NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

MBAs Are For Wusses

September 2, 2010

Many Israeli tech start-ups should pay royalties to the army, says Edouard Cukierman, a venture capitalist in Tel Aviv, Israel.  He is only half joking.  Despite the recession, Israel's technology exports grew by more than 5 percent last year.  Cukierman thinks military service deserves some of the credit.  Israel's army does not just train soldiers, he says; it nurtures entrepreneurs.

  • Teenagers conscripted into high-tech units gain experience "akin to a bachelor's degree in computer science," says Ruvi Kitov, cofounder and chief executive of Tufin Technologies, an Israeli software firm.
  • Almost all of Tufin's employees in the country are, like Kitov himself, veterans of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
  • One of the firm's cash cows is software that finds spam servers and blocks their transmissions. It is based on IDF cyberwarfare technologies that developers first used as soldiers.

Traditional armies drill unquestioning obedience into their grunts.  Israel's encourages creativity.  An IDF spokesman says it is "highly acceptable" for soldiers to point out problems and pitch ideas to superiors.  In other countries, employers rely on the college-entry obstacle course to select the brightest and best.  In Israel, thanks to conscription, most job applicants have tackled real obstacle courses, says The Economist.

In the IDF soldiers are encouraged to improvise, lest they lose the initiative in the fog of battle.  This culture helps ex-army entrepreneurs solve civilian problems, says The Economist.

Source:  "MBAs are for wusses," The Economist, August 26, 2010.

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