Photo: Orel Cohen/Calcalist
Calcalist publisher Yoel Esteron
Photo: Orel Cohen/Calcalist
Don't send them to hell
Op-ed: The wish to preserve the vitality of a start-up nation compels the government to strive for the preservation of its promising companies rather than drive them away.
When the CEO of an Israeli high-tech company explained to Calcalist why he wished for his firm to remain in Israel – despite the inherent difficulties and assortment of regulatory snags – he was the target of a social media smear campaign.



In a matter of minutes he was inundated with accusations of betrayal of the motherland by a bloodthirsty pack of "talkbackers", who may have – or may have not – read the entire interview. Perhaps it was the soaring temperatures of early summer that sent them off their rocker and compelled them to send the CEO, his company – and Israel's entire high-tech sector for that matter – to hell. After all, who needs them?


Yoel Esteron (Photo: Orel Cohen, Calcalist) (Photo: Orel Cohen/Calcalist)
Yoel Esteron (Photo: Orel Cohen, Calcalist)

Take a guy – we'll call him A. – A. is a 27-year-old, with a B.S. in math and an M.A. in computer sciences. He is the cream of the crop of Israel's education system. For weeks, A. has been solicited by both global Israeli companies and internationally acclaimed American companies.


For Israel, this round in the battle over A. and others like him is lost. Some optimists might say that perhaps it's better this way – he'll learn a lot at Apple, Google, or Facebook and come back home loaded with knowledge and expertise.


But in order for that to happen, we need top notch companies that can provide people like A. with a challenging job and equal benefits to those which they can expect to enjoy overseas. For that end we need solid Israeli companies which do not exist for the sake of the coveted exit. We need a robust, long lasting and stable hi-tech industry.




The amazing companies which developed in Israel did not soar thanks to our government and no single politician can claim credit for their stellar success. They flourished despite the politicians. Their business DNA stands in stark contrast to that of Israel's politics. The courageous entrepreneurs, the brilliant engineers, the code writers, the mathematicians – all those who created these miracles, grew amid islets of excellence here, many of which germinated in the IDF's "knowledge nurseries".


We should all be proud of their achievements. But make no mistakes – those achievements belong to them, and them alone.


In the last two decades of the high-tech sector's meteoric growth, the industry was encapsulated in a bubble, detached from the sweltering reality in which it swelled. The start-up fellows were better familiar with the way to the airport than the one to the government offices in Jerusalem. They believed they did not need Jerusalem in order to flourish in the renowned high-tech conservatories of Herzliya, Ramat Ha'hayal, Rana'ana and Tel Aviv.


Nonetheless, the bigger they grew and the more they wished to remain in Israel, they sadly discover they cannot avoid the government forever, or its insatiable appetite for taxes.


The government demands regulation. Governments seem to love regulation. Israel's government does not ask itself what it can do to aid growing companies. Like the aforementioned talkbackers, it would rather tell these budding companies– if you don't like it – that's not our problem.


Well, it is our problem. Although we all want the tax authorities to eradicate all shades of grey in the tax system, and we all understand perfectly well that the securities authority is the guard dog against foul moves on the market and that anti-trust regulation is essential; we must realize that these entities have to adopt the necessary changes in order to enable high-tech companies to thrive, otherwise they will wilt, or find their fortune elsewhere.


We must keep in mind that the excellent Israelis who built the start-up nation are not Israel's captives. This is no threat – it is the reality. All A. needs to provide himself with a very comfortable life in say, Palo Alto, is a laptop and an internet connection. It behooves us to afford him a better alternative. This means a more flexible, open and quicker regulation system that can cope with the pace in which high-tech companies develop.


It's hard to fathom the government doing anything to change its spots. But Israel is far more than the sum of its politicians – it's also the regulators in the public sector – many of which came from those islets of excellence and have the power to affect change. They must, or our high-tech will go to hell.


Yoel Esteron is the founder and publisher of Calcalist.


פרסום ראשון: 06.01.15, 20:12
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