Israel’s sagging high-tech industry got a lift from a top executive at Google on Tuesday, who hailed it as second only to America’s Silicon Valley when it comes to “initiatives,” AFP reported.
“For a relatively small country, Israel has a super role in technological innovation,” Eric Schmidt, formerly Google chief executive and now executive chairman of its parent company Alphabet, told an audience at Google offices in Tel Aviv.
“I can’t think of a place where you could see this diversity and the collection of initiatives aside from Silicon Valley,” he added. “That is a pretty strong statement.”
Schmidt’s remarks come at a time when reports on Israeli high tech have been downgrading its role as an engine of the national economy and companies in the field complain of a shortage of qualified manpower.
Schmidt said he had seen a “maturation” of the “start-up nation” in recent years.
“(Previously) it seemed like many of the initiatives were not fully thought out,” he said.
“But now I am beginning to see companies that are on their way to being worth a billion dollars.”
Google acquired Waze, an Israeli real-time traffic application, for more than $1 billion in 2013 and has also bought other smaller Israeli firms.
Schmidt said the small population and therefore limited local market was one of the main factors constraining Israel’s tech sector.