The abiding interest of Israel’s No. 1 citizen in high technology is a well
On Wednesday morning, President Shimon Peres visited JVP
Media Quarter, the brainchild of former venture capitalist Erel Margalit, who is
now a member of Knesset.
Located in what used to be a warehouse in
Jerusalem’s Old Train Station, JVP, now celebrating its 20th year, is a fusion
of venture capital, technology incubators, creative and performing artists, and
Adjacent to the warehouse was the National Mint
which had been built in 1937. Margalit took it over in 2006 and renovated it so
that it could be incorporated into the JVP complex.
Since it began
operations, JVP has helped to launch 100 startups, the CEOs of four of which
made presentations to Peres in the presence some 50 young JVP social
entrepreneurs, start-up executives and a group of
Alluding to the international economic crisis, Margalit
said it is precisely during the most difficult times that Israel continues to be
the most innovative. It all starts from nothing, like a seed that grows into a
tree, he said.
Initially, Israeli hi-tech companies focused on
communications, telephones, information systems and video, but in 2001, “we had
to reinvent ourselves and create new applications for individuals,” he
The four companies that made presentations were Cyber-Ark Software
that specializes in information security and develops and markets digital
vaults; Siano Mobile Silico that brings high quality digital television to
mobile devices; WiShi, an all-female enterprise that helps users to wear the
right thing at the right time; and AnyClip, a video content company which helps
users to identify subject matter and soundtracks.
Cyber-Ark was founded
in 1999 by a team of young people who wanted to create a flagship – and they
succeeded, said Chen Bitan General Manager of EMEA, heading the Israeli office of Cyber Ark, who was proud to report that today Cyber-Ark is
one of the leading information security companies in the world with 1,700
customers including a third of the companies listed in Fortune magazine’s top
50, and eight of the world’s largest banks, as well as all major companies in
Cyber-Ark was the first company in the world to find solutions to
protect the critical network from hackers, said Bitan, and has a monitoring
service which constantly monitors all network activity.
It has 350
employees, with R&D facilities in Petah Tikva and more than 25 branches
Siano, established in 2005 by three young entrepreneurs, brings
quality digital television to the mobile phone and the tablet, said CEO Alon
Ironi. Without the use of an electric outlet or a computer, users can receive
eight to 10 hours of television without having to change the battery, Ironi
explained. “Our solutions appeal to the younger generation which is used to
receiving information on a mobile phone,” he said. All Israeli channels can be
received on a smartphone without connecting to the Internet.
one of the founders and developers of Wishi, whose slogan is Wear It, Share It,
launched the application only this week. Its purpose is to help fashion
conscious people with their styling. Using a tablet computer, Angel showed Peres
how anyone interested making the most out of what they have in their closet with
the addition of one or two other items and the right accessories can look like a
AnyClip’s presentation by CEO Oren Nauman was the most
entertaining, in that it was a mix of clips of news documentaries, feature films
and television sitcoms for which the keyword was ‘president.’ The word was
repeated over and over with different visuals, and there were repetitive clips
of two presidents – US President Barack Obama conferring the Medal of Freedom on
AnyClip, established five years ago, is based in
Jerusalem and has a 25-member team.
Much as he loves the business side of
JVP, Margalit is even prouder of the social entrepreneurship.
In 2002, he
and his wife, Debbie, looking around Jerusalem where they live, realized that
the most advanced hi-tech enterprises were 500 meters away from abject poverty –
and not just in one area of the capital.
So they started their Bekehilla
social entrepreneurship program in a school in the Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood.
The program has mushroomed to 17 schools spread throughout three Arab
neighborhoods and three Jewish neighborhoods.
Forty permanent mentors
help youngsters to improve their grades and to keep going to school until they
attain highschool matriculation (bagrut). In addition there are 50 volunteers
who opt to do a year of civilian national service before going into the
One of them, Dana, from Kfar Vitkin, who has been in Jerusalem
since last August, said they work with children in the classroom, with small
groups outside the classroom and with individuals in community centers. They
help them with their studies, play games with them and help them to develop
“We’ve learned to understand people who are
different from us, and this has prepared us better for when we go to the army,”
Two of the students, one from Talpiot, and the other from Beit
Safafa, confirmed that both their grades and their self-esteem had improved
“Society is changing before our eyes,” said Margalit. “If one
organization can do this with 22,000 youngsters in 10 years, a state can reach 2
million youngsters in 10 years. Children can break out of the cycle of poverty
if you give them the tools with which to dream about what they want to be when
they grow up.”
Margalit termed the venture “the politics of
Beersheba, he said, was becoming a cyber city, with
companies opening up all the time and creating job opportunities for at least
3,000 people and possibly as many as 7,000.
Nazareth and surrounds is
full of talented, young educated Arabs who want to be integrated into Israel’s
creative economy, he said.
Safed has a new medical school, and
developments in the Galilee indicate that the North will not remain a peripheral
area, but will acquire new energy, said Margalit.
“Let’s take our
successes and spread them, so that we can develop a just economy for everyone,”
Peres, who had asked a lot of questions throughout, was visibly
impressed, and said that what these start-up companies had achieved by way of
breakthroughs had enhanced Israel’s technological strength in the
For children to emerge from poverty he said, is to emerge from
ignorance. It is essential that they learn to be fluent in English. That should
be a first step he insisted.
He has already spoken about this to the
education minister, he said, suggesting that children be taught English from age
three so that they learn to speak without an accent.
As far as teenagers
are concerned, Peres said that they are much better educated and have greater
access to knowledge than previous generations, and that those in grades 10, 11
and 12, should be employed a couple of hours a day by different companies to see
what new ideas they can contribute, but also to enable them to earn a little
If teenage students were gainfully employed there would be a
significant reduction in teenage alcoholic consumption and drug abuse, Peres
said. “They can do fantastic things for the work force,” he said.
spoke of the importance of ensuring that all children in the country have proper
nourishment, and suggested that instead of National Insurance Institute child
allotments being paid to parents, the government use the money to ensure that
every child in daycare centers, kindergartens and schools be fed nutritious
Very supportive of the Bekehilla program, Peres said it was a
means of uniting Jerusalem by creating equal opportunities for all of its