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Israel: start-up notions
Author  Daniel Isenberg

Start-up notions

The real roots of Israel's economic miracle
 

The 1990s were a revolutionary time Israel's economic development. The government created Yozma, the innovative venture capital vehicle structured by the Israeli government, saw an inrush of venture capital, a wave of NASDAQ IPOs, and benefited from a surge in corporate technology acquisitions. Recent accounts represent the period as a case study for governments looking to foster entrepreneurship. But that story is so incomplete as to mislead policy makers. In fact, developments in the 1990s were the fruits of a process almost forty years old.

The real timeline:
1.    1950s. The seeds of Israel’s entrepreneurial revolution were sown in the late 1940s and 1950s. Israel’s first (Weizmann) and fourth (Katzir) presidents were scientists. Both believed strongly in the role of science in national defense and societal prosperity; in and of itself unique in the world and a strong message about national priorities. The first military technology transfers took place then, half a century before Mirabilis created ICQ, the first instant messaging system.
2.    1960s. R&D got a huge boost in the 1960s, in part from the sudden 1967 French weapons embargo: military self-reliance became defense policy, leading to massive investments in military R&D and the seeding of what would become an entrepreneurial hothouse, the Intelligence Signal Corp (Unit 8200). In 1968 the Katchalski Committee recommended the establishment of the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) to help fix market failures in commercializing R&D.
3.    1970s. The early 1970s saw Israel’s first NASDAQ IPO (1972; by medical imaging pioneer, Elscint), the embryonic involvement of top-tier US-based venture capital, and very significantly, the establishment in Israel in 1974 of Intel’s first international R&D center. In 1977 the influential BIRD foundation was created to fund technology-based product development between Israeli and US companies.
4.    1980s. By the early 1980s there were numerous top-tier VC investments, and by 1984 the NASDAQ value of the first wave of a dozen Israeli tech ventures was $780 million. In 1984 the government passed the milestone Law for the Encouragement of R&D. In 1985 the first limited partnership venture capital fund, Athena Venture Partners, was established with $23 million. In 1987 the cancellation of the Lavi fighter-plane mega-project flooded the market with thousands of engineers who swelled the ranks of startups. By 1989 I even had enough material for my speech in Berlin at the European Venture Capital Association conference, “The History of Israeli’ Technological Entrepreneurship.”

You can’t write American history without Jefferson and Washington, yet the authors of Start-Up Nation tried to do the equivalent, overlooking founding fathers like Uzia Galil and Dan Tolkowsky. They’ve even neglected the founding sons—people like Zohar Zisapel (founder of 29 IT firms) and Efi Arazi (founder of Scitex). There are consequences to this revisionism. For example, by focusing on the 90s, policymakers have neglected the parallel entrepreneurship ecosystem that preceded—and enabled—initiatives like Yozma.

But it was this ecosystem that, by 1990, made Israel’s entrepreneurial revolution a fait accompli; so much so that by 1997 there had been 68 NASDAQ IPOs—all before Yozma’s investments started bearing fruit.

And in truth the massive Russian immigration of scientists and engineers has had little direct impact on Israel’s entrepreneurial revolution—in the 90s most had no choice but to accept K-12 teaching or low-level service jobs; Israel’s vast incubator program, admirably privatized, has bred a relatively low number of successful ventures; and Israel’s culture and institutions were anti-entrepreneurial until the mid-1990s, with labor and the government owning huge portions of the economy, wealth being scorned, and marginal tax rates discouraging extra work.

Israel’s entrepreneurial accomplishments have indeed been nothing short of miraculous. Since 1972, over 160 Israeli ventures have been listed on NASDAQ, more than any other country outside of the U.S. and Canada, and hundreds of tech ventures have been acquired. Tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars of value have been created. The world benefits from Israeli innovations, such as the USB memory stick, instant messaging and new generation cardiac stents, to name a few. The entrepreneurs who created such novel products have disproportionately contributed to Israel’s growth. So it is only natural for policy makers around the world to want to learn from Israel’s remarkable experience. But they will only reach the right conclusions if they first get the history right.

