How Israel’s startup culture powers contech innovation

When it comes to startup havens, Silicon Valley is top of mind. The offshoot of the San Francisco Bay Area is known worldwide for its massive cluster of tech firms worth billions of dollars.

But, in the realm of construction innovation, there’s another area of the world where burgeoning technology firms can find support and funding: Israel.

The country is one of the most promising startup ecosystems in the world— it’s the third highest ranked country in the world for startup activity, behind only the United States and the United Kingdom, per Israeli research firm StartupBlink.

Budding entrepreneurs in Israel who seek to build their own businesses enjoy strong support systems, government funding and access to investors, who see the value the country brings in the startup scene. However, Israel’s strengths wane as these businesses seek to expand beyond the country’s borders, leaving them to go elsewhere to grow further.

Construction Dive spoke to several startup executives and experts, who all praised the country’s development ecosystem and attention that budding entrepreneurs receive. They also listed the unique challenges businesses face there.

Connectivity is key

Creating startups from scratch and building a business from nothing is in “the DNA of Israelis,” said Meirav Oren, the CEO and co-founder of construction technology firm Versatile, which started in Tel Aviv.

“It’s such a fertile ground for an industry that needs great solutions and great companies to be created,” said Oren, who is also the chair of the Tel Aviv chapter of the Society for Construction Solutions, an organization focused on the future of the industry. 

CraneView, one of Versatile’s products.

Permission granted by Versatile


Aviv Leibovici, co-founder and chief product officer of Tel Aviv-based construction software firm Buildots, credited the Israeli military for its role in giving business people the skills they need to succeed in a startup environment. 

Many Israelis — barring exceptions based on race, religion or health — are required by law to serve in the country’s military: Men are required to serve for 32 months, while women are required to serve for 24 months. Among the most famous of these programs is Unit 8200, an elite cybersecurity section within the Israeli Defense Force that Forbes called “Israel’s secret startup machine.”

For Leibovici, making connections within the construction industry was a large, but surmountable, task. He believes it was easier to accomplish in Israel, as opposed to Britain, where Leibovici is currently based, away from the Tel Aviv headquarters where Buildots was founded in 2018.

“Israel is such a closed, small sort of community in many ways that you may easily get to, to explore,” Leibovici said. “People tell you, ‘Oh, you’re trying to start a tech company in this space? That’s fantastic, that’s amazing, come in.’”

Leibovici said that because of those connections, he was able to get a strong understanding of the market very quickly, through meetings with CEOs and days on site with project teams, finding the ins and outs of the industry.

Cheli Wasserman, the CEO of Bimmatch, a construction software firm based in Tel Aviv, echoed Leibovici’s sentiments.

“Israel enjoys a thriving startup ecosystem support, with a high concentration of tech companies and a culture of innovation that provides valuable and supportive networking opportunities for legal, business and development inquiries,” Wasserman said.

It’s all about the money

Those doing business in Israel say they reap benefits from the role of the government in creating opportunity and the involvement of others within the tech arena that supports entrepreneurs.

“Someone knows someone all the time, and they’re able to give you that intro a lot of the time more than you’re going to find in other places,” said Molly Livingstone, the chief of connections and ecosystem manager for MassChallenge Israel, an offshoot of Boston-based American startup accelerator MassChallenge.

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