73. How the vaccine rollout will get us back to work, and what we can learn and do now to prevent a future global crisis - featuring Israeli entrepreneurial ecosystem builder Amir Eldad. 

Israel is the leading country in rolling out the covid-19 vaccine to its people. The rest of the world, especially policymakers and strategists, are watching closely, hoping to learn from Israel’s success and mistakes.

Will our careers and professional opportunities be back to normal once all get vaccinated? I invited my friend Amir Eldad for a chat to provide us with an insight into what is happening right now in Israel.

Amir is based in Israel and has lived in Europe and the US. He’s a consultant and an expert in entrepreneurialism, more specifically in designing and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems. So, of course, I took the opportunity to discuss with him how an entrepreneurial culture and mindset can help solve future crises and create a more sustainable future. Can corporate professionals become more innovative and agile?

Israel and the Covid-19 vaccine rollover.

Israel’s vaccine rollout is the fastest globally and is close to completion, with the highest vaccination rate per capita. I asked Amir what made Israel’s vaccine rollout so successful and quick. He broke it down into three main reasons:

  1. Israel made it a top priority: Israel’s prime minister did a great job making sure that Israel has that vaccine. They had an attitude of doing whatever you have to do to make sure they have the vaccine.
  2. The country has a history and culture to quickly set itself in a survival mode: Due to Israel's history, survival mode is deeply embedded in its culture. And a sense of survival implies that you do what you have to do to survive. So, when the pandemic hit, the country as a whole treated it as a threat.
  3. They had in place a strong healthcare foundation. - Israel has a solid public health structure. Unlike countries like the US, where you have to be employed to get health insurance, in Israel, everyone is insured, and it's progressive according to your salary. So if you are unemployed, you pay practically nominal fees to get health insurance. Israel is also relatively centralized in terms of medical records. Once the vaccines were available, this strong healthcare structure was mobilized in a speedy timeframe, with efficient logistics and the capability to roll out initial and ongoing vaccination campaigns.

Israel: The Startup Country

The country has invested heavily in supporting startups and innovation since the Yozma program was established in the 1980s – a venture capital fund that boosted early-stage, high-potential and high-risk startups. According to Amir, there are over six thousand startups in Israel at any given time. This, in turn, attracts multi-national corporations to establish themselves in the country and pursue R&D in Israel. 

The establishment of multinationals in Israel has also been the outcome of Israelis’ global mobility. They studied and worked overseas and opened subsidiaries of their employers in Israel when they wanted to return home. This can activate and enable connections: the one degree of separation that makes connections between inventors, mentors, investors, and partners a much easier pursuit. 

The outcome is then a heavily concentrated precinct where many inventions, innovations, and research activity happening that the system "feeds itself.” And that's when you know it is an innovation ecosystem.

What we can learn more entrepreneurs

I first met Amir Eldad in 2017. I was the second hire of the then-brand-new Enterprise Portfolio, created by Monash University to enhance and develop new and existing industry partnerships across the university. Amir was already a consultant working with some of the University's departments and institutes. His expertise lies in supporting corporations, governments, and universities in developing "internationally connected entrepreneurial ecosystems." This grouping of words may be new to you, but it makes sense: if you read it again, it is certainly more precise than saying he is an "innovation" consultant. The "Innovation" word gets thrown around so much that we are forever chasing it without a clear strategy. Well, let me tell you: Amir has a strategy, and people should listen.

"You build a coalition that includes large corporations, startups, investors, universities, and the right government interventions, and you have your entrepreneurial ecosystem." According to Amir, by adopting this stakeholder model to support innovation, you are very likely to achieve economic growth, create high-value products and services that would, in Australia's case, decrease our over-reliance in the mining and resources sector.

Amir and I bonded over our passion for entrepreneurialism and our intellectual interest in innovation. We believe in cultural interventions. Over many years we have seen and experienced how strategic plans without a high degree of care and cultivation of the right culture can hinder strategies developed by leaders with good intentions. Sometimes a narrow focus on technology innovation that does not consider the ecosystem that sustains it can even make the expensive strategy move the organization backward. It's a disaster when an ecosystem approach is not taken seriously.

5 Pillars of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Every activity that you do and every program that you create has to include the following five elements:

  1. The entrepreneurs: startups and the supporting accelerator/incubators
  2. Risk capital and investors
  3. Universities and research institutions
  4. The government, and  
  5. Large corporations.

