Doing Business in Israel

Skyline of downtown Ramat Gan, featuring the famous Israeli diamond centre.

Don’t expect pleasantries when you get down to business in this always-connected nation of startups

Israel may be smaller than Vancouver Island, but the nation of about eight million packs a punch in the science and technology sector. Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts looked to further relations with Israel’s quickly growing tech sector when she led a week-long trade mission with a focus on medical technology late last year. “It is definitely the sector that is growing the fastest and it’s certainly the one that gets lots of headlines,” says Eran Elizur, the Jerusalem-born CEO of Vancouver-based KaleidoFlex Technologies Inc. “Fifteen or 20 years ago the dream job for a Jewish mother would be for her son to be a doctor or lawyer, and now it would be a job in technology.”

No Formalities
When Elizur moved to Vancouver in 2000 for a job opportunity, it took him a while to get used to the polite Canadian style of communicating. He was used to doing business with other Israelis, who are direct to the point of seeming aggressive to Canadians, he says. “Here the boss tells you, ‘You might consider doing something this way,’ when he actually means, ‘You should do it this way—it’s not up for consideration.’”

Always Connected

Emails should be short and responses should be immediate. “Israelis expect to hear back instantly. It is one of the most connected places on earth,” says Erez Barzilay, founder of Shailah Interactive Inc., a Vancouver-based mobile app company. Barzilay adds that while introductions can be useful, it’s acceptable to call an Israeli business person you have never met for a meeting. Also, because of Israel’s size, it may be easier to get in touch with government officials than it is in Canada.

Forget About 9 to 5

Israeli companies don’t stick to regular hours so meetings may be held later in the day. Expect an informal meeting structure, with time for questions and brainstorming. Meeting attire may also be less formal partially due to the warmer weather, but it is best to be overdressed than underdressed, says Elizur, who recommends bringing a tie just in case. Outside the office, your hosts will likely invite you to dinner where you will want to try the Mediterranean cuisine and local wine.