Tel Aviv, 2018

Why am I here? (Shalom Tel Aviv!)

I've just got myself comfortable in my Rothchild apartment. The flight was okay (crying baby). I've unpacked most of my gear and I'm here now for just over the next three weeks.

This has been quite a long time in the making, on and off, bouncing across a variety of people. At its core, my predecessor and the UK Embassy broached the idea of seconding UK employees over from the Tech industry to Israel - a nation renowned worldwide for rapid iteration and a tremendous capability for software and hardware. I'll come on to objectives in a moment, but the desire was essentially for the UK Embassy to send British employees out to Israel to understand the Israeli innovation landscape. Not just the fact that they are successful but why they are successful. Most importantly, how can this sort of success be brought back and applied to the UK to bolster our own Cyber Security industry?

I visited Tel Aviv in my old job in June this year, as part of a Cyber Security trade delegation with the Knowledge Transfer Network and Innovate UK - both arms of UK Gov's Department for Culture, Media and Sport. That was an amazing experience and I met a lot of great people who I still see in London today - but we all knew at the time there was a great deal more to learn than what we covered in the 6 days we were there. Plus, we'd been on a tight schedule dashing from meeting to meeting with various people in industry and public office, so we didn't get to scratch under the surface of the showmanship.

Bringing these two ideas together, I reached out to the Embassy not long after I got back from Israel the first time and asked whether this secondment plan had gathered any momentum. Over the coming months a plan was put together and (long story short) I'm essentially prototyping the secondment scheme. This is very exciting and hopefully I'll end up being the first of many secondment alumni. If that does end up being the case, I hope to set a great baseline.

As you might expect there are a number of objectives and desires from both parties when committing time and money to something like this and for this long. Some are obvious and easily stated, whilst others are more abstract, cultural or nuanced. For example, an obvious business objective is to link up and build relations with key players in the Israeli incubator or Start-Up scene. That way when the latest amazing tech comes along we are the first to know. But a less obvious objective is the exchange of culture. Israeli culture and 'chutzpah' isn't difficult to learn about, you can read about it in a book (and I have!). Yet, reading about something and experiencing it are two entirely different things. I need to learn first-hand the best way to (for example) engage with Israelis - when to increase engagement and when to back off. I need to see how team members engage their superiors - is it really as the books say, that there is little to no authority chain in Israeli business, or is that an illusion created by a mask of rapid prototyping and publicised success?

During the secondment period I'll be going to a number of events and activities organised by the embassy, and they'll be written up here. Overall the bulk of my 9-5 time will be spent with Team8 who are one of the most famous innovation powerhouse's in the country. Basically they're a company that forms companies - they take ideas, experienced people, appoint more experienced people or SMEs and then spin out a new company with the industry headstarter of 'a Team8 Company' branding.

Since I'm here for three weeks, a week per company seemed like a good period of time - so I've got three to see and work with. They are -

  • SecuringSAM - A network security technology that runs on any domestic router to secure your home environment from both the outside and itself given the upcoming prevalence of IoT. Yes, any router.
  • Hysolate - a seamless 'Red side and Green side' laptop with a clever hypervisor technology that lets you switch between two copies of Windows seamlessly.
  • Illusive Networks - Honeypot technology where everything in your business is both a honeypot and a canary.

As I spend time with each business I'm aiming to absorb everything. Where they've been, how they got here, where they're going, how they're placing themselves in the market, where each employee come from and so on.

I've already got my first challenge nailed down in my mind. How do I bring the attitude and successes of Israel back with me... The difficulty lies in bringing a national standard of behaviour and questioning authority back to a culture and business world where hierarchy and authority are core. Even though the superiors are the ones who set me the challenge, I don't know how happy they'll be when I tell them that they have to relinquish their authority and allow their every decision to be questioned by their team members.

That's all for now, will check back in with more after my first whole day!