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The Forbes Summit Experience: A Firsthand Look at Innovation in Israel

Earlier this week I shared a Firsthand Look at the Forbes Under 30 Global Summit, which kicked off in Tel Aviv, Israel early April. Dynamic speakers, city tours, accomplished delegates, and food and music festivals lit the beautiful city of history, sandy beaches, high rise buildings, and fast-growing startups as theSummit played out.

Why Israel? Because tech and corporate growth is booming. Named by Bloomberg in 2015 as the 5th Most Innovative Country in the World and said to be the #1 Startup Nation, Israel cultivates entrepreneurial spirit, resilience, and an appetite for economic risk (Forbes explains how here). The first day featured highly engaging speakers, while the second day kicked off with a tour of Startup Nation Central's headquarters - the authoritative hub to Israel's innovation community - in downtown Tel Aviv.

Following our inside look at Startup Nation, we had the opportunity to choose from six different startups throughout Tel Aviv to continue our tour. As we made our way around the city, it was clear the "old world" culture, architecture, and history had been carefully integrated with "new world" innovation and development. We moved next to The Bridge by Coca-Cola, an incubator for tech startups in Israel, effectively bridging the entrepreneurial community and major global markets. Each year, The Bridge by Coca-Cola selects seven new businesses (early stage to growth startups) and works with them to commercialize products and go-to-market strategies. In this highly inspirational and collaborative space, we experienced the Innovation Lab, playing with new virtual reality products that have been progressively introduced in new sales strategies. It was fascinating to experience this collaborative workspace, and learn how a globally renowned brand approaches innovation on a large scale.

From there, we visited the offices of Magma Venture Partners and were welcomed into the 25th floor conference room. With a birds eye view over downtown Tel Aviv, we gained perspective on high level venture strategy while taking in old world city views. It was an enlightening moment to reflect on Israel's history while while discussing Israeli startup culture.

After two days in Tel Aviv, the Summit moved to Jerusalem - the oldest city in the world. We toured the old city, visited Israel's history Museum overlooking the city, and walked through the local food markets. Our first day in Jerusalem then culminated with the most diverse, cultural, and extensive food festival I have ever had the privilege to take in. Over 40 local establishments partnered with the summit, setting up shop in Jerusalem Shuk (the Machane Yehuda Market) and serving up delegates incredible local fare.

As a foodie this was a highlight of my summit - eating and drinking everything in sight and experiencing the quality craftsmanship of Israel's food scene. My personal favorite was the smallest little pita shop on the whole list: it made only one product. A small, fresh pita topped with fried eggplant, cucumber salad, tomatoes, tahini, and a variety of spices and seasonings. It was delicious, and I am always inspired when a small business makes a bold choice to carve their niche by making one thing - and making it well. The evening ended with walking through Shuk Market surrounded by talented people, amazing food, and spontaneous dancing (in the Market!) - an experience of a lifetime.

In following posts, I will continue dialogue on the Forbes Under 30 Global Summit, sharing personal highlights on speakers, food culture, and Millennial trends. If you have a question or would like to know more, please message me and I'd be happy to chat, connect with me on Twitter @ChefMikeLevine

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