I am reading ‘Startup Nation‘, which tells the story of Israel’s tech startup community – 3,500 or more companies. An incredible number considering a population of 7 million. On this measure Perth should have about 1,000 or so. Maybe it does. A report published last September put it at 200, but this might only be a fraction of the total. I did a rough preliminary count and got to 150 quite quickly. I am sure I know only a small minority.

It depends how you define ‘startup’ of course. I tend to define it as a new company, less than three years old, probably (though not necessarily) in tech, that has a scalable business idea. Something that could go to $10 million or $100 million in revenues in a few years from inception. Most won’t of course, but that is the game. It’s not simply a new small business that provides a few jobs to its founders and team. It’s something that could enjoy explosive growth. Hence the attraction to seed and business angel investors, who get the golden opportunity to get in at the ground level.

There are grey edges around the definition of a startup, and how many are actually ‘going’, as opposed to many that might be ideas, hobbies, dormant and/or unfunded. But let’s assume the business is going, has clients, revenues and either founder, family, friends, angels or even venture capital money.

The number (150? 200? 1,000?) is inconsequential. It’s the scene, the vibe, and there are marked similarities between the state of Israel and the city of Perth that makes for interesting comparisons…

1. Isolation
2. Displaced population
3. Pioneering spirit (frontier mentality)
4. Mix of nationalities
5. Large major industry requiring innovation
6. Healthy disregard for authority
7. Relatively small population
8. Strong universities with innovation flavour

All these factors mean both places have a mix of ‘can do’ people, with an urge to do something. In Israel they call the attitude chutzpah. They are not ‘from here’ and have to forge their own future. There is a sense that much can still be done, there is still plenty of opportunity. People arrive with their talents (800-1000 people arrive in Perth every week) bringing their worldly experience and ‘get up an go’ with them- for they have literally ‘got up and gone’ to get here.

In the way Singapore used its people (the only asset it had) and an open economy to create incredible growth for its first 50 years, so Israel and Perth are gaining from the skills within its human resources. Israel has 63 companies listed on the NASDAQ, more than any other country outside the US. How many could we get there?

Startup Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer was published in 2009 and was fifth in NY Times business best seller list in 2010.

About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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7 Responses
  1. Ashley Aitken

    Great post Charlie (hope you were reading that on your new Kindle, not some dead trees 😉 I believe there is strong support in Israel from the government as well, something we lack in WA and Australia. Of course, that is no excuse for us, every country / city has its negatives. We (the founders) just have to make it happen.

  2. Andy Dent

    Would love to see a followup article on the list size and then another in a year to see the churn rate. Israel has over three times the population of WA and I suspect that many more people there have easier access to the US market than do from WA.

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