Call it the Silicon Valley of the Middle East: Unbeknownst to many, Israel is home to one of the world's top research and development tech industry hubs, and it's growing every day.
Silicon Wadi (Wadi means "valley" in Arabic) is located primarily in Tel Aviv and boasts more than 1,200 tech companies and 700 early-stage startups, according to Tech Republic
. It's so dense with research and development firms that it has more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world.
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Israel's Silicon Valley stretches along the coastal metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, which features an active nightlife of clubs and restaurants along its boardwalk overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The youthful climate — dovetailing nicely with the Valley-esque ethos of relaxed dress codes and policies that foster creativity — is just one reason why so many tech companies gravitate to the area.
Investors are noticing. Tel Aviv startups accounted for 30 percent of the $2.15 billion raised by local and foreign investors in 2011, AdWeek reported
. That's why the Startup Genome ranked the Wadi fifth worldwide for communities that support the launch of new companies, followng Silicon Valley, New York, London, and Toronto.
Israel's Silicon Valley dates back to the 1960s, when just a few telecommunications companies, such as Motorola, set up research and development firms there. However, government funding in defense, support for universities, and real-life motivation to fix the nation's medical and natural resource concerns brought more bright minds to Tel Aviv, and the companies began to take off.
By the 1980s and '90s, the instant messaging system for AOL, the world's first cell phones, and several Windows operating systems — along with many other innovations used today — came from companies based in Tel Aviv.
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In 2013, Israel's Silicon Valley got even more attention in the tech media when Google bought Waze, a GPS-like navigational tool in an iPhone app, for $1.15 billion. Before that, the biggest buyout of a startup there was Cisco Systems purchasing the software company Intucell for $475 million.
So, even though war plagues the outskirts of Tel Aviv and water shortages highlight a lack of natural resources, the coastal city continues to grow as an up-and-coming hotbed of tech firms for the world.
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