11:30 | 20.12.16 | Interviews | exclusive 26824

Saul Reichman: “Israel and Armenia put big emphasis on tech education”

On December 12 Yerevan hosted Empowering Ideas Global Forum, organized by World Learning in cooperation with the US Embassy in Armenia and with financing from the US State Department.

Itel.am talked to one of the forum speakers Saul Reichman, Executive Vice President at Challenge Fund, Israel.

- What do Armenia and Israel have in common?

- I was fascinated that the countries have a lot of similarities.

First of all, geographical similarities: both are very small, population is small, both lack natural resources and are surrounded by hostile countries, mostly by Muslim states. Both were recently independent, both belonged to the Ottoman Empire and suffered genocide. Moreover, the two countries have compulsory army service and a very big emphasis on education, technical education as well.

In Israel there is a very big population speaking Russian, who arrived after the collapse of USSR. Here in Armenia there is that Russian influence as well. And so you see there are a lot of similarities between the two countries, and it’s very interesting. I think somebody should investigate this similarity because it’s very interesting how two countries that are quite far apart have so much in common.

- Israel is considered one of the world’s tech centers. What are the key factors of such success?

- I think the Israeli government was very enabling from the start. We already had a very strong backbone in education, so people are very technical and highly skilled. You could say Israel has a very professional technical workforce.

We have multinationals present in Israel, also engaging. The Israeli mentality, the culture itself is very open to asking questions and solving problems, which is very helpful when looking into technical problems.

There is also the fact that we go to the army, both men and women, and at a very young age you are required to solve problems. Sometimes you have to think out of the box because you lack resources, you lack capital. At a very young age Israelis are required to solve problems, and after army service they can take the skill set with them, going into business or industry.

- How interesting is Israeli tech ecosystem for startups from abroad?

- Israel is a country of immigrants. By law if you have any Jewish connection, it’s easier for you to come to the country. Armenians can obtain a visa and stay in Israel too. And of course, Israel is also opening up. We understand that we need more workforce and technical professionals. We are even considering outsourcing developers from abroad.

Israel understands that if it wants to continue at the same course it needs to open its borders even more, not just for the Jewish population. So I think the country will become more and more international over the years.

- What would you like to say to Armenian startups who might be interested in Israeli market?

- I think they should try as best as possible to network with local people and do their homework to understand the ecosystem.
If you are a startup, understand the competitive landscape in Israel. Speak perhaps or connect with the VC’s in the space or multinationals that are active in that space. This is something that you can do while you’re here in Armenia. You don’t need to be in Israel to do that, this is something you can do in advance.

Narine Daneghyan talked to Saul Reichman