Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who played a key role in boosting Israel’s startup boom with his active support for venture businesses and foreign investment, will make a keynote speech under the theme “Startups and Blockchain of Startup Nation” in the “Fuze 2018,” the main event of the Asia Blockchain & Fintech (ABF) in Seoul 2018.
During the ABF in Seoul, the first blockchain event ever hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, various events including job fairs, hackathons, blockchain developer meet-ups and investor relations meetings on blockchain projects will be featured at Seoul Startup Hub in Mapo, Seoul Fintech Lab, Shilla Hotel and Sebitseom.
The Fuze 2018 will take place at the Dynasty Hall of Shilla Hotel Oct. 30-31 and Olmert, 73, will be a keynote speaker at the Fuze 2018 that begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 30. The 12th Israeli premier will visit Korea in eight years after attending the third Asian Leadership Conference organized by Chosun Ilbo and TV Chosun in 2012.
Since entering politics in 1973, Olmert has spearheaded Israel’s reform and laid a groundwork for Israel to emerge as a hi-tech startup nation while serving as ministers of health, economy and industry, Jerusalem mayor, head of Kadima party and prime minister. He laid the foundation for the revision of the Health Insurance Law during his stint as the health minister. In the 10-year period during which he served as the mayor of Jerusalem, he made Jerusalem a city equipped with up-to-date transport infrastructure by introducing a light rail system as mass transit. Olmert also sowed the seed of hi-tech industries by expanding expenses for education by leaps and bounds.
After taking office as the deputy prime minister and the minister of industry, trade and labor in 2003, he headed Israel’s export-led growth and took the lead in signing free trade accords with NAFTA and the European Union. As a result, Israel saw its exports exceed imports in 2006 for the first time in history.
According to the Israeli government, in 2007, the first year after Olmert became the prime minister, Israel couldn’t have been better in every aspect. For the first time, the number of employed people increased while the poor decreased. As the economy grew and tax revenues rose, the government reported a surplus.
Of all achievements, however, he stands out most as contributing to make Israel a startup nation as the strong supporter of newly founded companies. He claims: “Imagine as much as you can and make it real. The government should create an environment in which people are not afraid of failures.”
In a press interview, he once said: “We came up with ideas to encourage people to convert creativity and imagination into businesses. We attracted global investors and created funds so that they could invest in Israeli startups armed with good ideas.”
Yozma, a venture capital fund, is the result for which Olmert strived. Yozma is actually a fund of funds, signifying ‘creativity’ and ‘initiative’ in Hebrew. Investments raised abroad are created as a fund, which would be run by the OCS (Office of the Chief Scientist), an organization of 200 specialists. The Israeli government was supposed to make an equity investment worth 60 percent of startup costs, and should the project succeed, the founder buys back the government’s equity. But if the project fails, the government is fully responsible for all losses.
The government’s role is very important to become a startup nation. The government’s role, defined by the former prime minister, is to “provide many people with many opportunities.” “Life is a recurrence of mistakes. People can make wrong judgments but the government must interfere to understand and encourage them.” he said, adding that “people who failed are more likely to succeed. Tolerating failures and encouraging them will prompt the public to launch startups without fear of failures.”
All this is quite suggestive to the Korean government. Like Israel, Korea is devoid of natural resources but rich in brains. The government’s key role is to create an environment in which startups can brave all hardships to begin boldly. Olmert had been praised for killing two birds - “security and investment” - with one stone by seeking economic innovation while trying to maintain peace with Palestine. This is probably what the Korean government, faced with both “nuclear and economic crises,” should listen carefully.
Israeli youths rush to initiate firms, boosted by the government’s full support and abundant capital abroad. Israel has surfaced as an economic powerhouse consequently despite adverse conditions such as poor natural resources and territorial disputes of more than 60 years. The small but strong country boasts more than 3,000 high-tech companies and has 64 firms being listed on NASDAQ. This is the third-largest number after the U.S. and China.
Olmert will take part in the ABF in Seoul and meet with government officials at home and abroad, including Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, big company CEOs, officials from blockchain companies and startups and hackathon winners to have a wide range of opinions on corporate establishment and blockchain.
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