 

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Israel doing big things with nano-materials
Israel doing big things with nano-materialsIsraeli scientists are making significant contributions to the advance of nano-technology, discovering and developing some of the most important breakthroughs.26 Oct 2010Applied Nanotech, one of the many companies presenting new products at the International Nanotechnology Conference, will highlight its nano-based copper ink technology. By David HaleviIsraeli high-tech has done some big things in the past - creating some of the most important advances in computer security and networking, social media, and telecommunications. Today, Israeli companies are set to do some little things - which may have an even bigger impact than some of those high-tech achievements.What Internet startups were to the past decade, nanotechnology will be to the next one, experts say - and Israel is already a world leader in development and deployment of applications based on this new science. Already, Israeli scientists have made significant contributions to the field, discovering and developing some of the most important breakthroughs.Among the applications Israeli start-ups have developed using nanotech are water purification membranes, agents for oral drug delivery, inkjet digital printing systems, diagnostic tools, holographic storage systems - and an 'e-beam on a chip,' which is similar to a laser beam, to be used for semiconductor manufacturing.Thanks to nanotech, for example, organ transplants may become a thing of the past, as special growth factors based on nanotechnology help grow healthy cells in an organ to replace unhealthy ones. Nanotechnology could also help to vastly reduce pollutants from internal combustion engines and could even develop elements that provide the taste of sugar in foods, without the calories and tooth decay that are part and parcel of the product today.The nanotechnology revolution is here, and moving forward rapidly, with a host of Israeli companies already producing applications based on this new science, which allows researchers to control matter on an atomic and molecular scale.Highlighting Israel's nano-accomplishmentsHighlighting Israel's accomplishments and research in the emerging nanotech field, the second annual International Nanotechnology Conference will be held in Tel Aviv in November. It will focus on innovations and business opportunities in the energy, water, environment, nano-material, nano-electronics, nano-photonics, nano-bio and nano-medicine fields.Investors seeking opportunities and companies from Israel and abroad will attend, showing off their nano-wares. Speakers will include the leading lights of the discipline from Israel and abroad. Among them will be the 2010 co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, Professor Andre Geim, for his discovery and work with the nano-material graphene.The conference is being chaired by Nava Swersky-Sofer, who is one of the leaders of Israel's life-science industry and is the former CEO of the Hebrew University's tech transfer arm, Yissum; Mr. Dan Vilenski from the Israel National Nano-technology Initiative (INNI); and Prof. Arie Zaban from Bar-Ilan University."Israel is known worldwide as a center of knowledge and innovation in nano-technology and research in the nano field. Israel's achievements are at the forefront of a variety of the industrial fields, such as communications, electronics, computerization, security, medicine and life-sciences," says Swersky-Sofer.Israel is already on the international nanotech map, according to the INNI, one of the conference sponsors. The group lists about 80 large and small companies working in Israel's nanotech sector, along with more than 40 academic and governmental labs, employing some 300 researchers and scholars. The INNI states that Israel has the third-largest concentration of startup companies in the world, surpassed only by California's Silicon Valley and the Boston technology corridor.A survey conducted by INNI shows that the Technion employs 119 nano-researchers, followed by 55 at Tel Aviv University, 47 at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 43 at the Weizmann Institute of Science, 39 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and 30 at Bar-Ilan University. Since 2002, the number of nano-researchers in Israel has doubled. The two main scientific disciplines are chemistry (25.6%) and physics (19.5%). Most of the researchers (33%) focus on materials, followed by electronics and photonics (22%) and biotechnology (17%).Israel had a head-startIsrael is ahead of many other countries in this new field, because its researchers have been working in the nano sphere for years. Among the researchers is Prof. Reshef Tenne of the Weizmann Institute. Tenne, who will chair a session at the conference, is best known for leading the group that discovered and studied the inorganic fullerene-like nanospheres and nanotubes, generally termed IF nanoparticles, considered a new class of nanomaterials. Tenne says that nanotech development suits the Israeli development model: "This is a small country, and nano-material research, of course, is done on a small scale. But the research can yield big results, and we expect that today's research will pay off handsomely in the coming years.""Over the next five to 10 years we'll see nanotech applications take off," Prof. Reshef Tenne of the Weizmann Institute.Israeli researchers have done a great deal of work in helping to discover new nano-materials, and Israel is by far the most advanced country in its neighborhood in nano-research. "You can tell how advanced a country is by the number of high-resolution electron microscopes a country has. We certainly don't have the resources that rich European countries like Germany and Holland have, but we've got quite enough for a country of our size. We're in a good spot in the middle, and our researchers take full advantage of the resources available," Tenne says.Tenne himself conducts ongoing nanotech research at the Weizmann Institute in both basic materials and applications, a combination that he says suits him well."Over the next five to 10 years we'll see nanotech applications take off. Most of the first round of applications will probably be in the medical field, and we here in Israel have been making great strides in the area of nano-medical technology," Tenne relates.Manipulating small elements of matter as it does, the science of nanotechnology is also considered an art form. 