When people dream of becoming successful entrepreneurs, of changing the world, they often look far and wide for ideas and inspiration. Americans look to move to innovation bubbles like New York or Silicon valley, Brits set their sites on London and the list goes on and on. Yet, often, leaving a local community to go to these “centers” of innovation, where anything seems possible, and hardships are limited, can actually be what stunts an entrepreneur’s success.
To understand my what I’m saying, let’s have a look at a small example called Israel. While most of the world has already benefited from Israeli inventions such as drip irrigation, the USB key, The Cherry Tomato and so many more, there is also much to learn from how and why Israel was able to become the Innovation Power House it is, especially given the challenges it has faced. Namely, being only seventy years old, with a mere population of Eight Million, all while being surrounded by hostile enemies and with no Natural Resources.
Indeed, somehow what should have been a train wreck of a country now has more high-tech start-ups and a larger venture capital industry per capita than any other country in the world. Understandably, when people talk about Israel’s astounding success, they usually talk about how despite all these challenges and growing pains, Israel has become what it is today. But in fact, Israel’s success is largely because of its tough climate.
You see, innovation and invention are possible anywhere and everywhere, but nothing brings them to light quite like necessity. When a need is presented, a solution will be found. These needs, these challenges, these tough situations have forced Israelis to think out of the box. Israelis have needed to think creatively and brilliantly to find solutions to anything from wanting to store information on portable small devices all the way to needing to save water and nutrients when watering plants.
When a need or a threat faces someone, both their motivation and their ability to take risks are propelled. Thus, for example, when Israeli civilians were in danger due to rockets being shot at them, they were forced to invent The Iron Dome, an innovative missile system that is able to recognize and shoot down incoming threats.
When people dream of changing the world, they too often forget about their greatest strength — the connection to and understanding of their local problems, challenges, and talent. Instead of looking to Silicon Valley for inspiration, entrepreneurs should focus on solving the problems they themselves know and have faced. Instead of seeking talent elsewhere, they should turn to their neighbors and local immigrants, who share those same challenges and are the ones who can provide the unique insight needed for creating innovative solutions.
If there is one thing entrepreneurs can learn from Israel, it is that we should look no further than our own homes, than our own neighborhoods, than our own countries for inspiration. Israel shows us all that true innovation is born out of necessity. As such, an entrepreneur’s best friend is his struggle, and that’s a lesson we shouldn’t be so quick to forget.
So, remember — where there is distress there is opportunity. No matter where we are, we all face challenges and growing pains. Instead of ignoring them and looking elsewhere, we should convert them to the engine behind our actions, and our motivation for innovating.