GIBRALTAR DELEGATION – to the Innovation Nation

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In mid-October a business delegation from Gibraltar paid a visit to Israel. This was the second such delegation in the space of 6 months, following the historic delegation which visited Israel earlier in the year. The delegation was led by Eran Shay and Ayelet Mamo Shay, founders of the Gibraltar-Israel Chamber of Commerce (Gibrael) with the objective of identifying business opportunities between the two countries as well as to discover what has made Israel such a technology power-house and the source of many innovative and successful start-ups.

The delegation was comprised of senior bankers from both the Gibraltar International Bank and Jyske Bank, Callaghan Insurance Group, Sunborn Hotel, Sodi Connect Asset Management Solutions and other private investors. The delegates have visited Israel’s three biggest cities, namely Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, where they explored some of the Israel’s leading technology hubs, start-up incubators, accelerato
rs and the Venture Capital industry.

“The itinerary of this delegation was almost completely different from that of the first one,” says Gibrael President, Eran. “This is because we felt it will not be fair to introduce the delegates to the same people. The idea is that each delegation will establish its own unique set of contacts in Israel.”

The delegation stayed at the 5* Crown Plaza Hotel, situated at the iconic Azrieli Center in Tel-Aviv, one of the city’s modern landmarks and an important business hub. Starting in Tel Aviv, the delegates received an introduction to the Israeli HiTech ecosystem and were then taken on a visit to one of the city’s newest and poshest innovation & co-working spaces: AYEKA. There they met with a number of start-up entrepreneurs and explored the unique community atmosphere that this place has, which facilitates attracting investors and cross fertilisation of ideas. The afternoon included a visit to Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young at their new MidTown Tower headquarters, for a session on the latest CyberSecurity developments. Delegates were then given a presentation by leading law firm Bracha & Co. on tax considerations when doing business between Israel and Gibraltar, for corporates and HNWIs. With Blockchain being the current buzzword, delegates were then taken to Israel’s largest Blockchain investment and venture capital group for some tips on what investors are looking for when assessing investment in blockchain start-ups.

The following day saw the delegation travelling to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. There the delegates were treated to a tour of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) where they were warmly welcomed and congratulated by the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset – MP Hilik Bar. From there they continued to a visit to The Bank of Israel for a presentation on Israel’s economy and monetary policy. The afternoon included an overview of Israel’s trade & commerce at the Israeli Ministry of Economy, and a meetup with a crowd funding platform and a number of start-up entrepreneurs at the impressive StandWithUs organisation.  No visit to Jerusalem is complete without seeing the famous Old City, sacred to the world’s three dominant monotheistic religions, and delegates enjoyed a real spiritual uplift visiting the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

The final day involved travelling to the North of Israel to Haifa- the country’s third biggest city, main port city and site of the biggest HiTech R&D centre, where some of the world’s most recognized corporates such as Google, Intel, Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM and many others develop their latest innovations. On the way to Haifa, the delegation stopped at the town of Hertzliya-Pituach, Israel’s main hub for Venture Capital investment firms, where they interacted with fund managers at Shine multi-family office and visited the offices of Playtika. Here, they heard the captivating story of how the company developed from an idea into one of the world’s biggest internet social gaming company, and were treated to a presentation on the Israeli HiTech by the sector’s umbrella organisation – the IATA. Back in Haifa, the delegation met with the city’s Economic Development Company and met up with professors and entrepreneurs at Haifa University.

On the final evening, the delegation was treated to a large networking event attended by about 100 of Israel’s top business entrepreneurs, VCs, leading legal and finance sector personas along with representative from various government agencies.

“Over these three intensive days, the delegates have met with a multitude of intermediaries, entrepreneurs and leading business personas, and some of the opportunities identified have already successfully materialised into business results for the delegates,” says Gibrael Chairwoman, Ayelet.

Equally important, the delegation has discovered some of the “secret ingredients” that have turned Israel into such an entrepreneurial society. Such ingredients include:

  • The public encouragement to take risks and the education to be entrepreneurial from young age
  • The general acceptance in the business world that some failure is a necessary component to becoming successful- indeed some VCs will NOT invest in an entrepreneur who has never failed before
  • The compulsory military service at the age of 18, which teaches young people discipline, team work and leadership, and gives them a practical path to professional development
  • The absorption of immigration from all around the world, with the recognition that immigrants are an asset to a country rather than a burden on its economy
  • Finally, the existential threats and challenges that Israel has been faced with from day one of its establishment in 1948. Such challenges have forced the people of Israel to think outside the box, innovate and invent in order to survive.

These ingredients along with various government support schemes and numerous private initiatives are indeed the secrets to Israel’s success. Surely there are lessons here for Gibraltar to learn if it wishes to diversify its economy further, and the Gibraltar-Israel Chamber of Commerce will continue to play its role in the exchange of ideas and opportunities between the countries. Further delegations are planned for 2018 and anyone interested should contact Gibrael Chamber on info@gibrael.org.