'Nanoart' features nanolandscapes (molecular and atomic landscapes, which are natural structures of matter at molecular and atomic scales) and nanosculptures (structures created by manipulating matter at molecular and atomic scales using chemical and physical processes). These scientific images, captured and processed with various artistic techniques, will be on display at the November conference.
Start-ups boost big technology cos
Everyone wins when a big company acquires a start-up.From GlobsExactly three years ago, Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) co-founder Larry Page again took over as CEO, ten years after leaving the position. Eric Schmidt vacated the post to become chairman, and Page began to take the search giant in a new direction. Schmidt, who had been parachuted into the company in 2001 because of investor pressure as a responsible adult to turn the small and bubbling start-up into the corporate giant that Google has become. However, three years ago, it was decided to go back to basics, and not just with a personnel change, in order to give Google the feel and atmosphere of a start-up that it had lost over the years. The idea was to instill innovation, agility, and a faster pace of decision-making in a company with tens of thousands of employees.This was only part of Google's strategy to feel younger and more innovative. In fact, the company is one of the most active buyers of start-ups and technology companies, with over 150 acquisitions amounting to billions of dollars. This method has brought many new faces to Google's departments, and kept its head above the water in a range of fields.Google is not alone of course. Many enterprises in Israel and other countries are trying to bring in innovation through the back door. However big and smart they may be, these enterprises know that not all wisdom is found in the company's corridors, and that there is a need for some smarts and new thinking from outside, either through acquisitions, or more efficiently and smartly through strategic collaborations.Examples are Qualcomm Corporation (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Deutsche Telekom AG (XETRA: DTE). The two giants have shown great interest in tiny Ness Ziona-based Magisto Ltd. and have embraced it. The Israeli company has developed an advanced app for editing video clips directly from smartphones. The app is installed in hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Telekom handsets and the company works closely with Qualcomm on future developments."Video is one of the key elements in 4G networks, which are far faster than their predecessors. We consume as much as Facebook or WhatsApp in almost the same way, but Deutsche Telekom sought the extra something to offer its users, and provide this with our video editing service," says Magisto co-founder and CEO Oren Boiman.Boiman says that the collaboration with Qualcomm put it in the lead. "All of Magisto's technology and the set of products that we're developing are not part of Qualcomm's repertoire," he says. "They know how to make high-speed cameras, but we bring the product that is supposed to be the killer app, which can differentiate between what it sees through the camera, how to take automatic pictures, track the person in front of the camera, and so on."The advantage of big enterprises cooperating with start-ups is the added value and differentiation for their users when the need to answer the question whether our product causes their product to be better and different from other products. They know that they can't do everything in-house."In Israel, too, the same feeling that the lack of innovation can be solved by linking up with start-ups is also understood. For example,Zap Group Ltd. linked up with several Israel start-ups to offer added value to its advertiser clients. Zap Group CEO Nir Lempert says, "Assimilating a start-up in a big company can give it many advantages, such as a system-wide perspective, relevant ties in Israel and other countries, and help solve relevant business problems from life and not just in theory."Lempert says that the company's cooperation model with start-ups allows them use the large enterprises as a kind of beta site for various experiences and to see how things work in practice, and to change direction, if necessary. "We can install the product on our websites and apps and together try and promote the finished product in the world," he says.Lempert says that two successful examples are MobeeArt Ltd., which began as a company for building mobile sites for small businesses, and now develops systems for managing a full digital presence for these companies, and Vcita Ltd., which began as a diary management solution for free professionals, and with the influence of Zap Group developed the product to manage leads for small businesses."The change and development was made at our demand and needs, and these products are now sold in a number of countries. These transactions are win-win for both sides," says Lampert.Who will win smartup2?"Globes", in collaboration with Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) is