Ten Famous Jews in Hi-Tech

August 30, 2013

The list does not imply any conclusions in either direction. Some of the people below may not even think of themselves as “Jews”, but I still thought it was interesting and maybe inspiring as well.

I left out many famous Israeli Jews in Hi-Tech , as the list would be much longer. The names appear in no particular order. Strangely, the best sources were either Jewish journals or horrible anti-Semitic web sites.

  1. Steve Balmer, Microsoft, CEO
  2. Larry Page, Google , CEO and founder
  3. Sergey  Brin, Google , Founder
  4. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Founder
  5. Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Facebook, CEO
  6. Marc Russell Beniof, Salesforce.com , CEO and Founder
  7. Larry Ellison, Oracle, CEO and Founder
  8. Michael Dell, Dell  , CEO
  9. Sir Michael Moritz, Sequoia
  10. Andy Grove, Intel , Former CEO

Sergey Brin, Wikipedia

Mark Zukckerberg, Wikipedia

Larry Page, Wikipedia

Steve Balmer, Wikipedia

From Silicon Wadi to Silicon Valley

June 7, 2013
Zionism in the Negev

Zionism in the Negev

During the last two years I had the pleasure of participating in a team that built a new engineering center for EMC in Beer Sheva.

Beer Sheva is only 116.5 kilometers from Tel Aviv, but had five Hi-Tech companies , compared with around 3,000 in the greater tel Aviv area.

The beginning was not easy. There are 500 graduates from Ben Gurion University who are potential software developers. However, because of the lack of employment, many relocate to Tel Aviv after graduation.

Excellent software developers are a rare resource, As I once wrote, great international software products are developed only in five countries out of 196 .

The Beginning

The Beginning

This was a Catch-22 problem. Without potential employees, there are no Hi-Tech companies and without Hi-Tech companies there would be no employees.

To break this cycle, EMC and the Israeli government have decided to create a plan to change the momentum . The idea is to create a great innovation center, that would allow smart, motivated employees to generate a great product in the south of Israel.

Temporary Office

Temporary Office

There were quite a few challenges to deal with :

* Lack of the common infrastructure that exists in the  center of Israel.For example,  recruiting companies, IT professionals, catering services a training.

* Missile attacks :( . We had probably one of the very few software development centers in the world that had a missile attack targeted at their city every 4-6 months.

An interesting anecdote is that our employees actually felt they have the best physical security in all of the global offices.

* A relatively small pool of mid level and senior level managers.

First Aid Training

First Aid Training

The reason for success lies first and for most in the great employees we recruited and the support of the University, the local Mayor and EMC headquarters.

The employees in Beer Sheva created a great sense of community and belonging from the very beginning.

Employees

Employees

Our strategy , unlike previous “outsourcing” concepts, was to treat the center equally to the main office in “Herzelia“.

We offered the same high profile projects and set the same high bar for recruiting, but also offered similar compensation.

The results were wonderful : an amazing acceptance rate for job offers, very fast recruiting and motivated top talent showing fast results.

New Building with Laptops

With the assistance of local community leaders were able to promote a Hi-Tech environment around us as well:

* Multiple research projects with Ben Gurion University, focused on Big Data, Storage and High-End Performance

* First “Start-Up” weekend in Beer Sheva

* “Software in the Negev” meetup group

* Consulting and contribution to MOD move to the south os Israel

At the professional level we focused on few domains:

* High Availability

* Flash Technology and Products

* Data Science and machine learning

* Applied Research in High Performance storage

It was important to focus on few areas, on one hand, and create some diversity on the other hand.

After two years the center has far exceeded it’s original goals in capacity and quality.

It is a core anchor to the Hi-Tech in the south. On July it would be moving to the first company new Hi-Tech park.

The first building has been sold out , and has completely modern “Herzelia\Palo Alto” level of facilities.

I’m moving to a new adventure about 16,000 miles away ,but will keep watching as Maya,Orna,Niva, Oz, Nir  and the rest of the team make it  much better, bigger  and successful!

It was one of the most enjoyable projects I worked in and I’m very proud to have been part of the great team of people.

Beer Sheva Leaders

Beer Sheva Leaders

Israeli Genome Compiler Creating Genetically Engineered Glowing Plants

May 6, 2013

The Israel based Genome Compiler received  $233,451 in Kickstarter to create plants that glow in the dark.

Glowing Plants

Glowing Plants

Check out this for more information and  in popular science magazine.

