Cisco chairman 'optimistic' about Israel's long-term GDP forecast

Says technological innovations will ensure a steady increase in Israel's gross domestic product over the coming years.

cisco 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cisco 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Technological innovations will ensure a steady increase in Israel's gross domestic product over the coming years, Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers said Tuesday. "If you look out over the next three, five, seven years, I'm optimistic about what's going on in GDP growth in Israel… and the role Cisco can play in that," he said at a press conference in Tel Aviv, held to conclude his three-day visit to Israel. Describing Israel's hi-tech penetration into the global market as being "second maybe only to Silicon Valley," Chambers said his corporation is "always looking at [the possibility of further] acquisitions in Israel." Cisco has already "bought nine companies in Israel, and invested in 16 start-ups and three venture capitalists here," he said. During his visit, Chambers met with President Shimon Peres, a longtime backer of Cisco's community initiatives in the region, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and leading figures from Israel's hi-tech and venture capitalist sectors. "You will continue to see us being very proactive in this country," Chambers said. "We're seeing a lot of innovation here." Responding to a question about the differences between Israeli and American corporate cultures, he said, "We're a lot more alike than you think. We are culturally similar in terms of moving into the market and speed." Chambers used the press conference to lay out his vision for Cisco's future, which he said would be based on a shift from providing networking solutions only, to providing a range of cutting-edge, video conference technologies and device connectivity solutions. "We will always be a plumber, but plumbing is starting to be very intelligent," Chambers said, adding that providing "access to any device" was Cisco's next main goal. "Connectivity used to mean connecting your PC in your home," he said. "Now it means devices. In the future, there will be a connective lifestyle." "We believe that the network will become an intelligent platform for delivering all forms of communications," Chambers said, stressing that Cisco's market strategy was based on a time frame of years, "not on the next quarter." He said Cisco's branch in Israel was central to that effort, adding that Israel was an "unbelievably effective country." Cisco's $2.5 million investment in two peace-building projects in Nazareth was part of an "obligation to give back, but it's just really good for business too," Chambers said. "If you come into a country and only take and not give back, you're not going to have a lasting relationship," he said. During the conference, Cisco's Israeli executives discussed upcoming innovations from the standpoint of the Netanya-based headquarters. Bina Rezinovsky, Cisco's Israel manager, said the video conferencing applications used to hold meetings between Cisco's global headquarters in San Jose, California, and employees in Netanya resembled "science fiction" in terms of quality. "It's there in the office, and it enables us to be in the same meeting room, to speak as if we're together," she said. "Maybe our next press conference will be a teleconference." Yuval Shahar, who heads Cisco's business development unit in Israel, said 600 of Cisco's 700 Israeli employees were very experienced engineers. "It's not surprising that we continue to push the envelope on Cisco's most innovative projects," he said.