Did you know that the first USB-sticks sold in America under the name of “DiskOnKey” were actually invented by the Israeli company M-Systems?
Ever wondered who invented ICQ, the instant message software? Israelis.
Solar water heating? The “epilator”? Cherry tomatoes? Yep, Israelis.
Between cherry tomatoes and USB-sticks
The list of Israeli inventions is endless, ranging from quantum physics to agriculture and the book “Start-Up Nation – The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” which chronicles how Israel went to become a hi-tech superpower in just two decades has become a New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller.
One notable fact for example is that Israel was one of “the last countries to enter recession and among the earliest to exit the last countries to enter recession and among the earliest to exit” as The Economist says.
Despite the culture of entrepreneurship some officials are worrying that Israel’s start-ups don’t grow to become giants like Sisco, Google or Facebook.
On the other hand, as Cory Doctorow writes in his novel “Makers”:
“The days of companies with names like ‘General Electric’ and ‘General Mills’ and ‘General Motors’ are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.”
Harvesting the Krill
Israel has a 72.8 % Internet penetration rate and while seeming relatively low compared to the US (76.3 %) or Scandinavia (~ 83 – 90 %) Israel is still above France (69.3 %) or Hong Kong (69.2 %) [source]
With that kind of penetration Israeli online entrepreneurship could be a lot more than it currently is. Because, for all the advancement of Israel’s high tech innovation-culture, the Internet seems to be curiously lagging behind.
I’m not referring to Israelis who founded online start-ups that operate in English or in an English-speaking market. There’s actually quite a lot of them.
What I’m talking about is the “Hebrew Internet” or online entrepreneurialism catering to people living in Israel.
To give an example: There is no Amazon or Ebay in Israel if that’s an indicator. There are online shopping opportunities here and there but no comprehensive infrastructure as in Europe or the US.
Missed Opportunities and Overlooked Markets
I’ve been making a point lately of asking everyone I meet for Israeli start-ups that offer live online classes.
People always say: “Oh sure. Lots of!” and then refer me to eteacher group as a beacon of Israeli e-learning. They offer Yiddish, Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew in live classes.
So, let’s say my mother-tongue is Hebrew and I want to learn Yiddish, the language of my ancestors, study the bible or brush up on my daughter’s grammar for that next high school exam. Do you think eteacher group even has a Hebrew version of their webpages? There’s French, Portuguese, English, Russian, German and Spanish. But not Hebrew.
From this I can only deduct that eteacher group is mainly targeting Christians and Jews in the diaspora.
But where are the offers for native Hebrew speakers who live in Israel?
42 % of children in Israel take additional tutoring classes outside of their school curriculum. A lesson costs up to 170 shekels (~ $50) per hour in urban centers such as Tel Aviv.
According to ynet, the Israeli tutoring market grows at at an annual rate of 700 million shekels which is about 200 million dollars per year.
Where are the Israeli online edupreneurs and their offers for this growing market?
Even if we don’t talk about tutoring per se but a more general approach such as live online language courses for native Hebrew speakers, there isn’t anything to be found…
Despite its politically precarious situation and constant pressure from within and without, Israel is one of the most developed countries in the world.
And I believe it’s only a matter of time before the “Israeli Internet” will live up to this fact and offer improved online learning opportunities for its netizens.
If you’re looking to start something yourself, now is the time!
Behatzlacha! (Good Luck!)
Picture: “Tel Aviv lookout” by Ron Shoshani