Pretty cool !

DNA sequencing and engineering is going to change what we are able to do , in multiple ways.

The fastest DNA Sequencer would soon cost under $1000 and plugs into USB…. you probably don’t even need USB 3.0

What were they thinking?

April 28, 2013

Sometimes I feel like a character in a Dilbert cartoon.  Why would a very senior, smart executive, who is Not a functional idiot make an obviously senseless choice?

Here are few examples

  • George W. Bush senior, a new product management director, wanted to move Daniel , who now reports to him, into a new position. For some reason, he chose to discuss it first with Emmy who reports to Daniel. Daniel learned about the new plans from Emmy and was insulted twice.  Emmy was also distressed about the weird behavior of her Director.
  • Senior accountant Jack Silverman sent an email to 100,000 employees – “Some people are not filling their expense report forms correctly. They keep putting the expenses with decimal points, while the system can only expect integers. This is breaking our ERP and causing a lot of work for the finance department. Employees who continue to make this mistake would face disciplinary actions and may be fired, if they do not amend their ways.”
  • Senior VP Jack Welsh decided to shut down the new social media network “Buddy Buddy” as the engineering team in Texas failed to deliver a working product for over a year.  The official reason was that “Buddy Buddy” overlaps the existing product line. Three months later, Jack announced a new product called “Chuku Chuku” which will connect people through social interactions.  The new product leader would be Shlomo Shlomo who ran “Buddy Buddy” .
Food for thought

Food for thought

  • George R.Martin , the new CEO just a hired Donald Duck as his new VP of product management. Three months later he decided to fire Donald. He quickly hired Mickey Mouse , an experienced product marketing manager , but fired him as well after four months.  Even Pluto did not last more than five months at the job. While this unfortunate turn of events can happen to the best, George never ran a background check and reference check on any of the candidates. George has been very strict regarding reference checks when his managers had new candidates, but he felt his intuition is good enough for the most senior positions In the company.
  • Morgan Dexter was a successful QA Executive for a large Pharmaceutical company for many years.  For various reasons, the new management decided to find a new person to replace him. They wanted to do it respectfully, so allowed Dexter time to find a new position in the corporate.  To everyone’s surprise. Dexter kept using his previous title, in public forums, even 12 months after the change has already happened.

The Unaccountable Number Two

April 13, 2013

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
― Thomas Paine

One of the most dangerous leaders to have in a company is the unaccountable #2.

UNANT, for short , is usually a former founder, or a top executive, who is still involved in the company, but has no direct reports, or clear accountability for a specific business line.

It can be the CTO, chief strategy officer,the vice chairman or any other obscure title.

Because of his seniority,status and experience the UNANT advises are actually considered decisions.

Unlike other managers, his decisions don’t have to be backed by budgets or organizational support , as he is not the one executing them or responsible for the outcome. It also makes life hard for the rest of the team. Who wants to contradict a member of the board?

Name this #2

In many cases, the lack of accountability , while the authority exists, makes it hard to distinguish “decisions” from “opinion”.

The UNANT tends  use annoying stories from 20 years ago to show he is right (=everyone else is wrong ).

“What’s so hard? We wrote version Three in two hours, we only had a broken typewriter , one chair for four people and we sold 50,000 copies in three days.”

The UNANT also comes up with original ideas like “If every developer puts an extra hour a day on cleaning the office we can fire our cleaners and save lots of money”

The only worst organizational type is the unaccountable #2 spin master .He  actually has direct reports and theoretical responsibility , but manages to never pay the price for his decisions. His direct reports are usually being replaced :)

The Functional Idiot

February 16, 2013

accountant-funny2

Here is a story. I’m sitting in a room with an extremely intelligent  person. Our new VP of product marketing – Mr Y. He has an MBA from one of the finest universities in the world ,a track record as a C level executive in a Fortune 100 company. He is articulate and presents an amazing vision for the future of our company. Moreover, he defines concrete examples how we will be using social media and go beyond traditional  enterprise marketing. I’m quite impressed. Finally, we have someone in marketing who knows what he is talking about.

One month later, Mr Y Speaks in an executive forum. He repeats exactly the same story with the same social media example and same jokes. I’m getting a bit suspicious , but as the great Jack Welch said – communicating your message is one of the top leadership roles. So, I give Mr Y the credit that he is talking to a new audience.

