Why did Microsoft choose to put its cybersecurity accelerator in Israel?
Culture, the IDF and a proven track record
Microsoft is looking to make friends and partner with innovative tech start-ups across the world through designated spaces known as accelerators.
Accelerators usually offer a fixed-term, cohort-based programme, that includes mentorship and educational components and culminates in a public pitch event or demo day where the start-ups can potentially secure funding.
Microsoft has opened several accelerators for generic tech start-ups over the last couple of years in cities like Berlin, London and Tel Aviv but now it is looking to focus on particular areas where it sees a growing demand. That is why yesterday it announced it is launching a new cybersecurity programme out of its existing Tel Aviv accelerator.
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A Microsoft spokesperson said: “Israel is considered a hub of knowledge and excellence in the cyber space, and offers the range we were looking for with relevant start-ups, top-notch mentors and program partners.
“The Microsoft Tel Aviv accelerator is the longest-running program in the company, with the track record, knowledge and expertise that can make this program a success.”
But there’s more to it than that, according to Yoav Tzruya, a partner at JVP Cyber Labs that has been tasked with working on the new cybersecurity accelerator alongside Microsoft.
He believes entrepreneurship is deeply embedded in the Israeli culture.
“As a young country facing many challenges, the need for resourcefulness and improvisation is embedded in our psyche,” he told Techworld. “Unlike other countries where entrepreneurs are often looked down upon, (as if they couldn’t get a job in a nice, large, well-to-do company) in Israel, entrepreneurs are put on a pedestal.”
Israel is also home to some of the world’s leading academic institutions, particularly around IT-related subjects such as computer science, electrical engineering and maths.
Then there is the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and other military organisations, which invest significant amounts of resources and time to train young people.
“The compulsory army service, lasting three years (and for many IT-related professionals, even longer), creates a flow of highly trained and motivated entrepreneurial talent that is accessible to the various companies and start-ups,” said Tzruya.
“In recent years, we’ve been seeing an ever increasing cyber-security threat, and as such, many more such professionals who receive top-notch training in the Israeli military are ever increasingly finding their way to the civilian market.
"Multinational corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Cisco, Motorola, IBM, HP, GE, Qualcomm and many others have recognised this advantage and have set up large R&D centers in Israel that further contribute to creating a high level of professionalism in the field of cyber security.”
Tzruya added that the success of Israeli tech companies like NDS, CheckPoint, Imperva, Trusteer, Guardium, Palo Alto Networks, CyberArk and others specifically in cyber-security entices entrepreneurial talent to set up their own companies.
Whether or not Microsoft will open more specialist accelerators in other cities around the world remains to be seen.