Founder Stories: The Israeli Chutzpah

Written by
Elie Bleier

Want to know how Israelis have become known for such successful entrepreneurship across the globe? One hint: A secret ingredient here in Silicon Wadi - chutzpah. A new podcast highlighting the vibrant stories of Israeli start-up founders sheds light on the subject.

Israel is well known as the Startup Nation. The Israel Defense Forces teach grit, discipline and how to navigate flexible hierarchies. Immigrants bless the nation with various languages and skillsets. Higher education is not only renowned domestically but globally leading, especially in the sciences and entrepreneurship. Tapping into this success, Tel Aviv based venture capital firm F2 Capital has started a podcast, Founder Stories, which interviews successful Israeli entrepreneurs. The hosts of the podcast happen to be intimately connected. Husband Barak, a managing director of the firm, and wife Anouk, founder of the tech journalism site, invite the who’s who of the local scene to informally chat not just about their business journeys but life journeys as well. “We wanted the podcast to be like meeting people in our living room or a cafe,” Anouk explained, “It's laid back and intimate. We delve quite deep, not just focusing on the business but on anything: we talk about ourselves, about our kids, even the meaning of life!”

Founder Stories © Ayelet Shapira

The impetus for the podcast was quite simple. “My husband and I love podcasts.” Anouk exclaimed, “We listen in our free time, whether driving our kids or in our personal commute.” With past experience on local radio TLV1, with a lack of local quality English language content, and with Barak already considering creating his own podcast, Founder Stories was an opportunity to combine their passions into a Husband-Wife project. “Initially, we didn't know how it would be to work together, but it's working out fine!” she told us, “It's our passion project: we're both passionate about Israeli tech and innovation, about podcasts, and of course about each other.”

While the podcast is only four months old, Anouk and Barak have already hosted a range of guests. They’ve spoken with Israeli investor Gigi Levy, a former IDF pilot and epic entrepreneur in his own right; they’ve hosted Reem Younis, a serial entrepreneur who works to encourage Arab-Israeli entrepreneurship; and they’ve even discussed the merits of SOV, the world’s first official “digital” national currency, with its creator Barak Ben Ezer.

Founder Stories with Ivri Lider © F2 Capital Ltd

But most interesting is their decision to reach outside of the tech world, where they’ve spoken with the epic fashion designer Dorin Frankfurt, celebrity chef Barak Yehezkeli, world-renowned social entrepreneur Eli Beer, contemporary artist Miriam Cabessa and more. “We focus on founders in a broad sense,” Anouk explained, “we’re looking to people that we find inspiring, who have created extraordinary things, and that we see as visionary. It can be in fashion, food, agriculture, and of course in tech. But just because [Dorin] didn't work with computer chips it doesn’t mean that she wasn't employing super innovative techniques. We want to bring these entrepreneurs into this umbrella concept of the Startup Nation.” 

Further, staying within tech would limit the podcast’s potential guests. “In tech, there's just not enough diversity, whether women, minorities, Arab-Israeli, orthodox, etc,” she claimed, “If we were to stay within tech, we'd probably end up with a lot of Jewish men coming out of the elite army intelligence units. This is great, but we also want to highlight the broad and amazing talent this country has to offer.”

Founder Stories with Dorin Frankfurt © F2 Capital Ltd

With the podcast, Barak and Anouk learn not only about their guests, but about themselves. “All the facets of myself - being a mother, wife, journalist, soon-to-be-yoga teacher, meditator, Belgian and Israeli - I’ve been able to bring into the project,” gleamed Anouk, “I’m passionate about the podcast because I don’t like pushing parts of my personality aside.” This ties into their broader hope, to change the world’s conception of the Startup Nation. “Everyone knows Israel as the Startup Nation of million dollars exits, yet it's all very impersonal,” she claimed, “instead, it's fascinating to know who these successful entrepreneurs are, where in most cases they’re just like us: full of doubt, challenges and colorful life stories. We wanted to bring this aspect to life.” This humanizing aspect is not only the most important part, but what sets the podcast apart from traditional tech news. One can hope that others, whether locally or worldwide, take note.

Founder Stories:

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