As published on the Israel Embassy website, June 2017.
Mattan Lass is an Israeli-Irish High Tech & Start-up Lawyer. He believes that following the initial culture shock many Israelis living in Ireland come to recognise the undeniable similarities between these 2 small countries at either ends of the European continent. The resemblances cover social as well as business aspects: Both have pro-business, pro-innovation economies and have been socially & physically transformed by significant economic resurgence since the 80s.
To an Israeli native, the first thing that strikes you on arrival in Ireland is how different it is from home. Whether the abundance of fresh seafood, famously unpredictable weather, the bewildering colours of spring, ancient rugged cliffs of the western seaboard or even the supremacy of domestic sports (rugby, Gaelic football and hurling) over soccer, it is easy to feel very far away from Israel.
Following the initial culture shock, however, many Israelis living in Ireland come to recognise the undeniable similarities between these two small countries at either ends of the European continent: the openness and warmth of the locals; the directness of friends and colleagues; and the close relationship with a wide diaspora whose communities have transformed the globe and continue to ensure that each country punches well above their weight on the world stage.
The similarities are even clearer in a business context. Both Ireland and Israel have stridently pro-business, pro-innovation economies fuelled by export-led growth; they have been socially and physically transformed by significant economic resurgence since the 1980s, leading them to attract massive investment from those multinational companies that established a presence in both countries; and both have witnessed the role played by start-up entrepreneurs in the red-hot tech centres of Tel Aviv and Dublin in capturing the world’s imagination.
Despite the undoubted opportunities for collaboration that exist, particularly in the tech sphere, the economic relationship between Ireland and Israel has historically been beset by unfavourable perceptions of the other. Thankfully, this is all changing. On the one hand, we are seeing a marked spike in well-funded Israeli companies using Ireland as a launch pad from which to access European markets, whether by physically setting up a trading presence here or by acquiring Irish companies. Indeed, in just the last 12 months there have been at least two major acquisitions by Israeli companies of Irish firms totalling around €300m in value.
On the other hand, ever increasing numbers of Irish businesses are showing greater interest in Israeli tech know-how and seeking to access Israeli innovation. Since 2012, Ireland Israel Business has been running the Irish leg of “Start TLV”, part of an international start-up competition which offers the winning start-up the chance to join an official Irish trade delegation to the DLD Innovation Festival – Israel’s largest tech event. Past winners have included some of the country’s most promising tech companies, which have since ascribed at least some of their present success to the experience and contacts they picked up in Israel.
The future looks bright for a renewed spirit of economic cooperation between the two countries. Britain’s decision to leave the EU, although posing serious challenges to Europe as a whole, is likely to further highlight the opportunities that exist for the other. Ireland is set to remain the only English-speaking country in the EU and with its solid commitment to promoting high-quality immigration, pro-business taxation regime and familiar common law system, the Emerald Isle will emerge as among the most attractive investment destinations for Israeli entrepreneurs looking to corner a slice of the Union’s remaining consumer market. All the while, Israel’s leadership in counterterrorism and cyber security solutions is already proving a magnet for Irish companies and state bodies, a trend driven in part by the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s future role in European-wide security cooperation.