Erik Prince on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 2, 2007. .
(photo credit: LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
American billionaire Erik Prince, a former US Navy Seal and founder of controversial military contractor Blackwater, will visit Israel next month to search for new investment opportunities.
Prince, who also co-founded Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group (FSG) in 2014, will meet with start-ups and companies in fields including defense technology, intelligence and foodtech.
Drone-maker BlueBird Aero Systems, off-road vehicle developer Tomcar, artificial intelligence defense solutions provider Axon Vision and satellite rescue firm Magnus are among the companies Prince is due to meet during his visit.
“I love the spirit of the Israeli people who have stepped out and followed their dream or a nagging idea to build something new,” Prince told The Jerusalem Post.
“They have combined knowledge, tenacity and grit to build new entities and options. Entrepreneurship is the creative destruction of the old order. I can see why Israel launches so many companies, because it exudes from the spirit of her people.”
During his visit, Prince will also participate in Tel Aviv University’s TMTI 2019 Summit & Start-Up Competition, taking place July 23-24. He will also be one of several judges in the final of “The Challenge,” a start-up competition by TAU Ventures offering a $250,000 investment prize.
Particularly of interest to Prince are the young alumni of elite IDF intelligence unit 8200, who have established a reputation for developing innovative hi-tech start-ups after their release from the army.
“When I started Blackwater, I went back to the well of people I trusted – the SEAL Team where I’d just ended service. They, like any elite unit, contain lots of highly-motivated, talented people where you’ve already trusted each other in deadly situations,” said Prince.
“That’s the ultimate pre-screening for future employment, so drawing from that alumni pool for any entrepreneur is a great leap ahead. You want people who you can point towards a problem that will sort it and not require a lot of hand-holding along the way.”
Prince, the brother of US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, said that he aims to take an active role in the companies that he chooses to invest in.
“Every small company needs help with operations, scaling, financial controls and of course new market access,” said Prince. “Sharing these skills with portfolio companies helps them avoid the scars of past experience.”
Blackwater, which Prince founded in 1997, was contracted by the US State Department to provide security during the Iraq War. In 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. One of the employees involved was convicted of murder in December and three others have been convicted of manslaughter.
Blackwater agreed in 2010 to pay $42 million in fines for hundreds of violations of US export rules, including making unauthorized proposals to train troops in southern Sudan. Reuters contributed to this story.
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