Two months later, Mer Y is already working with us for four months. We are in a customer conference. The same exact story, word by word :( . Two months later he was not working with us anymore …

He is probably a “Type A” functional idiot.

I recently learned the term “Functional Idiot” which I really like. Unfortunately it is not well-defined, yet. The Urban Dictionary definition for “Functional Idiot” is :

A person who suffers from functional idiocy.

Which does not help much. However, almost everyone seems to “Get It”, so they must have worked with some.

There can be a few of ways to describe a functional idiot:

  • Type A functional idiot - A complete idiot who made it through the system to obtain an important function or position (e.g. George Bush Junior :))
  • Type B functional idiot – A very smart person in specific domains who behaves like an idiot in other domains  (e.g. Steve Jobs’ failure to admit he needs to shower to smell good)
  • Type C functional idiot - A person who used to be very smart and effective, but became outdated and irrelevant (e.g Dan Margalit might be an example for the Israeli audience)

Let’s say you are walking around the office and you spot a “Functional Idiot”  make a stupid decision. Let me provide you with tools to rationalize it.

Here is a second story. In a board meeting, you realize one of your board members (Let’s call him Prisoner X)  suggests the company should release a “simple self-service” version of your costly, sophisticated enterprise product. This could have been   a great suggestion. But we already did it six months ago and discussed it multiple times with him.

The challenge is that Prisoner X is quite smart and has a very good track record in the industry. How can we explain the fact he get’s $40K$ a month ,but is not able to remember the main products of his four companies?

Prisoner X is probably a type B functional idiot. He is very smart in the big picture and in identifying opportunities, but he is very bad in operational work and following details.

Type C functional idiots are easier to spot. You would usually find them in the CTO office, they have the word “Strategy” in their title.  in a recent example I was observing a very long thread on the pros and cons of C vs C++. The heated discussions was taking place in 2012 by people with an amazing track record in the high-tech industry history. And it was a very interesting discussion to have. In 1996.

To conclude,It is essential to identify functional idiots and tell them apart. Otherwise  we are all doomed :)

Americana 2013

January 26, 2013
Green Robot - Tomo Hotel

Green Robot – Tomo Hotel,

  • I like Hotel Tomo, cute Japanese design makes a lot of difference.
  • Going green. Why do American hotels provide 9 (as in  3*3, 4+5, 99/11) pillows for a single guest?  And then they ask me not to replace the towels everyday.
  • Continental was bought by United. No major difference. Upgrading to business is now $600 instead of $500. All the rest is the same.
Snowy Boston

Snowy Boston

  • I’m not a virgin for Virgin anymore. First time flight from Boston to San Francisco. The only difference is that the crew is much more beautiful. Old fashioned stewardesses (meaning young and good looking ).
  •  FaceTime is amazing. High quality video calls with family and 10 months old kid. Mac to iPhone, iPhone to iPhone and Mac to iPad.
  • The Windows store in Palo Alto mall is quite empty. It is three times bigger the the Apple store and has 25% people in it. The Sony store is somewhere in between.
Apple Store,Stanford Mall

Apple Store,Stanford Mall

Empty Windows Store,Stanford Mall

Empty Windows Store,Stanford Mall

  • The new Windows 8 Laptops\Tablets from Sony and Microsoft are actually pretty nice, at a glance. The touch screen + Keyboard make a good combination and offers an interesting alternative to iPad. The price point is why they would probably fail.
  • iPad mini is even better than Ipad. Better form factor.
San Francisco, Fillmore and Broadway

San Francisco, Fillmore and Broadway

  • Go Wireless! I physically broke three cables and adapters this trip. The American plugs are always loose and the Mac power adapter is quite heavy :(
  • In the “Cheese Cake Factory” choose the classic Cheesecake. Don’t be tempted for three layers of chocolate.
  • Could not see a big difference in 4K pixels TV. Probably need newer movies.
Granola in Boston

Granola in Boston

Evil Threesome – Taxes, Intellectual Property and Real Estate

December 7, 2012

The hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax.
Albert Einstein

As a manager, there are three domains which I try to avoid as much as I can.

Taxes, Intellectual Property and Real Estate.

They all seem to have an arbitrary logic, which is highly non intuitive, non useful, complex and out dated.

In many cases it seems they are controlled by people who make their living from making it more complex, rather than making it simple.

