Israel: And Why It’s a Sports Tech Hub

While at Boston University I was always amazed at the similarities between what ROTC and college athletes went through.

This timeline is spot on:

athlete vs military schedule

I know causation isn’t always correlation…

But when you look at two things:

  • what Israeli citizens are required to do
  • and the successful sports tech companies out of Israel

You start to think something might be going on.

Let’s Dive In 👇

Israel and Military Service

We’ve all heard the benefits of sports a million times — teamwork, discipline, overcoming adversity — and the military is 1to1 but with higher stakes on the line.

Check this out…

Military service is compulsory for the majority of Israelis when they turn 18.

  • Men have to serve 32 months and women 24 months.
  • After this, most of them can be called up to reserve units until the age of 40, or even older, in case of national emergency.
mandatory service for israeli citizens

So nearly every Israeli gets put through a rigorous training program (when most US kids are going off to college).

This is also why Israel is ranked as one of the healthiest countries in the world as well — the combination of fitness + diet.

Stats on Israel Sports

Despite being a small country of 9+ million people (98th highest in the world)…

The country of Israel packs a punch in sports tech with many top 10 rankings.

israel funding in sports compared to other countries

Tel Aviv University is the largest secondary education in the country.

This mix of education + athletics + military training leads to Israel being the 6th most funded ‘sports tech‘ nation in the world.

And when you look at some of the companies that encompass that list, you can tell why…

Israeli Sports Tech Companies

Israel is home to some of the largest (and most sophisticated) sports companies in the world.

Here are a few of them:

  • WSC Sports – Automated video highlight creating technology
  • Minute Media – Sports-focused digital content platform
  • Pixellot – Developer of video TV capturing technology for broadcasters
  • Playsight – Provides video automated smart court system for sports analytics
  • 90Min – Online platform providing news on football
  • Minutely – AI media tech

And we’ve seen some recent acquisitions by larger players and well-established brands build R&D centers in the region.

acquisitions and r&D for israeli sports companies

And not only is the technology great…

But Israel has a robust professional sports league ecosystem with an array of different sports offered.

Why Military/Sports Align

It’s widely stated that the military is 10-20 years ahead of standard civilization technologically.

So sometimes…

Ideas stem from military tech and are articulated to find a way to turn them into a business within sports.

The basic tech behind Playsight came from work the Israeli military had done, was declassified, and aligned well with the tracking of tennis balls.

playsight military tech to sports

We’ll dive deeper in a future article but for example, Garmin was a military company that then expanded its market size through GPS and wearables to fitness/sports.

On top of the technology…

  • The military teaches you a side of fitness that intrigues you with sports.
  • You lead large teams at a young age and become comfortable with taking on challenging problems.

Couple that with innovation and you have highly disciplined citizens who know how to build.

Final Thoughts

Israel is a leading hub for not just sports, but technology.

Its citizens get top-level training through forced military mandates that lead to enhanced productivity on the backend.

Some stats that back it up:

  • Most VC investments per capita.
  • 10% of global unicorns come from Israel.
  • Israel invests 4.5% of its GDP in R&D (2nd highest ratio in the world).
  • As of April 2023, there were 9,093 tech companies, ranking Israel’s startup ecosystem as the third largest globally after SF and New York.
israeli olympic athlete

An interesting trend in sports…

Is that many of the technologies used to be recycled ideas from other markets (e.g. lidar tech).

Today, we’re starting to see new technologies being tested in sports and then later applied to the larger population.

Israel continues to be at the forefront of a lot of this innovation.

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