Although the Israeli technology industry has established itself as a global hub of innovation with great entrepreneurial spirit attracting investor interest, the industry has seen the creation of very few large companies turning into global corporate leaders such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
"We Israelis are very bad in our Mergers & Acquisition strategy," said Eldad Tamir, Co-President and CEO of Tamir Fishman Ventures at the Israel Venture Association "Hi-Tech in Israel 2007 Conference" in Tel Aviv on Monday. "We want the biggest high growth company at a price of a bankrupt company. We are just not willing to pay the right price."
At the conference themed "Start Up Big!" leading entrepreneurs, VCs and CEOs discussed how to better leverage and manage Israeli innovations to build and create larger companies.
"Israel has more entrepreneurs than Germany but at the end of the day, Israel is not creating enough large companies as a result of this entrepreneurship," said Dr. Orna Berry, chairman of the IVA and Venture Partner at Gemini Israel Funds. "Building large companies is a national challenge which will change the face of Israel's economy and advance the Israeli edge in global competition."
Yanki Margalit, chairman, CEO and founder of Aladdin Knowledge Systems, said that apart from changing the Israeli M&A strategy to buy cheap while seeking the best company, which contributed to the failure of Israelis building large companies, Israel needed to think globally and bring in more experts from around the world.
"Competition from China and India is not a threat to the Israeli hi-tech industry, but it could represent a great opportunity, if we do it right," said Margalit. "Israel needs to think global which means opening up and bringing in professional experts from China and India to face up to the global reality of borderless immigration."
From a VC perspective, Boaz Dinte, managing partner of Evergreen Venture Partners, noted that there was a lack of late-stage funding of companies in order to react fast on the one hand and on the other hand large Israeli companies needed to strengthen their management teams.
"It's not about a one-man show. In the past we failed to bring in top management to bring companies forward to the next stage," said Dinte. "The times are over where the board of a company is filled with the CEO and friends of family. What a company board needs are independent specialists and Wall Street experts and people who can build a strong marketing and sales team."
Similarly, Reuven Ben Menachem, founder and CEO of Fundtech, said people in the management of Israeli companies often came from a technology background and were not in the mindset of marketing.
Meanwhile, speaking from his own experience, Dov Moran, founder and former managing director of M-Systems, who last year sold the company to SanDisk for $1.55 billion, said that looking back on the deal he could have done better.
"I could have done better in establishing a company bigger than M-Systems with stronger management experience driving faster processes such as raising money," said Moran. "One mistake was not being with the right understanding of the market of large companies such as the relationship between the board and the company."