And the worst is when you get a combination of these domains in a business decision:

  • We can’t merge these companies because we will have to pay a tax for “IP”
  • We cannot move this activity to Israel because our IP is listed in New Zealand
  • We can’t sell this division ,which we don’t need, because we already wrote it off as a tax loss
  • If we buy more real-estate we “earn” more money for tax benefits

I understand that “Taxes and Death” are the only two certain things in life. I also understand that Intellectual property can provide big income for patent Trolls. I even realize that selling and buying real estate is a great way to become a rich daddy.

But I prefer to leave these to other people. Thank you very much :)

Israel as a BioInformatics Super Power – Part One

December 1, 2012

Showing out, showing out, hit and run
Boy meets girl as beat goes on
Stitched up tight, can’t break free
Love is the drug, got a hook on me

Roxy Music,Love is the Drug

Israel is not (yet?) a super power in Bio-Informatics, but it should be.

We have 6000 PHD’s in biology and probably less than ten Bio-Informatics start-ups.

While Data Science is a great area for Israel , and some Israeli brains like to waste their time on SEO and gambling I think the Bio-Informatics industry is going to be huge , but the dominant players are still not set.

Genome viewer screenshot, Wikipedia

Genome viewer screenshot, Wikipedia

Israel can succeed because:

* Israel has some of the leading doctors and health-care research in the world (#3 in Life Expectancy , despite the wars)

* Many of the leading BioInformatics researchers in Boston and in Israel are originally Israelis :)

* Bio-Informatics requires new methodologies which are different than traditional biologiets are used to. This is a good scenario for Israelis who tend to be more adaptive in an unknown territory.

* Bio-Informatics is across domains. Math, Computer Science , Chemistry  ,Physics , Statistics and engineering all play a critical role.  While Israelis ,some times, are not as good in structured and well known engineering domains, they work well in teams and move between domains relatively easily.On a side note – Intel, Teva, IAI and Iskar demonstrate that manufacturing can work well in Israel.

* Bio-Informatics industry would probably be more cash efficient than traditional drugs design that requires FAB likes investments of Billions of Dollars.Moving from hardware into software and from manual experiments into virtual ones can reduce costs in an order of magnitude.

* M.Sc and PHD in Biology make very little money in Israel, due to the lack of opportunities.  This can get as bad as minimum wage or a high-school teacher salary.On the flip side, it means there is a large pool of extremely talented candidates.

On the next parts – what is the promise of bioinformatics? Why is Israel not there yet, and how can it get there?

Samsung SmartTV – Building the Hope for Apple’s TV

November 24, 2012

Samsung  Smart TV

I just bought a new Samsung 46″ LED SmartTV and I’m very happy.Still waiting for the real smart Apple TV, though.

The “Smart” part shows the great potential the internet+TV combo has, but it seems we will have to wait for Apple to “Get it Right”.

One thing I learned is that the TV is much better for consuming content like videos and songs on Vimeo and YouTube.

The TV comes with a wireless internet connection, integrated browser, Application store and VOD service.

The things I liked :

  • Price of about $1200 including installation+delivery+ wireless + wall mount+ Israeli VAT of 17% (we have wars to finance)
  • The non smart TV functionality is great – colors, lightening , connectors , etc
  • Installation was very straight forward. More of an appliance style than computer style
  • Having an alternate VOD with an excellent quality really shows the promise of breaking the tie of content and infrastructure providers.
  • Comprehensive localization in the configuration and VOD content as well
  • Vimeo is a great web site with an excellent app and high quality content
  • It was fun the watch the War on Channel 10 and Ynet at the same time with PIP (Picture in Picture). Well , the war was not really fun, but you see what I mean.
Facebook App Download on Samsung Smart TV

Facebook App Download on Samsung Smart TV

The reasons why we need Apple iTV for are:

  • Browser runs “Out of Memory” for the majority of web sites
  • No way to change the home page from “Bing”
  • Keyboard entry is extremely slow, unless you buy the wireless keyboard
  • Auto Updates are cool, but why don’t they happen in the background
  • Auto Updates are too frequent , almost every day
  • Integration with Google,Facebook,Picasa and online identity  is quite hard. Entering my password was quite a nightmare.
  • YouTube is full of much junk and songs get stuck frequently
  • No “Ad-Blocking” for the browser and pop-up windows consume the main screen
  • The iPad remote control is not working on iOS6 (and I did not get it to work on ios5 either)
  • Samsung online registration is  as bad as Nokia’s PC software used to be. Early warning signs :(
Vimeo on Samsung Smart TV

Vimeo on Samsung Smart TV


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