Startups in Israel come in all shapes, sizes and types; there are hundreds,
maybe thousands of people out there with ideas that may eventually change the
world. Investors form Israel and from around the world flock to the companies
that build the applications, websites, and services that bring these ideas to
But who will invest in the ultimate startups – the places where the
magic begins? Those entrepreneurs have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is
Not just university – elementary school, too! It’s there that
the future hi-tech leaders of Israel get their training, education, and
motivation. And there’s no question that there’s a major payoff for the country
from a successful education system.
But while the general Israeli economy
benefits from good education, investors don’t get a direct payoff from the money
they sink into the country’s schools. As such, most VCs and investment firms
don’t see the schools as a place to invest in. At best, they may be persuaded to
give an occasional donation, for good PR, if not out of conviction.
even though they are likely to benefit from an educational system that turns out
skilled information workers, such investors want to see more direct payoffs for
their investment in shekels.
But there are those who take a longer view –
companies like Rad Communications and Radware, who were once startups
themselves. Now that the Rad family of companies, led by the members of the
Zisapel family, are large, established, organizations, they are taking that long
view, and investing in the country’s true “startups”: Elementary schools, high
schools, and universities.
“Supporting education works on both ends – for
the recipient of the help, and those providing the help,” says Roy Zisapel, CEO
of Radware. “Hi-tech accounts for half of Israel’s exports, and we need to groom
and encourage young minds to get involved in those areas, for all our
As a result, says Zisapel, the company conducts a wide-ranging
program where workers go into schools in local communities, both well-to-do and
disadvantaged, and preach a gospel of hi-tech success, in the hopes that they
will encourage youth to emulate their example and get serious about the subjects
that are the building blocks of the hi-tech future – mathematics, science, and
of course, computer technology.
“We are strong believers in encouraging
workers who have made it to give back to society,” Zisapel says.
has indeed made an impact on Israel’s cash-strapped education system, both
materially and via employees’ presence in the field. Employees have worked in
schools in Bat Yam, says Zisapel, providing training, guidance and inspiration
to students who might otherwise have chosen a “lesser path.”
In south Tel
Aviv, the company runs a unique after-school program, “where we provide
intensive guidance for 40 promising students who have the potential to advance,
but are having a hard time getting ahead,” Zisapel says.
tutors to work with these students one-on-one, helping them advance in
mathematics, English, and the sciences,” he adds.
And that’s not the end
of it, either: “We follow their educational careers, helping to keep them on top
of their studies, with the result that they are able to live up to their
Radware does what it can for more advanced levels of
education as well, Zisapel says. The company runs a special program with
Technion in Haifa, where it takes students with potential from northern
development towns and puts them on an educational track to get into the
Technion. The idea is to provide them with the help they need to move
bagrut units to the five needed to get into top Technion programs, and
high marks. The company also provides numerous scholarships for
students, and even works with the Technion on developing startups in an
Of course, Radware isn’t the only company that puts an effort
into working with schools and advancing the education of Israeli
it is one of the most active and one of the most modest. There’s barely a
of the company’s activity in education on its website and a brief scan
English language internet showed almost no mention of the company’s
educational work. But Radware isn’t doing this for the fame and glory;
company knows where its Israeli bread is buttered.
“There’s a lot of
competition out there, from up and coming third world countries,” says
“We have no choice but to remain competitive, if we intend to stay
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