Watch out Silicon Valley: Israel's cybersecurity start-ups are coming

This past week, the global media suddenly took notice of the sleeping cybersecurity giant which has emerged in Israel.

When most people think about Israel, topics like Middle East peace talks or touring Holy Land sites usually come to mind. But over the past few years, a powerful transformation has been occurring in focused areas of science and technology in Israel. 

And this past week, the global media suddenly took notice of the sleeping cybersecurity giant which has emerged in Israel. But before I describe ground-breaking events at CyberTech 2014 in Tel Aviv, here are some headline news examples:

Christian Science Monitor – Israel hopes to cash in on world’s insecurity

RT.com – ‘Turn the curse into a blessing’ – Netanyahu wants UN of the Internet

The Kansas City Star – Israel plans to export cyber tech – despite risk

In addition, a parade of high-tech companies have announced major investments in research arms based in Israel.  For example:

Bloomberg – Israel's Cyber-Security Prowess Is Attracting Foreign Firms

Jerusalem Post – Could Intel pave Israel’s way on cybersecurity?

Haaretz - Cisco to invest in Israel’s cybersecurity technologies

Background on the Start-up Nation

No, this is not an entirely new story. The tales of Israeli companies like Checkpoint have been told for more than a decade. Behind the scenes, there has always been quiet respect for the cybersecurity start-up companies and wider cyber talent coming from Israel. Several young Israeli tech companies have been bought over the past few years.

But recent announcements and new developments point to something radically different. No longer are we talking about a few good “one-off players coming from Triple A baseball teams.” No, Israel is building what may become the next Silicon Valley, with a focus on cybersecurity. The tech world is starting to take notice – and the rest of the world will soon begin to see the value of what they are creating.

If you don’t believe me, some more detailed background material can be found by reading this TechRepublic article: How is Israel is rewriting the future of cybersecurity and creating the next Silicon Valley.

Another good read comes from Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle

CyberTech 2014 in Tel Aviv

  I was very blessed to be invited by the Israeli government to participate in CyberTech 2014 in Israel, as a part of a wider public/private delegation from Michigan. I wrote about the details of that 12-day Israel visit in this blog over at Government Technology Magazine. Here’s how I began that blog:

On Monday, January 27, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the stage as the opening keynote speaker at the CyberTech 2014 conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. However, the words that he said and the conference which he lead, offered a vital message to the public and private sectors in the USA and around the world. Federal, state and local governments need to pay attention to the remarkable accomplishments unfolding on the other side of the world.

The atmosphere in the packed auditorium was electric. After a standing ovation with an extended applause, the Prime Minister began:

“I just returned from addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I want to begin by sharing the ideas discussed with global economic and political leaders….

The world that we’re entering now, the world that we are in and is about to develop around us, the world of the Internet, the world of interconnectivity, offers great hopes and great dangers….

And, we have great online blessings, along with curses that must be addressed as we enter a new phase in the Internet of things…."

You can watch Prime Minister Netanyahu’s entire presentation here on YouTube.

I found his words and vision to be both very insightful and offer a bold new plan.

What are Israel’s innovative plans moving forward? The Prime Minister’s Office, the Beersheba Municipality and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev announced the establishment of the “CyberSpark” national cyber center in Beersheba. The complex will be unique in that it will bring together large multinationals, investors, start-ups, academic research, and even a high school, all dedicated to developing cybersecurity solutions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “Beersheba will not only be the cyber capital of Israel but one of the most important places in the cybersecurity field in the world.” The government will offer new tax incentives and even pay 40% of the salaries of new employees hired in the complex.

I outlined some of the start-up companies that we liked in the end of the Govtech blog on the conference.

Challenges ahead

No doubt, there are major hurdles yet to be faced as Israel grows their cybersecurity industry and the CyberSpark program.

The Wall Street Journal outlined the major challenge for Israeli technology companies is to build global companies.

Nevertheless, I was very impressed by what I saw in Israel. Examples of new innovative, disruptive companies and technologies in various aspects of cybersecurity are clearly coming from Israel, and I suspect that they are just beginning the journey. Indeed, Prime Minister Netanyahu described a decades-long strategy.

So as we all plan to head west for another RSA conference at the end of this month, I say: Watch out Silicon Valley, Israel’s cybersecurity start-ups are coming.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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