Super Cities №156 — Israeli Military Startups

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Computer vision: how Israel’s secret soldiers drive its tech success

In Israel, this lucrative field has benefited from a large pool of engineers and entrepreneurs trained for that very task in an elite, little-known group in the military — Unit 9900 — where they fine-tuned computer algorithms to digest millions of surveillance photos and sift out actionable intelligence.


The Israeli startup community is booming.

Many of its founders started their careers in the Israeli military, which is very good at cyber operations and surveillance.

Israeli entrepreneurs — citizens of the so-called Startup Nation — have leveraged this specific military expertise to create wide-ranging commercial applications.

In Israel, everyone must serve in the military.

This requirement creates a common transformational experience among peers. It also systematizes early-career exposure to practical knowledge and on-the-job technical training.

The value of these elements compound because danger accelerates learning and deepens relational bonds.

The second variable in the Israeli equation is world-class technology. Israel spends significant money on advanced research and development. Its physical location and strategic priorities demand that much of its research and development costs are spent on frontier technologies: cyber, AI, advanced mapping, and computer vision.

The overall result is that, measured by innovation output, a small country outperforms larger rivals by a big margin.

This output edge doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because resources — people, technologies, research, and capital — are leveraged to drive double bottom-line growth.

Here’s the universal lesson: small, clear-eyed, radically focused teams — startups, military, others — are dangerous because they can do a lot more with a lot less.

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