Ms./Mr. Mayor, Governor, President, Prime Minister… You’ve built an amazing tech ecosystem.
You’ve made all the right moves: you’ve built it around a world-class research institution. You’ve attracted leading multinationals to build local R&D centers to nurture management talent and spinoff startups. You’ve created public-private partnerships to help fund exciting, seed-stage initiatives, mitigate risk and bolster infrastructure. You’ve instituted regulations creating a favorable investment environment. You’ve zoned wisely to encourage a hip, young creative class to cluster and thrive inside your hub.
But now that your innovation engine is running autonomously on all cylinders, how do you let the world know?
Working closely with the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Israel Innovation Authority as well as some of the country’s leading startups and VCs, we’ve gained some insight into how Israel has transformed itself in the global consciousness from a tiny orange grower into the world-renowned “Start-up Nation.” Here are a few tips that might help communicate the story of your own Innovation Station well beyond your borders.
1. Say my Name
The way to come up with a great innovation name is to be innovative. Israel was lucky. Its by now ubiquitous moniker, “Start-up Nation,” was coined by two imaginative authors whose bestselling eponymous book describes the secret sauce behind the nation’s “economic miracle.” Find your ecosystem a similarly sexy nickname and it will go a long way towards branding your ecosystem worldwide. Our tip: give those “Silicon X” monikers a rest – that simply implies you’re one of a dime-a-dozen tech hubs with nothing unique to offer. “Silicon Valley” was original – “Silicon Alley,” less so. “Start-up Nation” broke that mold. Yours should too.
It’s by now conventional wisdom that the secret sauce behind Israel’s groundbreaking inventiveness is chutzpah – that spicy Yiddish term describing the brash, fearless, never-take-no-for-an-answer attitude that gets Israeli entrepreneurs through the back window. You’d be hard pressed to find an article about Israel’s ecosystem without at least one mention of the term. Is there a word which sums up the uniqueness of your innovation ecosystem? What have you got inside? Once you discover it, use it in the same breath as your innovation name and you’ll have a knockout combination.
3. Accentuate Your Positives
Israel is really good at certain verticals: cybersecurity (Checkpoint), mobility (Waze), computer vision (Mobileye) Agritech (Netafim) and beyond. Play to your strengths: Building buzz around your innovation image by emphasizing your strong points will spread stardust around rest of your ecosystem.
4. Cultivate Evangelists
Nothing makes an idea more accessible than putting a face on it. Israel has had its own evangelists – tech guru Yossi Vardi or Dr. Orna Berry for example. Younger guns include Adam Neumann of WeWork, Dr. Kira Radinsky of eBay, Noam Bardin of Waze, Yonatan Adiri of Healthy.io, or Jon Medved of OurCrowd. Give them the spotlight and let them shine on.
5. Create Global Partnerships
A pot of different cultures, backgrounds and disciplines is the stuff ingenuity is made of. That’s exactly why Israel has sought out agreements with dozens of nations and global corporations to fund joint R&D projects in a host of different fields, from space exploration to cell therapy to homeland security to big data to machine learning to tech for the disabled and beyond. Aside from creating groundbreaking, world-changing products, these joint endeavors have generated billions in sales. But they have one more important side effect: they allow for entrepreneurs worldwide to get to know the remarkable benefits of working side by side with Israeli innovators… and vice versa. This, of course, generates a word-of-mouth effect which goes to exactly the right place – the global innovation community.
6. Mix it up
As mentioned, diversity is the creative soup in which innovation cooks. If your ecosystem is dominated by a single gender or race, not only will your creativity and productivity be significantly hampered, but so will your network effect. Innovators come in all shapes, colors and sexes. So do storytellers.
7. Tether Your Unicorns
You’ve likely had at least one big-name startup that made an impressive raise or exit, but have you let everyone know that said unicorn was born and bred in your stable? Google’s acquisition of Waze for $1B sent Israel’s innovation star rising. Mobileye’s purchase by Intel for 15 times that amount only amplified the Israeli ecosystem’s reputation as a hi-tech – and specifically mobility – hub, driving several major car manufacturers to establish R&D centers here.
That leads us to one major communication miss. Around the time of the Waze headlines, Israeli electric vehicle charging company Better Place was making headlines too – for crashing and burning through hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Better Place, it seemed, peaked too early, but in all likelihood, it helped paved the way for companies like Tesla to take the wheel of the EV revolution – not to mention the knowhow generated and entrepreneurs spawned. From a communications perspective, someone needed to find a way to celebrate Better Place for its vision rather than just pillory it for its demise. A good communications lesson: most of your startups will never reach the finish line, but could pass the baton for future successes. Find a way to publicly celebrate failure as well as success, because from an ecosystem perspective, the line between them is blurry.
If a nerd innovates in a garage and no one hears about it, is it really innovation? Make sure that your Innovation Nation is a Communication Nation as well.