‘Our alumni are the best ambassadors of the university’

Alon Arvatz, an entrepreneur and social activist, is a Tel Aviv University alumnus who hopes to positively impact Israeli society.

 ALON ARVATZ.  (photo credit: ITZIK BIRAN)
ALON ARVATZ.
(photo credit: ITZIK BIRAN)

“The university is fully committed to its students, and I think it’s because they understand that their alumni are its best ambassadors,” says Alon Arvatz, a successful entrepreneur and social activist who began his business career while studying at Tel Aviv University.

Arvatz, who sold the successful start-up IntSights to Rapid7 for $350 million in July last year, is one of the many Tel Aviv University alumni who have built a name for themselves as influencers in various fields, including hi-tech, culture, medicine and more. “It has always been clear to me that the university prides itself on its alumni and wants them to be influencers to lead Israeli society forward,” says Arvatz, “Beyond that, I think there are just good people there, who care and want to help.”

Arvatz founded IntSights seven years ago. The company provided intelligence on cyberattacks before they struck organizations and allowed them to defend against attacks. Over the years, the start-up grew, with over 200 employees and 500 customers worldwide, until it was sold to the American company Rapid7.

“After the army, I knew that I was interested in entrepreneurship. I didn’t know how to start, but it was something that burned within me.”

Alon Arvatz

Though he completed his military service in the elite 8200 Unit in the IDF Intelligence Corps, Arvatz likes to say that he became an entrepreneur at Tel Aviv University. “After the army, I knew that I was interested in entrepreneurship. I didn’t know how to start, but it was something that burned within me,” Arvatz recalls. “I enrolled at Tel Aviv University to study law and accounting, hoping that there would be tools there that would help me in the world of entrepreneurship. When I started my accounting studies I was exposed to basic things such as interest and loans and how they are calculated. I couldn’t understand how I had completed 12 years of excellent schooling, yet no one had taught me these basic things.”

During his studies, Arvatz met his partners in the first venture he founded, “Money Wings,” a financial curriculum he marketed with his partners to various schools with great success. “We prepared a syllabus with the Tel Aviv University logo on the program, and it sold very well,” he recalls. “During the year, we marketed the program to other schools and started recruiting volunteers from within the university to study and work together with us. Over time, the organization grew, and even the lecturers in the Faculty of Management joined in to help us. For me, the university was the place where I found my first partner, my first client and also my professional staff.”

 Tel Aviv University Campus (credit: COURTESY TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY) Tel Aviv University Campus (credit: COURTESY TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

“Cyber Summer Camp”

The second venture Arvatz established was “Cyber School,” a company for youth cyber studies. At the university, he also met his partner in the project, Guy Nizan. “It was an amazing experience. We conducted 70 courses and workshops a year, including in the US, and we even created a cyber summer camp,” says Arvatz. 

“The university was very supportive and allowed us to use its facilities. We received a room with a computer so that we could make calls to organize the initial operation. Two years after we sold Cyber School, we first went to the library of the Faculty of Management to tell them how much we appreciated what they had done for us, and we donated a generous amount to the library. For us, it was gratitude. We dreamed of the moment we could do it.”

After the sale of “Cyber School,” Arvatz and his partners decided to establish IntSights, during which time he was forced to take a break from his studies. “It was too much for me,” he says, “but after a year or so, when I understood a bit about how to make a start-up, I decided to come back. The university was very flexible with me regarding the curriculum, the variety of courses and the ability to choose the courses which interested me. They helped me find the most suitable format, and I had a very pleasant experience completing my degree.”

Arvatz recently launched Step2Tech, designed to provide an opportunity to integrate hi-tech into segments of the population that do not usually receive it, with an emphasis on the ultra-Orthodox and the Arab sector. This activity is part of his desire to give back to society, something that concerns many of the university’s alumni. For this reason, Arvatz is a member of the Tel Aviv University Alumni Organization, headed by Sigalit Ben Hayoun. 

The organization’s mission is to consolidate and nurture an influential, world-changing community. “After we sold the company, one of the first phone calls I made after the exit was to Sigalit,” Arvatz recalls. “I told her I wanted to donate to the university. She decided to take it a few steps further and organized a meeting for us with the outgoing Dean of the Faculty of Management to discuss additional possibilities. We decided to donate for scholarships, and it progressed to other activities such as establishing a forum of alumni who have succeeded in the hi-tech industry, who will advise the university on how to help the industry, and other projects on the way.”

In January, Arvatz is expected to publish his first book, which tells the secret of the success of the Israeli cyber industry, again with the support of the university. “In a way, Tel Aviv University knows how to balance academic excellence with the understanding that most students do not come for a career in academia,” Arvatz concludes. “They know how to take those who are suitable for academia and push them to excellence, but they understand that most will not continue in academia, and they understand that you must know how to support these students as well.”

About the Tel Aviv University Alumni Organization

Tel Aviv University has over 200,000 alumni, many of whom are top players and leaders in all sectors of Israel’s economy and society, holding key positions in law, hi-tech, hospitals, media, education, and of course, academia. TAU Alumni Organization’s goal is to leverage the influence of TAU alumni as a force contributing to Israeli society and to strengthen TAU’s global reputation. It strives to serve TAU Alumni by sharing knowledge, promoting professional networking, and creating inspiring, valuable opportunities.

The mission of the Tel Aviv University Alumni Organization is to form and cultivate a World Changing Community.

Translated by Alan Rosenbaum in cooperation with Tel Aviv University Alumni Organization