KPMG Australia sees fit with Israeli’s AgTech & innovation culture

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 14th August 2017

Whilst Australia is in the middle of an “ideas boom”, there is one country that is being turned to as a major focus for leading agriculture technology and global food innovation inspiration.

Ben van Delden, Head of Markets and AgTech Sector Leader at KPMG Australia recently visited Israel as part of the Agri-Food Trade Mission, and came back to Australia with many ideas for Australia to learn from Israel.

Lesson one: Familiarise ourselves with the term ‘Chutzpah’

For those unfamiliar with the word Chutzpah, Mr van Delden explains it as roughly translating to mean self-confidence and audacity, a point of national pride in Israel. It equates to a culture where individuals are less afraid of failure, something Australians struggle with, perhaps to our detriment when it comes to innovation.

“It’s basically the audacity to think definitely and do something that most others would think is ridiculous,” Mr van Delden told Australian Food News.

“It’s not reckless abandon to logic by any stretch, but it’s really lifting the lid on the scale and potential of a solution.”

Lesson two: Familiarise ourselves with the term ‘Yalla’

Yalla is the second term used in Israel Mr van Delden says Australia could learn from, with the word meaning “let’s go!”.

“What yalla is all about is not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today,” Mr van Delden explains. “Investment is part of that.”

“But actually before there is investment, there is connection and thinking together, and one of the lessons I saw for Australia out of Israel was we need to create the environment and culture where, to some extent, we are less caught up in our own protectionism mindset of securing intellectual property.”

Mr van Delden says in many cases, Australians are trying to protect an idea before they are even intellectual property.

“I think the difference is in an ecosystem like Israel is you’ve got this sense, because people are firing rockets at you from over the border, that tomorrow might not ever come, so if you have an idea you better well jolly get on with it today.”

Lesson Three: Australian universities need to commercialise ideas  

Whilst visiting Israel, Mr van Delden realised some key differences between Australian and Israeli universities when it comes to innovation.

For one, Israeli universities are not afraid to focus on commercialising research, something Australian universities do not do as often.

“I think we are in a period of change for the way the scientific research community is motivated to engage with industry,” Mr van Delden says.

Not that industry doesn’t have to change and work with the scientific community.

“It is really important, we have got to be clear that for this engagement model to evolve to where it needs to be, requires both industry and the scientific communities to come to the table and work out a better way of connecting.”

Lesson Four: It is ok to share failed ideas

A last point Australia could learn from Israel’s start-up culture is not being afraid to come together and share failed business ventures and research.

“The whole logic of having a platform for doing that is not necessarily to be proud of your failures because that’s kind of counter-intuitive of the Australian psyche, but when you think about it, as an investor in a start-up, what you are really looking for is not someone who is fresh out of school,” Mr van Delden says.

“You don’t’ want someone who doesn’t have any history of trying something and failing, because what you don’t want is their first failure to be with your money.”

“So the whole business of building street-cred by speaking about what you have tried and what you have failed at makes you more investable because you’ll never do the same mistake again.”


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