There’s an old saying in Africa that outlines that “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. And in today’s interconnected world, it is as exactly as valid as it has always been. In what direction should a country go, in order to become the next innovation epicenter? To what extent are the transformations we are going through as human beings fundamental for the transformation of nations?
Innostart Forum 2019 brought together in Sofia thought leaders from Israel to share some experience, know-how and talk about the mindset when building an innovation nation. There’s been a discussion on the future paradigms, the challenges and the opportunities that the developing countries might see. Chemi Peres, one of the venture capital and innovation pioneers, serving as managing general partner of Pitango Venture Capital, and son of the ninth Israeli President, and Yaniv Garty, vice president of Intel Israel, shared their thoughts in a discussion moderated by Daniel Lorer, the managing partner at the Bulgarian fund BrightCap Ventures. Lyubomir Minchev, the founder of Telelink, also gave some examples of the efforts within the Bulgarian innovative ecosystem.
Several key aspects of building an innovation nation were pointed out: innovation needs to be created for the world, creation of education funnel throughout all levels of the system is crucial, adaptability, collaboration and diversity are driving the chance. Here’s what Peres, Garty and Minchev said:
Open up towards the world, know everyone
Many developing countries around the world are setting their aim to become the next Silicon Valley. To find the secret sauce that would lead the countries economy though requires a joint effort and massive innovation.
“In order to build an economy in any part of the world, you have to innovate. There is nothing else you can sell to the world. And the first lesson for us Israeli, in order to create an innovation nation, is you shouldn’t innovate for yourself, you should innovate for the world. Then the world has an interest, so it will come and invest in what you do,” says Chemi Peres, managing general partner of Pitango Venture Capital.
“If you are looking for an engine that can drive phase, can drive the ability to move fast, Israel found out that it’s density, to become the platform for moving fast. Knowing everyone creates the ability to move fast, make the connections and solve things. Other societies have to find their own platforms to be able to move fast, because today there is no other option. We have to run all the time in order to achieve our dreams.” added Yaniv Garty, vice president of Intel Israel.
The greatest leaders today are not heads of states, but heads of companies
Some decades ago the young generation had a rather fixed path: going to university and then finding a way to work and in some cases become independent. “Today there is a third way for the young generation. They want to change the world. They want to rebuild it. All the new companies are created by the young generation, so the best thing a nation can do is invest in their young generation, in education, and in research. Creating the right climate in terms of regulation, in terms of incentive. Open its door, collaborate with the young borders,” advices Peres.
With this transformation, some of the greatest leaders today in the world are not heads of states, but the head of companies. Some of them though have a bigger effect on people’s lives and on shaping the future.”The good thing about it is that when you are electing a government you do that every few years, but when you run an innovative technology company, you are being elected every day by your customer. So if you discriminate people, if you are not moral your customers will leave you,” points out Peres.
Education comes before innovation
Government has a very critical role in creating talent engines. According to Garty, the private sector and NGOs should also be involved in order to increase the number of people that graduate in exact sciences, engineering or computer science. “This number should grow, but in order to do that you have to go back to high, middle and elementary school to make sure we have created the funnel,” he adds.
“Beyond the work that has to be done, and it has to be done, to grow gradually the ecosystem and invest in it, find those opportunities to bring back people from the outside with the right experiences in education and in business, to come back, and while building businesses they share practices, capabilities and learnings. That can fast speed the growth you are looking for,” states Garty.
Adaptability and collaboration
“You have to adapt. As Charles Darwin said many years ago “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” It is the same with companies. We need to collaborate. I see my company more like an incubator, platform, a family of companies. Each one trying to develop on its own,” states Lyubomir Minchev, CEO of Telelink.
Yaniv Garty of Intel Israel is convinced, “Collaboration is important cause we might not know when we will land at the end of this journey, but embarking on a journey is what it makes it important. Set a platform for companies to work together. One of the most important pieces of that is corporate social responsibility.”
Diversity and inclusion
Another aspect of driving capability and mobility in a world that is changing all the time is diversity. “This is the only way to figure out ways to look differently at problems and come up with different solutions, which is one of the key engines when you need in a time of change. You have to invest a lot in the diversity and to make diversity work you have to take it into inclusion. It can go to people with disabilities. It can go in so many different ways that I believe is one of the engines that can not only help you survive, but can also make you profit.“ stated Garty.
“What is most important in our social and business life is to offer opportunities for everyone. Everyone has equal rights but also the right to be different. For me, diversity is a very powerful concept to embrace innovation and to extract more talent. We have to make sure that every talent, every brain that is out there is given the opportunity to participate.” added Peres.