Friday, December 18, 2009

We've Already Created an Israeli Nokia

A couple of years ago Daniel Cohen at Gemini wrote a great piece in VentureBeat called "The quest to create an Israeli Nokia" in which he argued that the black-eye to Israel's high tech scene was that "there are no examples of great Israeli break out companies – no Israeli equivalent of Google, Microsoft or Nokia."  He went on to give a very insightful commentary into the reasons behind this, all of which are based on what I would call "micro" factors - impatience of investors, impatience of entrepreneurs, a think-small mentality, and lack of $1bn experience - which could be overcome by the right people.

In doing some research for a piece that I am planning on writing about what I believe are the structural reasons that Israel has not created a Nokia or a Microsoft, I discovered something very interesting: we have already created a Nokia.  Teva Pharceuticals, despite having sales of around 20% of Nokia, actually has a slightly higher  market cap as of the time of this writing.  Nokia has a slightly higher EV, but even being close is an accomplishment.

Sure, you could say that Teva is not high-tech in the sense of IT, but life sciences/biotech is a pretty big VC sector, and pretty high-tech in its own way.  You could also say that Teva is "Old" (as Danny puts it in his piece), tracing its history all the way back to 1901, but let's not forget that Nokia was founded in 1865!

I am still planning on writing my post about the structural challenges to Israeli entrepreneurs, but first I've got to brush up on my Michael Porter ...

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