By Nicole Reisinger
For the Mitzpeh
A co-founder and managing partner at JANVEST Capital Partners, a venture capital firm, talked to about 20 students Tuesday evening at Maryland Hillel about Israel’s prominence in the technology market, and why innovation is so important for the country.
Brian Rosenzweig spoke on behalf of the Jewish National Fund, which is responsible for building the infrastructure of Israel, according to Anne Greenspoon, director of community engagement in the Israeli advocacy and education department of JNF.
“Our goal is to engage the next generation of people … and trying to get people to connect with Israel in any way we can,” said Greenspoon.
JNF’s campaign, called Positively Israel, brings speakers to college campuses to portray Israel in a positive light. The program discusses topics such as technology and innovation, and “ways that Israel develops these things and uses them around the world to make it a better place,” said Greenspoon.
Technology “has no downside, all that it is doing is making people’s lives easier,” said sophomore Jake Orbach, a letters and sciences student and JNF campus fellow. “Technology and innovation promotes Israel without any conflict…It promotes peace, in the sense that you need to collaborate.”
Out of the 8.4 million people living in Israel, 300,000 are employed in the high-tech industry, and Israel’s high-tech community is responsible for 10 percent of the global cybersecurity market, according to Business Insider.
In the perpetually evolving and lucrative industry of cybersecurity, Israel attracted international recognition and maintains dominance as a technologically innovative and entrepreneurial powerhouse.
In 2013, Google bought the map app Waze – an Israeli creation – for $1 billion.
Three weeks ago, Intel bought Mobileye, a developer of autonomous driving vehicles, for $15.3 billion, according to Forbes.
“Israel has been dubbed the startup nation,” said Rosenzweig. “It has more startups per capita than any other part of the world. One startup for every 15,000 people, so that is absolutely unbelievable.”
Rosenzweig attributes Israel’s success to five majors factors: financial support from the government, an emphasis on tech-oriented curriculums in higher education institutions, international private sector support, the cyber warfare and intelligence gathering branches of the military and Israelis’ “high acceptance of failure and tolerance of risk.”
The nature of Israeli society is embedded within its tech market. As a result of current geopolitics, Israelis face face immense risk on a day-to-day basis.
“They look at tomorrow, not next year,” Rosenzweig said. “Most Israeli entrepreneurs want to go out, make a couple million dollars from a startup, set up their next company, and keep going. They believe money today is smarter and safer than money tomorrow.”
Part of JNF’s goal is to strengthen Israel not only economically, but also socially and culturally. JNF looks to establish community support in the Negev to transform Israel into the cyber capital of the world. Companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing are opening up offices in Beersheba looking for cybersecurity solutions, and there is a need for communities to support individuals who decide to move.
The average American is involved with three to four startups, while the average Israeli is involved in eight to nine, Rosenzweig said.
“Israel is arguably the most dynamic technology market outside of Silicon Valley,” said Rosenzweig. “I think that it’s a great thing that Israeli technology companies sell early because that is what is attracting the Intels, Googles and Facebooks of the world… They’re looking for small pieces of technology that they can roll into their next generation of products and services.”
Rosenzweig said his firm is currently investing in two companies that are the result of Israeli ingenuity.
BioCatch, a behavioral biometrics fraud prevention company, protects information on computers and mobile devices based on how people move their mouses, use their keyboards and move on their touch screens. The company was created by a former commander and engineer in the 8200. The program they developed tracks finger movements on a user’s phone and keyboard, locking a user out if they do not match.
Cronus is a company based out of Haifa that specializes in automated penetration testing: a program that continuously and automatically tries to hack a system to tell where you are most vulnerable, and how to fix those vulnerabilities.
Israel’s reputation as the world’s incubator interested sophomore Evan Weinreb, an accounting and finance major, who wants to get involved with the booming Israeli tech market and go into business and product development.
“Part of the job… is to go to venture capitalists to look for funding… so I wanted some insight into what the tech market had to offer, in terms of internship and potential jobs,” said Weinreb, who found the presentation “very insightful” and approached Rosenzweig further after the presentation.
Rosenzweig’s involvement in the Israeli tech market began when he reached out to Israeli companies in 2007, and asked if they needed business developing and marketing support in the U.S.
He amassed a number of clients and then sold his company to a venture capital firm. This allowed him to move to Israel and work as a principal on the firm, raising funds to invest in technology businesses.
Rosenzweig’s parting advice was to “get involved in a startup if you want to get into venture capitalism, because you don’t know the challenges of a startup unless you’re in one.”