Alicia Roisman Ismach is a serial fintech entrepreneur from Israel, the country that has been dubbed the ‘Startup Nation’. With just a population of 8.5 million people, Israel has become a giant on the global tech startup stage. Tel Aviv for instance is home to a number of established accelerators and incubators, and has seen the rise of many successful startups as well as huge exits.
Mischka: Why do you think Israel has done so well on the startup scene?
Alicia: The trigger that started the fire in the 90s was a military need for better security. We started building and developing tech in house and the initial funding came from government. This created a snowball effect to develop tech in other industries, and the funding spread to the private sector. We’ve seen a great ROI in investing in innovation. Check Point for example – a multinational company that provides IT security products – was first inspired to help the military, and then evolved to solve corporate needs.
The second advantage, I believe, is our nature. Israelis embrace failure. We're not afraid to fail and we’re not afraid to be judged of failing, even of failing repeatedly over time. This allows us to be less formal, to try shortcuts, to adapt quickly. We’ll take a chance and try to innovate. We look at our friends or the person on the news, and we tell ourselves that if he can do it, I can too, that it can’t be so hard. This ambition to try things has created a culture of people trying. When you have mass intent, a critical mass of people trying, you will have successes. And I’m not talking about university graduates or tech experts – these are regular people who want to be entrepreneurs, who believe in themselves and who are willing to try. Our nature was definitely a great asset when we everything else started.
Mischka: Why did you move to New Brunswick?
Alicia: I’ve been working with North America for almost 20 years, and my previous startup was focused on North America. We had the idea of moving to Canada, but our kids were young and it didn’t feel like it was the right moment. Over time though, the idea kept maturing and maturing and then we were invited to visit New Brunswick and the region, and fell in love with it.
Mischka: What opportunities do you see in New Brunswick?
Alicia: New Brunswick has a large market of small businesses. This is not something that is common to other regions. We have an incredible opportunity to grow small businesses on an international scale through modernization and tech. Think of all the family businesses that have been around for generations and what the emergence of tech can do for them. We don’t need to be thinking of new companies that we need to build from scratch – New Brunswick has a great base, a base that will help grow the region, especially if we change our thinking and start intersecting industries.
Mischka: You started the Founders’ Café in Israel which now has over 1400 members. It definitely contributed to the Israeli startup community, complimenting the other local organizations and efforts. You’re now bringing it to New Brunswick. What do you hope to create here in our province?
Alicia: The Founders’ Café is about creating and facilitating a community – entrepreneurs of different ages from different backgrounds, verticals and industries, local experts. The Founders' Café in Israel has helped shape a good community, a strong community, and my partners there are still running it, putting a lot of effort into organizing bootcamps, events and programs, producing content, and such.
A founder’s life, or an entrepreneur’s life, is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work. So the goal of the Founders’ Café is to gather them together so they can meet each other, comment on the issues they have, find solutions to their problems, share their advice, their ideas and just what they’re going through. That’s the spirit of the Founders’ Café – that there’s a community to support you, that there's a safe space for entrepreneurs, founders and innovation leaders to share their failures and thoughts without fear of being judged.
Founders’ Café is a casual gathering of entrepreneurs and founders focused on sharing knowledge and problem solving. If you’re an entrepreneur developing, using, or looking to leverage technology in your business and you’re looking to connect with other local entrepreneurs and start-ups to exchange ideas, share experiences and learn from others, then please join us on August 24th from 3-6pm at Venn Centre in Moncton. Register here.