Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

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?

Could Israel Lead The Data Science Revolution?

October 13, 2012
Tel Aviv Yarkon River Kayaking

Tel Aviv Yarkon River Kayaking

Israel has an enormous potential to play a major role in the new “Big Data” and Data Science ecosystem. Data Scientist is becoming a very “sexy” profession and since “Big Data” is expected to create a huge market, the opportunity should not be missed.

Israel’s has the following advantages:

  • A World class academic activity in machine learning , pattern recognition & text analytics. Some example are: Prof. Yishay Mansour , Prof. Naftali Tishby ,Prof. Yair Weiss and Prof. Amnon Shashua.
  • Large supply of candidates – there are quite a lot of great PhD or MSC graduates in Applied math, Statistics  Physics , Biology, Bioinformatics and Chemistry . Since the universities have a very limited supply for tenures, the pool is quite deep. In Europe and US there is shortage of these skills.
  • These are not new topics For the Israeli Intelligence community and broader Israeli security sector. There are experienced experts who built proven,production systems. The experts are not only on the math side, but also on the business analysis side.
  • Typical Israeli data scientist has more IT\programming skills. While these are not mandatory features for success,they tend to accelerate the discovery process and add a lot value.
  • There are quite a few business applied Data Mining companies in the commercial sector and in start-ups arena (e.g. Pursway).
  • The excellent communication skills, domain understanding and language diversity , especially compared to classical never-worked-outside-of-university PhD. Many Israeli PhD are “forced” to work in teams and in the industry to make a living, or during their army service, so even the more introvert types make a solid team player :)
  • 50% reduced cost compared to US – for various historical reasons the PHD\Masters title is not as economical as in the states. An amazing Java developer with no degree at all would probably earn twice as much as an amazing chemistry POST-Doc from Harvard. While this is a shame, it presents an opportunity for Data Science service out of Israel. Moreover, there are less hedge-funds to waste people talent :)

There are various directions to capitalize the potential:

  • Providing Data Scientists as a service, out of Israel. While remoteness presents some challenges, we have seen early success. It seems that the pros outweigh the cons.
  • Build infrastructure products for Big data – around Hadoop, Hive, Mahoot etc. Adding the enterprise features and improving performance  These are similar in nature to traditional Israeli expertise in networking, storage and security. In my opinion, there is higher chance for na Israeli start-up to succeed here, bigger than in a new social application.
  • Develop innovative services that use Machine Learning internally to gain a competitive edge (In advertisement, Retail or Medicine)

In a world where “old-fashioned” software engineers are more and more common, each one of these direction can help maintain Israel’s Hi-Tech uniqueness.

P.S

I just saw that other people also think Israel has the chance to be a world leader in big data . Although the quote is from EMC, I knew nothing about it :)

Tel Aviv Bicycle Race Sukkoth 2012

Tel Aviv Bicycle Race Sukkot 2012

Fresh Look – Dozen Interesting Israeli Start-Ups

April 7, 2011
    Fresh Paint Balfour Street Tel Aviv

    Fresh Paint Balfour Street Tel Aviv

    I have assembled a pseudo-arbitrary list of interesting Israeli start-ups. These are mostly companies whose product I got to try and whose team I met. Some bias to companies with real intellectual property in algorithms or products. They may have much in common,and there are many more around, but worth watching.

  1. ToTango - Simple Idea. Wide Appeal. “New Wave” solution.
  2. Contendo - Speed of Light is constant. Akamai is Too Expensive. DNS too Crucial.
  3. Xtremio- SSD can be a game changer.
  4. ZeRTO - Smart guys. Track record. Stealth Mode.
  5. TakaDu - Smart guys. Strong Algorithms. Strong Need. Out of the box.
  6. Panaya - Strong Algorithms. Pure Israeli. Sales 2.0. Sharing knowledge. Proven Results.
  7. WatchDox. A Nobel approach to managing document and security.
  8. WorkLight - Portable Mobile Apps Make great sense. CEO.
  9. PrimeSense - Great Algorithms. Awesome product. Huge Potential.
  10. Plimus - Money has a wide appeal :). Great alignment for SaaS. Good API. Stands out in a confusing world.
  11. Kampyle - Simple product, wide appeal. Responsive to Customers. In the good sense.
  12. Snaptu - They were on the list before their exit :) Same for Sentrigo
Orange and Carrot Juice in Tel Aviv

Orange and Carrot Juice in Tel Aviv

High School and Hi-Tech in Israel

February 10, 2011

I was going through some old documents and found my High School final projects presentation agenda from 1991. It’s almost 20 years old.

It is interesting to look back and remember some of the roots for Israeli Hi-Tech predate the army background.

The projects are quite impressive, given it was  1991 and they were developed by high school after hours.

