech country of 150,000 residents at the most. It is located between Herzliya and Tel Aviv, with branches in New York, Boston, Palo Alto, and isolated outposts on the roads to Eilat and Kiryat Shmona.

The Israeli high-tech state was once called the country’s growth engine. This engine was supposed to pull the rest of the country behind it. It now seems that this engine has lost its cars. The Israeli high-tech engine is connected to the global train. The engine’s customers and investors are spread from San Francisco to Singapore, and the train is rushing ahead. Technology is a global culture, and the engine that is supposed to pull the rest of the States of Israel is at risk of breaking apart, or possibly worse, disconnecting.

The Israel of 2013 is a country of rich and poor, the connected and the alienated, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Arabs and Jews, haredim (ultra-orthodox), national-religious, religious, and secular. Russians and Ethiopians, northerners and southerners. High-tech people and all the rest.

In the States of Israel, it hard to praise the success of the member of another tribe. He who succeeds is a thief. A man with a nice home is a tax evader. The politicians are corrupt. Public employees are lazy and exploitative. Businesspeople are big thieves and the unions are little thieves. Each country to its own. Everyone against everyone else. If you’re not a thief, you’re a sucker. Social justice means taking from someone else and giving it to me, my tribe, my country. In the States of Israel of 2013, it is hard to praise a successful exit. It is hard to believe in a multinational building a research center in Israel, just as it hard to believe a politician working hard for the sake of the general public. He must be lining his pockets and those of his associates.

The Israeli high-tech country is teetering. It is hard to maintain a high-tech country in an unsupportive environment. The real question is not whether exits are good or bad, but if the States of Israel in 2020 will know how to recreate an Israeli ethos suited for the modern world? Will we be engaged in survival or progress? In tradition or innovation? In social justice or division and struggle? In human rights, or alienation and racism? Will we keep the Israeli high-tech state here? Will we take care of the education system and supportive values, or will the engine explode?

Congratulations to Shlomo Kramer and Mickey Boodaei, the hundreds of workers, the investors, Unit 8200, the education system, and all the entrepreneurs on the way. I praise them for such an amazing success. A toast to the next exits, the next corporations, and the successes on the way. A toast to the State of Israel 2020, which will know how to recombine and respect all the states of Israel.

The writer is the founder of Aladdin Knowledge Systems and a social entrepreneur.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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