launching the second annual SmartUp competition for Israeli start-ups. As part of the project, "Globes" correspondents will track three start-ups, which receive assistance from incubator experts and Bank Hapoalim advisers, based on the understanding that many companies with good groundbreaking ideas get stuck at the start because of difficulties that prevent them from achieving their potential.The project is designed for Israeli companies that have raised at least NIS 250,000 in seed funding. Each company selected for the program will receive over three months advice from the high tech and business world on a range of topics relevant for early-stage start-ups, such as marketing, financing, human resources, and heading overseas. All they have to do is to register at smartup2 page (in Hebrew), and tell us why your start-up should participate. Participating companies will receive a start-up package from Bank Hapoalim, including a high-tech account at preferred terms and a NIS 20,000 grant.The three winners will receive assistance from leading Israeli incubators and accelerators Explore.Dream.Discover, 8200 EISP, andNielsen Innovate.Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 21, 2014© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014Globes - Everyone wins when a big company acquires a start-up   
Division of Organic and Inorganic Chemistry
The major research activities in the division are focused on molecular design, preparation and studies of novel organic, inorganic and biological materials. The chemical, physical and biological properties of these compounds and materials are investigated comprehensively by diverse traditional and modern sophisticated techniques. Undoubtedly, the molecular engineering of the materials and processes for their synthesis and studies represent a fascinating challenge whose successful solutions require a combination of synthetic expertise, mechanistic understanding, theoretical computational insight and chemical intuition.The major core of the Division is represented by the research groups oriented around synthetic organic, organometallic and catalytic chemistry. Compared with other Israeli universities, the Technion currently accommodates the highest concentration of scientists engaged in these research fields. Overall efforts in the development of new methods and catalysts for organic synthesis are aimed at application to the smarter, more powerful and effective preparation of the materials we depend upon, and the generation of valuable new products of potential interest for chemistry, biology and materials science. At least five groups are dealing with these aspects. Prof. Marek’s group is dealing with the design and development of new and efficient stereo- and enantioselective strategies for the synthesis of important complex molecular structures, with special emphasis on the creation of multiple stereo centers in a single-pot operation. Dr. Szpilman’s group is focusing on the development of novel efficient organ catalysts for useful enantioselective transformations and on natural product synthesis. Prof. Eisen’s group is developing new actinide and group 4-containing organometallic catalysts for the efficient production of useful polymers, including the synthesis of novel membranes as trapping entities for water purification and urea trapping under human physiological conditions (organic materials-oriented projects). Prof. Gross’ group is developing corrole-based catalysts for small molecule activation, oxidation and asymmetric synthetic processes. Prof. Gandelman’s group is promoting the design and development of unique organic and metal organic-based systems, new types of paradigms, and chemical bonding as a fundamental basis for the discovery of novel efficient catalytic processes.Synthesis, characterization and studies on organosilicon compounds with fundamentally and practically unique properties are being developed in Prof. Apeloig’s group. Preparation of novel aromatic compounds and fundamental aspects of aromaticity are being studied in Prof. Stanger’s group. Both groups apply high-level computational chemistry to investigate the related problems theoretically.Supramolecular chemistry is mainly represented by two groups. Prof. Keinan’s group is designing and developing biomolecular computing devices, synthetic capsids and enzymes, molecular machines, catalytic antibodies, along with sensors for explosives. Prof. Eichen’s group is directing self-assembly processes for the fabrication of nanometer-scale electronic components. Optical and electrical properties of organic functional materials are studied intensively in his group.Biologically-related chemistry (bioorganic and bioinorganic) is represented mainly by three groups. Prof. Baasov’s group is engaging in the rational design of novel antibacterial drugs, synthesis and evaluation of catalytic oligosaccharides, and the development of new chemical and enzymatic methodologies for the assembly of oligosaccharides. Prof. Gross’ group is dealing with biomimetic investigations of metal catalyzed processes to develop new strategies for combating cancer and diseases initiated by reactive oxygen species. Dr. Maayan’s group plans to study the interactions between organic biomimetic foldamers (peptide mimics) and inorganic species, such as metal ions, metal nanoparticles and metal clusters, directing these materials towards applications in catalysis and materials science.A more detailed description of the research areas of each group can be found by following the links below:The research areas of each group are described below:1. Apeloig Yitzhak2. Baasov Timor3. Eichen Yoav4. Eisen Moris S.5. Gandelman Mark6. Gross Zeev7. Keinan Ehud8. Marek Ilan9. Mayan Galia 10. Stanger Amnon11. Szpilman Alex M.
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