Israeli tech scene second only to Silicon Valley, Google exec says
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Israeli tech scene second only to Silicon Valley, Google exec says

Eric Schmidt tells Tel Aviv crowd he has seen maturation of hi-tech sector, notes there are Israeli companies on their way to being worth $1 billion

(L to R) Shlomo Touboul, Eric Schmidt, and Ofer Israeli cut the cake celebrating the official launch of Illusive in Tel Aviv, June 8, 2015 (Illusive Networks)
(L to R) Shlomo Touboul, Eric Schmidt, and Ofer Israeli cut the cake celebrating the official launch of Illusive in Tel Aviv, June 8, 2015 (Illusive Networks)

A top Google official on Tuesday hailed Israel’s tech sector, saying it trailed only Silicon Valley in the United States when it comes to “initiatives.”

Eric Schmidt, formerly Google chief executive and now executive chairman of its parent company Alphabet, said Israel, a country of only around 8 million people, was punching far above its weight in technology.

“For a relatively small country, Israel has a super role in technological innovation,” he told an audience at Google’s offices in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.

“I can’t think of a place where you could see this diversity and the collection of initiatives aside from Silicon Valley,” he added. “That is a pretty strong statement.”

Israel has long self-styled itself as the “start-up nation,” encouraging entrepreneurship –- especially in the technological sector.

However, companies have often been sold to larger investors in the United States, rather than remaining in the Middle Eastern country.

Schmidt said he had seen a “maturation” of the “start-up nation” in recent years.

“[Previously] it seemed like many of the initiatives were not fully thought out,” he said.

“But now I am beginning to see companies that are on their way to being worth a billion dollars.”

Google acquired Waze, an Israeli real-time traffic application, for more than $1 billion in 2013 and has also bought other smaller Israeli firms.

The company develops many of its technologies in research and development centers in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Schmidt said the small population and therefore limited local market was one of the main factors constraining Israel’s tech sector.

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