2 Types of Impact of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Program:

  1. Regular impact: a maintenance activity, supporting entrepreneurs, providing funding and training.
  2. Hight impact: when the program changes the zero-sum game and has the potential to put the ecosystem to the next higher level without dropping down when the program or intervention stops. 

What is a Corporate Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?

Amir has taken this model and implemented thriving innovation ecosystems for clients such as large multi-national corporations, universities, and governments. This helps them link their entrepreneurial spread world-wide. It also helps develop the organization’s culture and supportive environment: "it's like implementing a startup mentality in-house," he says. The necessary ingredients are critical mass, momentum, and focus on achieving economic development, not innovation for innovation's sake. And most importantly for Australia, it is essential to seek international connectivity. Being part of the global conversation about your area of R&D is crucial."

The two types of people an organization should have to enable a thriving entrepreneurial culture. 

From Amir's experience, innovation and culture go hand in hand: “Everyone talks about innovation and entrepreneurship and things being done in large organizations, but a large organization is a big ship. You need a lot of power to change direction. It has a lot to do with organizational culture, and it’s a real effort trying to change them, but you have to start somewhere.” And to do so, you need to make sure that there are two right people in the organization.

  1. The Leader: He or she needs to have a true vision and recognize the need to change the direction towards innovation. They might not know how to do it, the proper practice, or the correct KPI and quantitative measures, but innovation has to be deep in their heart and soul for the change to work. The willingness to take a bottom-up approach and empowerment teams has to come from the top. 
  2. The Champion: the champion should be a senior executive, but not the top person. The best champions are at the senior executive level, helping drive and influence decision-making, and extremely passionate. Unlike the leader, they are experts and know what they're talking about. They know what it takes to drive innovation in their organization. They can differentiate between good programs and bad programs. They are the ones that take a risk within the organization to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. They also do all they can and more to lead that change, with outstanding support from the Leader. 

Conclusion

Amir and I concluded our conversation by merging the pandemic and innovation conversations, identifying ways to better manage future global crises by activating an entrepreneurial mentality and ecosystem to tackle future international challenges. 

There’s much we can learn from entrepreneurs. Professionals with an entrepreneurial mindset may have a career advantage in the corporate sector and bring some of the learnings into that setting to enable agile operations and flexible working and building companies.

I hope you enjoy this interesting conversation and that it inspires your career.

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Podcast Episode Timestamps:

  • 08.40 - Difference between start-up and scale-up?
  • 11.50 - Amir explains how Israel is vaccinating the entire country, and he shares his experience living there and experiencing the vaccine rollout on the ground.
  • 20.15 - What’s different now that such a large proportion of the country has been vaccinated?
  • 22.56 - Israel is a country of startups and a breeding incubator for many innovations. How has it been operating under this pandemic environment?
  • 26.52 - Welfare system in Israel.
  • 29.50 - Amir's expertise, what does it means to be an expert in entrepreneurial ecosystems?
  • 39.39 - What would be the first step for an organization and the decision-maker to start working in that way?
  • 45.02 - How can we develop better responses in the future using skills that you have learned in terms of global connectivity, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and these pillars that are the foundation of that?
  • 55.12 - Amir is confronted with the opposite reaction where companies or governments feel like they're always in competition and are reluctant to take up an alliance.
  • 57.29 - Renata's out-of-the-box analogy.

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Links mentioned in this episode:

Further reading:

 About our guest, Amir Eldad:

Amir is a globally recognized Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder. Throughout the first part of his career, Amir led Global Go-to-Market for Israeli startups that aspired for global leadership while bridging the multi-national cultural gap. His extensive experience led to his role as Director of Global Partnerships of MassChallenge, co-founding MassChallenge Israel, playing a pivotal role in establishing the new MassChallenge Switzerland hub, and leading a high impact partnership between the City of Boston, MassChallenge Boston, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lyon, France.

Co-located in Israel and Boston, MA, Amir leverages his strengths in the entrepreneurial communities in Israel, Boston, France, Switzerland, Melbourne (Australia), and other locations to help his clients achieve their growth objectives through internationally-connected entrepreneurial ecosystems. Amir is a regular speaker in global conferences such as the annual Global Technology Leadership Dialogue (Melbourne, Aug-2019) and the annual EBN European Innovation Hubs conference (Rome, Oct-2019). Connect with Amir: Amir's LinkedIn

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