Berwins Digital – or rather one arm of it – have been on something of a tour over the last few weeks, taking us beyond our traditional Yorkshire base.
We spent the last week of May in Estonia, with our own event and Latitude 59 Technology Festival. We learnt a lot – we learnt why slippers were a thing in Tallinn. We also learnt about a lot about some of the fantastic businesses operating from the Baltic state, IT clusters and angels and the Department of International Trade. We loved Estonia, and we loved e-Residency, but as has been the case for over 30 years with Berwins, we’re never afraid to push further to new frontiers. So, after rounding up on Estonia, we followed up with a three-week residency in Israel.
Israel is very different. Whilst it sees itself, and indeed is, a tiny country, at about 8 million it’s a giant population-wise next to Estonia’s 1.3 million. Though Israel is just half the physical size of Estonia.
Israel feels mature and developed in its investment networks
Israel – certainly the part with which we have engaged, in the digital forum – feels a lot more mature and developed in its investment networks, in the size of its technology businesses, and in the attention, it has from worldwide business. The international technology businesses with substantial presences in Israel, and for whom key resources are deployed in Israel are substantial – Microsoft, Google, Apple, Intel and so on. The range of technological innovation which we now take for granted and which originated in Israel is astonishing.
A mature digital economy with chutzpah
We started our visit to Israel with a focus on cyber security, visiting CyberWeek at Tel Aviv University. This, and our own work at the same time, emphasised the interconnection between cyber security and privacy. Different things – but lack of security endangers privacy, and with GDPR on the horizon, a failure to maintain security will put businesses in the firing line of regulators.
Our discussions around GDPR attracted the attention of interesting and innovative technology companies, leading to meetings with them, and new angles on the discussion as to the extent that GDPR is a technological, cultural or training challenge. GDPR talks about organisational and technical steps. It must be both, in parallel. And can’t be delayed until every element of official guidance is available.
There is something about the culture in Israel – a “chutzpah” – which means entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions and giving them a shot all the time. Key areas we’re seeing are in health, finance, automotive, smart cities – but then also in areas such as agriculture.
entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions and giving them a shot all the time
In a sense, it doesn’t matter where we work from – and of course we can work pretty much equally well from Harrogate, Leeds, Tallinn and Tel Aviv. By meeting with companies in technology in a wider area than our geographical base, though, we are learning all the time what’s going on and where we can add value. We’re hearing where companies have concerns, and working on how these can be addressed.
We’re also telling the tale of our geographical base – the advantages of working in the Leeds City Region – which includes both Leeds and Harrogate. We have been able to make introductions to the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, so they can make available their assistance and resources.
So it’s from Leeds and Harrogate to the hottest of small tech-sector countries – and then back to the benefit of Leeds and Harrogate. An adventure for our connected world.
Paul Berwin is a leading technology and digital law specialist and heads Berwins Digital, the specialist IT and Technology division of Berwins