, Can A Country Be Managed As A Startup? Israel To Be Governed By A Serial Entrepreneur, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Can A Country Be Managed As A Startup? Israel To Be Governed By A Serial Entrepreneur

After 12 years of firm governing, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, will be out of office following a long and rather dirty battle to hold on to power. 

For many years, Netanyahu was known to many as “King Bibi”, especially after, against all odds, he stayed in power even though indicted on various charges in three different cases. After a fourth inconclusive election in two years, Netanyahu failed to create a coalition while an unlikely coalition of eight opposition parties from right and left successfully formed a new government to lead the middle-eastern startup nation.

Netanyahu will be replaced as prime minister by Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Yamina party and a serial successful entrepreneur. 

“An Entrepreneur Is The Ultimate Leader” 

Amir Orad, serial entrepreneur and CEO (currently CEO of Sisense),  cofounded the anti-fraud software company Cyota with Bennett in the early 2000s. “We all decided to make Naftali our leader s due to his exceptional leadership skills. More than a standard entrepreneur”’ he insists, “he is a true leader. He listens, he can integrate different points of view and knows how to use synergy to create common ground. He is a hard worker who cares about his fellow employees as well as the business. He established a rule,” he remembers, “whereby employees raising personal problems would receive a response in no later than 24 hours.”  

The company was eventually sold in 2005 to RSA Security for $145 million and Orad believes that Bennett has a huge part in this success. 

An entrepreneurial career requires an unconventional set of skills and experience. Bennett, it seems, came to the startup arena with some impressive abilities.

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He served as a soldier in Sayeret Matkal, IDF’s prestigious special forces unit tasked with counter-terrorism missions, and as a company commander in the elite reconnaissance unit Maglan that specializes in using advanced technology and weaponry behind enemy lines.

 Following his military service, Bennett studied for a law degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During his studies, he co-founded Cyota and later moved to New York.

“We were working together in NY before he went back to Israel and I remember how I admired his exceptional growth mindset,” says Orad. “After every meeting we had, and there were many, he used to pull a small black notebook out of his pocket and note three successful elements of the meeting and three unsuccessful ones, and what we could do next time around to achieve better results. Working together, consulting, and always aiming higher, these are the actions of a true leader.” 

Bennett returned to Israel to embark on a political career, and, surprisingly, served as Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff for 2 years before returning to his hi-tech career as the CEO of the software company Soluto. Years later, he sold it for $130 million and quickly returned to politics. Orad wasn’t so surprised about Bennett’s decision to serve the country in the political arena. “I remember how he left everything in NY when a war broke out in Israel just to join his fellow soldiers in the field. That says a lot.”

Innovative State (Of Mind)

While Israel faces multiple challenges, there’s one thing that seems to constantly be on the rise: its startups. Known as the Startup Nation, with the most unicorns per capita, Israel’s  startups just hit an all-time record with $10.5b of investments in the five months since the beginning of this year. As prime-minister, an Israeli entrepreneur may just bring similar achievements to other fields.  

“I believe that as an entrepreneur, Naftali arrives with a huge advantage to this challenging role,” says Orad, who admits that while his political views are different than his former partner’s, he believes that he is the best man for the job. “Unlike a career politician, an entrepreneur works to build an established and innovative business. He faces challenges and works to push forward through different cultures and industries. As an entrepreneur, Naftali built and strengthened diverse teams, from different backgrounds, origins, with different skills and that’s what a leader should do, especially today.”

Bennett will head the new government, referred to as “the government of change.” It will include left-wing and centrist parties while relying on support in parliament from Arab legislators.  Beyond a doubt, this untraditional coalition will require a skilled intermediary who will not only maneuver the different parties but also push legislation forward. “In the last few years, the Israeli government was in many ways like a company that changes its management over and over again, and it’s time to bring order. I know”’ says Orad, “that I will feel better sending my kids to the army knowing he is in charge.”

Israeli entrepreneurs and investors are hopeful that Bennett’s entrepreneurial tools and skills will be just what the country needs. “Entrepreneurs are the problem solvers, innovators and builders of today’s world”’ says Avi Shua, Co-Founder and CEO of Orca Security. “As entrepreneurs, we believe we can find solutions to any given problem, and we never assume existing approaches are the only possible solutions. As such, I’m glad that Bennett has an entrepreneurial background. His experience should enable him to bring unique value and creative thinking, as well as knowledge on building initiatives and diverse teams to meet key objectives, to his role as a political leader.’’ 

 Chen Amit, CEO & Co-Founder of the unicorn Tipalti agrees: “The key to being a successful founder is to challenge the status quo, have a clear vision of what you aim to achieve, build a simple strategy to follow and build a team that will follow you. Israel needs exactly that. Whether it is about closing socioeconomic gaps, upgrading education or the way we perceive our leaders, and the quality of political discussions.”

Orad believes that having an entrepreneur as Israel’s leader will also benefit Israeli startups. “There are multiple hurdles that a government puts before companies along the way and having someone who knows what makes companies work and develop better is a gamechanger.” Guy Yamen, Managing Partner at TPY agrees.  “We can only hope that qualities that lead to successful  startups, such as pragmatism, grit, ruthless analysis of the situation and smart decision making, will be part of how the new government operates. At the same time, hi-tech is  Israel’s largest growth engine, and hopefully, leaders who understand its strength and needs will increase support for this critical sector.”

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