We’ve landed in the middle of Cyber Week, based at Tel Aviv University. This is no local event though. It’s strongly international, and intercontinental.
Returning from one of several meetups at the event, my taxi driver asked where I was from. I said Leeds – he asked if the Beatles were from there, so I said no, Liverpool, my university town. So as the traffic slowed, he reached for a ukulele from his passenger seat, and started picking out a tune. My bad, no doubt, for not recognising it as “Let it Be”; but he was a little disappointed.
Tel Aviv describes itself as the Non-Stop City – and so it is, it’s a beach city – bordering the Mediterranean, and including the ancient town and port of Yafo (Jaffa), it has 14 km of beach, along its length. Food, night life, culture, ethnic, religious and gender diversity; a very surprising, vibrant, modern and ancient place. And, of course, there’s tech. Or as they still call it here, Hi-Tech, and that is what brings Berwins Digital here.
Israel’s tech economy is mature and well established, and as well as the country’s flourishing start-up community, it provides some of the key resources underpinning the world’s cyber security defences. The events we attended are not so much about start-ups looking for their investors and partners, but more about the strategic issues around cyber security.
This meant that at the event about legal issues on cyber security, the key players were FBI agents and IBM executives. We then attended the UK Israel Tech Hub event – to which senior representatives from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the Department of Culture Media and Sport – under which Internet regulation anachronistically comes – had travelled. Latitude 59 in Tallinn was great fun, and good business – this is dead serious and strategically important.
One of the hurdles for Israeli firms – which was much less so for Estonia – was demonstrating that not every road needs to lead to Silicon Valley, and of those that don’t need to, they don’t have to lead to London.
This brings challenges, but also opportunities – not least for tech organisations in our own Leeds City Region. With its own digital powerhouse, it is worth highlighting that as a region we are some four times the size of Tel Aviv (and about a quarter of the size of the whole of Israel – a tiny country, itself in population only a little bigger than Yorkshire). For entrepreneurial firms, the opportunities are there.
From Tel Aviv to Leeds and Harrogate – L’hitraot. Until next time.
Paul Berwin is a leading technology and digital law specialist and heads Berwins Digital, the specialist IT and Technology division of Berwins