20201213 Dan Senor
Dan Senor Image Credit: Supplied

When author Dan Senor joined hands with Jerusalem Post's Saul Singer in 2009 to write Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, it inspired Paul E. Singer to found Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), a non-profit organisation with the goal of strengthening the Israeli innovation industry and connect it to corporate, government and leading NGOs around the globe. In 2010, the book ranked fifth on the business bestseller list of The New York Times.

Much has changed in the years since Senor teamed up with Singer to write the book. Today, SNC is playing a key role in Israel’s progress since its inception seven years ago, and Senor is a board member, along with Paul Singer and SNC chairwoman Terry Kassel.

According to a recent research report by SNC, 2020 was a record year in terms of capital raised by Israeli startups. About $10 billion was raised this year, more than 20 per cent above 2019 figures of $7.7 billion. This puts Israel well ahead of other countries receiving investment in its tech sector, with an increase of 5 per cent in the US and about 1 per cent in Europe.

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“This is mind-blowing for a country of approximately 8 million people,” says Senor. “Investment has almost quadrupled. Israel was a country of startups and it still is a country of startups, but now it's also a country of scale-ups and there are more than 40 unicorns in Israel right now.”

The pandemic of 2020 has also refocused Israel’s attention on new areas. “Right now, for example, digital health is suddenly a game-changing sector and cybersecurity is also growing because we're all working remotely and having stronger tech security capabilities becomes indispensable. So Israel is taking off in sectors that just weren't on our radar 10 years ago,” says Senor.

Reuven Rivlin

Senor will be speaking to Gulf News’ moderator Eithne Treanor at the inaugural UAE-Israel Business Leaders Summit, a virtual conference by Gulf News and TheMarker that begins today. The summit will open with keynotes from Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel and Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Economy Minister. The event is sponsored by Kizad, ZonesCorp and Kalandoor Group from the UAE.

Ten years ago, the global tech focus was on Silicon Valley with more than 80 per cent of global venture capital invested in California. Senor still sees the importance of Silicon Valley, but says the interest and reach has expanded to other American states, as well as beyond US shores to Europe and China.

With a series of diplomatic breakthroughs over the years, Senor is not surprised that Israel has become such an attractive technological innovation hub. “Today, Israel’s reach is global. It is in India, Latin America and now it's going to be throughout the Middle East.”

With the signing of the Abraham Accord in September, there has been considerable interest in expanding investment and cooperation between the UAE and Israel. “There is a huge opportunity for the UAE to be the most dominant player in tech in much of the Middle East market, servicing the broader Arab world and partnering with Israel’s entrepreneurs in R&D to build businesses in the UAE to reach a vast untapped market.”

With endless opportunities available on both sides, Senor says “strategic minds need to prevail” to ensure all opportunities are successful and sustainable. “At SNC, we hope to cultivate mutually beneficial, two-way partnerships between the Israeli and Emirati tech communities.”

Agenda for Day 1

5.00pm – 5:30pm: Welcome and Introduction
Mohammed Almezel, Editor-at-Large, Gulf News
Aluf Benn, Editor-in-Chief, Haaretz

Keynote: Opportunities of the peace treaty
Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel

Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri

Keynote: The economic dividend of the deal
Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Economy Minister

Keynote: Dr Samer Haj-Yehia, Chairman of Leumi Bank

5.30pm – 5.50pm
Panel discussion: Financing business

Dr. Avraham Ortal, CEO, Leumi Partners | Mohieddine Kronfol, CIO Global Sukuk & MENA FI, Franklin Templeton UAE

5.55pm – 6.10pm
Rakefet Russak Aminoach, Managing Partner, Team8 Fintech

6.10pm – 6.45pm
Panel discussion:
Yael Weiss Efron, Innovation Manager at the Israel Securities Authority | HB Lim, Director, Financial Services Regulatory Authority, ADGM | Ken Coghill, Associate Director, Head of Operational and Technology Risk Supervision at the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).

6.50pm – 7.20pm
Interview: Why is Israel the ultimate start-up nation?
Panelist: Dan Senor