PALO ALTO — Roughly the size of New Jersey, Israel has been dubbed the “start-up nation,” with more startups per capita than any other country in the world.
According to the United States-Israel Business Alliance California serves as the global or U.S. headquarters for 35 Israeli-founded unicorns — startup companies with a value of over $1 billion.
Now the war in the Middle East is having a direct impact on Silicon Valley.
Ever since the brutal attack by Hamas on Israel, all of Roi Rutenberg’s attention has been focused on one thing: his loved ones back home.
“I can’t bring myself to get to work. I find it very hard to concentrate and focus on the stuff that I do,” he said.
One of thousands of Israeli tech workers living in the Bay Area, Rutenberg is a scientist for Impossible Foods, a food technology company in Redwood City.
He tried to get back home but flights are scarce and the few tickers available have been reserved for those going to the front line. On Thursday, he took some time off and drove to Palo Alto to take part in a rally of Bay Area tech workers in support of Israel.
“We’re hurting right now,” he said. “We’re bleeding from the inside. Israelis worldwide, Jewish people worldwide are not OK right now. Their soul has been stripped apart.”
Guy Horowitz is an American Israeli venture capital investor; he says the war in Israel is already causing ripple effects in Palo Alto.
“In the short term, obviously, there’s disruption. Many engineers, many people working on startups are now concerned with other things or even going to Israel.”
Horowitz says many Israeli companies that were raising money from American venture capital firms had their meetings postponed by investors.
“I expect that, in the next few weeks, we’ll see more of those unfortunate cancellations and delays,” he said.
As for Rutenberg, his priority now is doing everything he can to help his loved ones back home.
“There’s an invisible glue that bonds all Israelis together,” he said. “It’s sad but it’s events like this that strengthen us and unite us more than any time I can recollect in recent memory.”