  • Drawing with Robots
  • Hebrew Optical Character Recognition Engine ( That’s mine with Roy :), It didn’t work very well, but it’s a hard problem )
  • Robot and Algorithm to Solve Rubic’s Cube (Not the video from youtube which is much newer)
  • An Internet Terminal connection  over RS232
  • 8088 simulator
  • Russian-Hebrew-English Dictionary
  • Course-ware for Firefighters
  • Sound Sampler for IBM PC
  • An expert system to prove Theorems in Euclidean Geometry

Looking back at the technology is also fun. Lot’s of Robotics, Prolog,”Expert Systems“,  EGA, Turbo Pascal and 8088.

It’s true my school was not a standard in the Israeli education system. The principal used to show a map of the Silicon valley superimposed over Tel Aviv back in 1988, in order to present a vision to new candidates. But it was definitely not the only school encouraging technical innovation.

Naturally, I have not stayed in touch with most of the people. Random samples suggests that quite a few are leaders in various positions in Universities and in the Hi-Tech industry.

Israeli High School Final Project Day One

Israeli High School Final Project Day One

High School Final Projects Day Two

High School Final Projects Day Two

High School Final Projects Day Three

High School Final Projects Day Three

Israeli High School Final Projects Day Four

Israeli High School Final Projects Day Four

Borscht, Babaganoush and Beer – Food in the Global Software Development Industry

February 8, 2011

“Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”

Nikata Khrushchev, ‘Kruschev Remembers’ (1970)

“You are very fortunate to be assigned to duty at Fortress Monroe on Chesapeake Bay; it is just the season for soft-shelled crabs, and hog fish have just come in, and they are the most delicious panfish you ever ate.”

General Winfield Scott, May, 1861, speaking to General Benjamin Butler

Borscht

Borscht, Borscht

I was surprised to see there isn’t enough research on the role of food in the software development process.

There are some clever insights on Beer and Pizza , Google Vs Apple food fight and “Frat Culture” but there is a lack of in-depth global research :)

Here are some observations that might be expanded later, on demand.

  • In California, lunch is sometimes sponsored by the company.
  • In Israel, in Hi-Tech, lunch is sponsored by the company, takes about 60 minutes and is eaten in Restaurants outside the office. The “Official” lunch break is supposed to be 30 minutes.
  • Is this tradition coming from the earlier socialist roots of Israel? Maybe it stems from the army background of many developers.

Personally, after 10 years of fried eggplants, eggplants in tomato sauce, eggplants in Tahini, eggplants with vegetables and eggplants macaroni, I was very happy to start eating proper lunch in top restaurants.

  • I once had to fly to a development center in Minsk,Belarus and eat borscht, for the first time in my life. I had to make sure the food level was comparable to other sites. It was a beautiful city and the borscht was better than I expected :)
  • In Israel , the employees eat lunch together and it is a great opportunity for team building. In California developers eat alone at their desks, which I always found a bit sad.
  • In California, 30 minutes lunch breaks are mandatory. It is similar to Israel.
  • Whenever we had to work on Fridays, I used to bring an extra nice breakfast for everyone . It helps make the atmosphere more causal and expresses  this is special occasion and not taken lightly by “management”.
  • In Belarus (2006) the cost of developers lunch was ,in some cases, almost 25% of their overall compensation.
  • No free beer in Israel. But Diet Coke is a must have. A top-notch espresso machine is quite common, in Israel. In the states horrible coffee is the norm anyway :)
  • The cynical view is the employers use food as cheap way to get employees motivated. The reality is that it is not so cheap. Assuming cost of 800 NIS per month it is 2.5%-8% of the compensation.
  • A less cynical view claims that the 60 minutes lunch breaks are  critical to get developers to work 12 hours a day. In reality, few employees work 12 hours a day, and there is little correlation to the ones who have the longest lunch breaks :)
  • Food does touch people emotions and demonstrates diversity. For example, a top engineer who suffers from Coeliac was extremely happy when one of our restaurants helped him select relevant dishes. At the same time, we helped Muslim engineers who needed to eat their lunch later than usual during Ramadan.
  • We are all quite fortunate to work in such great conditions. Our peers in Medical establishments have to live with Hospital food, if they even get enough time for lunch break.
Chocolate Ball Dessert, Tel Aviv

Chocolate Ball Dessert, Tel Aviv

An Israeli Cloud on Israeli Gas, in the Sea

January 21, 2011
an angle on Israeli cloud computing

an angle on Israeli cloud computing

Israeli Hi-Tech faces many challenges : The Shekel\Dollar rate, the tough IPO market , the rise of India and China, the disappearance of many VC’s and the move from infrastructure markets  to consumer models.

Michael Eisenberg suggested a few very interesting ideas and I believe our new-found Gas might create another one.

The idea is to  build an Israeli Mega public cloud,   in the ocean , using the power from our newly discovered $10B natural  Gas.

