Intel: Israel may not remain ‘Start-up Nation’
Company comprising 20% of Israel's high-tech exports should be “flashing red light,” says Intel Israel President
INTEL employee demonstrates visual-recognition software Photo: NIV ELIS
Intel Israel president Mooly Eden expressed concern Sunday that Israel was
becoming complacent with its status as the “Start-up Nation,” a phrase
popularized by a book of the same name exalting the country’s entrepreneurial
“This isn’t forever,” he said at the company’s annual
conference in Tel Aviv, against a backdrop of convertible touch-screen laptops,
tablets, smartphones and other highpowered gadgets. “Are we investing enough in
Israel on a national level, so that in the future we will a have ‘Israel: The
Start-up Nation, Part Two,’ or will this be a history book?” Eden raised the
question after announcing a banner year for Intel Israel. The company more than
doubled its exports, from $2.2 billion in 2011 to $4.6b. in 2012. That figure
represents 10 percent of Israel’s total exports (excluding diamonds) and 20% of
the country’s $21.5b. in hi-tech exports.
“This should be a flashing red
light,” said Eden, looking like a European Steve Jobs with his backward Kangel
beret matching his all-black attire. Although the company’s remarkable success
in Israel gave him great pride, he said, there were plenty of other tech-savvy
nations that will outpace Israel if it doesn’t make the right
“We aren’t the only start-up nation in the world. There’s a
start-up nation in India and a start-up nation in China and a start-up nation in
Brazil,” he said, attributing the current Israeli hi-tech boom, in part, to the
influx of relatively educated immigrants from the Soviet Union in the
But far from endorsing specific policies, Eden simply paid lip
service to the fields of taxation, export law and education.
latter point, Intel is at least putting its money where its mouth is. In 2012,
it announced a NIS 20 million investment in education programs to increase the
number of technology-ready highschool graduates, which based on matriculation
scores stood at a paltry 6.5%.
Those skills, alongside fierce creativity,
were what helped Intel Israel put together its latest technologies, not only in
chips but also in innovative software. Among the more delightful innovations on
display at the conference, the company developed visualrecognition software that
allows a camera to detect precise hand movements, enabling users to naturally
interact with the virtual world.
The technology, which makes the
virtual-reality gloves in movies as old as the 1980s gaming classic The Wizard
and as recent as Tom Cruise’s Minority Report seem equally dated, could have
myriad applications. To find them, the company has offered a $1m.
to the developer who can come up with the best app for the new technology. Down
the line, facial-recognition software bolstering speech-to-text technology could
revolutionize how people interact with their computers.
“Speech will do
to touch what touch has done to keyboards,” Eden said, referring to the
smartphone and tablet touch-screen technology that sidelined keyboard usage on
“The phone will get smarter and smarter, not phonier
and phonier,” he joked. If Israel is to stay competitive, it will have to follow