Chutzpah: A Former Israeli Defense Intelligence Commander’s Guide to Business and Parenting

YZM: Where and when did you first see the parallels between the lifecycle of a startup business and the distinctive phases of Israeli childhood? 

IA: For the past two decades, I held executive positions in Israeli tech companies; I founded three ventures myself, and serve as a board member of top Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship programs. I am also the proud mom of three Israeli boys. During this time, I have been gathering insights, data and stories. My conclusion is that innovation and entrepreneurship do not originate in one magical moment, nor are they the province of a select few born with an “innovative gene”, but rather that they are a product of a specific set of skills, ideally nurtured from a very young age. Living with chutzpah provides the opportunity to constantly practice the soft skills defined by the World Economic Forum as the skills for the future. These include: analytical thinking, active learning, creativity and originality, critical thinking, complex problem solving and more. 

YZM: Do you see your book as a parenting book as much as a business book? 

 IA: Although the primary objective of Chutzpah is to provide insights to businesses executives and start-up founders, many of the principles described in it can be applied to our everyday lives as human beings. Indeed, I recommend practicing these principles as early as possible, even with toddlers. The soft skills relevant to innovation and entrepreneurship will then be nurtured and fostered in an optimal way. 

YZM: You talk about the constant state of uncertainty in which Israeli children are raised. Can you explain the stark differences between childhood in Israel and childhood in the Western world? 

IA: Living in Israel means living in uncertainty, no matter how old you are. This past week the residents of the south of Israel, at all ages, while enjoying a music festival at night, and the following day while participating at an evening swim, were surprised by rocket sirens. These events were not predicted or anticipated, of course. For the younger children, it means their routine is constantly shaken, and uncertainty, of some elements, is a natural part of it. This is unique to Israel, and creates more resilient, responsible, and adaptive people.  

YZM: You talk about the Israeli concept of balagan, or messiness; why this is so important to the creative process? 

IA: Most of us feel more secure in an organized environment, applying well-defined rules and standards. However, pre-set constraints and rules are counter-productive to the creative process. 

Ironically, I strongly believe that from balagan, chaos, can come order. Probably a new order, different from the one we envisioned. An innovative order.  

YZM: What can aspiring entrepreneurs learn from Israeli childhood? And how can they use those lessons to create successful startups in other countries? 

IA: In Chutzpah I show how, surprisingly, the Israeli childhood and the lifecycle of a business resemble each other. In five stages–Discovery, Validation, Efficiency, Scale & Sustainability and Renewal–these two different worlds go hand in hand.  

For example, the early stages of discovery: for Israeli children, that looks like living in balagan, or a state of mess where things don’t have a preordained order. In business, that’s learned through our own experiences rather than explicit teaching. During the later stages of validation: Israeli children open up to criticism, test limits, resilience and experimentation. In business, you collect feedback and input from outside sources. 

Throughout Chutzpah I provide many more examples, and top Israeli tech entrepreneurs share their childhood stories and how these affected their successful business journey.

YZM: Why did you call the book Chutzpah

IA: Chutzpah, the term, encompasses all the elements I describe and unpack in the book: thinking big, daring, stepping out of your comfort zone, making decisions and engaging with others. 

You might even say it is my chutzpah to aspire influencing readers all over the world by sharing with them the Israeli childhood journey. I am glad to say feedback so far, from Asia to the U.S., from young readers to experienced executives, from parents to aspiring entrepreneurs, is that I was right to use my own chutzpah!