Here are a few good arguments:

  • Because power is 50% of computing costs, the cost per CPU could be much lower, because of the cheap gas.
  • Exporting gas is hard and expensive. Exporting CPU cycles is easy and cheap. The Fiber optics connections are in the ocean, much like the gas.
  • It would drive a huge infrastructure industry of start-ups and services , in an area where we already have an advantage.
  • It can be a great foundation for Bio-information cluster of large and small companies.
  • It  can be a great foundation for a financial software cluster of large and small companies.
  • The cost  is not that big and the government can help with initial  funding
  • There is a potential to make the international development centers of Microsoft, Cisco,HP and EMC more strategic
  • It is simpler than building Data-Centers on ships :)

If building  the data center in the Mediterranean is too expensive, it can be built cheaply in Acre and boost the city’s economy, providing wealth to its Arab and Jewish citizens. That would be a nice added value.

While I haven’t built the detailed economical model , it does seem like fascinating idea. Anyone cares to push it forward?

Eclectic Street Signs

June 20, 2010

A weird combination of home made ads on one board in Ramat Hasharon, Israel.

Stand-Up Religion and Crazy Marriage Comedy

Stand-Up Religion and Crazy Marriage Comedy

Stand-Up Religion and Crazy Marriage Comedy
Obituary Or Comedy

Obituary Or Comedy ?

Obituary  And Jachnun

Obituary And Jachnun

Young Cleaner For Hire - With a License

Young Cleaner For Hire - With a License

Yoga

Yoga

Tel Aviv,Israel, Triathlon 2010 Photos

June 5, 2010

Sunny morning in Tel Aviv , Israel. The nicer side of the sea. Click Images to enlarge.

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 , Beach

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 , Beach

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 , Beach

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 , Beach

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 - Long distance Runner

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010  2

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 Friends

Tel-Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010  Bikes

Tel Aviv Israel Triathlon 2010 Bikes

Tel-Aviv, Israel, Triathlon 2010,  Airplane in The Sky

Tel-Aviv, Israel, Triathlon 2010, Airplane in The Sky

Tel Aviv Rock Concert Billboards

May 7, 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Click the pictures to enlarge.  From a construction site on Shinkien and Yehuda Helevy.

A Comment on Israeli Startups

January 22, 2010

This blog is just a re-post with minor changes of my comment on Steve Duplessie thought-provoking blog post on Why Israeli Startups Die.

It is best that you read Steve’s full post, but the main argument presented is that startups have will succeed only if they are  based in the valley. The second assumption is that  Israeli managers fail because they lack market, customer and product understanding due to their background as fighters.

Steve, the writing is very amusing and interesting, but I think it has some clichés which might have been true in the past but are no longer valid.

I definitely agree on the importance of marketing, product management and customer awareness , but don’t agree on some other points.
As an Israeli\American born in Atlanta,Georgia and living in Tel-Aviv I feel I have the right to criticize both sides :)

Let me challenge few assumptions that you are making in the post and others follow in their comments.
The Israeli entrepreneurs in the last years grew up under heavy American cultural influence. American television, movies, songs, food and culture from day one (no dubbing :) ). Most of them have an  MBA as a their second degree and not a degree in computer science. Many chose to become experts  in marketing or finance and in usually in some of the leading business schools in the world.
The question if an MBA is a good idea or not is another topic …

The myth of a sweaty army commander leading his developers to die in the C++ fields is mostly a creature of the wild American imagination.
Most Israeli developers spent their army career in air-conditioned computer rooms, and the hierarchy there is much weaker than in corporate America, Japan or even a cub-scout group in Texas. Trust me, I tried both roles.

The other misconception is that you can’t run a really big company out of Israel. Having worked in Check Point for five years, I see no reason this can’t happen in other places. It actually worked in many cases – Mercury, Nice,DSPC, Teva, Gilat,Amdocs, Comverse, M-Systems, Precise, Memco and so on.

The fact is there aren’t many big new companies in IT in last years due to many reasons, which are not related to the origin of the CEO.
HP, Cisco, IBM,EMC,Microsoft and the likes are buying any enterprise software\technology vendor once it hits a certain maturity and size. With their size and the lack of  an IPO market it is no wonder many prefer the fast exit route.

Having many employees in the valley it might be true in the early days of the company, but  it becomes less critical when the company gets really big and global.

I’m not sure that Israeli companies that failed had a great technology but lacked market understanding. I think many of them had lousy products that had bad scalability, many crashes, memory leaks, bad user interface and slow performance. I probably interviewed some 400 engineers in the last years and not one of them admitted the technology didn’t work.  It was always the management fault. I feel quite differently.

BTW,it is extremely hard to get excellent product managers anywhere in the world. Moreover, amazing VP’s marketing are not easy to find in San Mateo or San Francisco as well.

On a side note to American CEOs and analysts, the assumption that all technologies come out of USA and the rest of the world just follows, is not going to hold for much longer,IMHO.  Israel would always be a miniature market, but the common American CEO mistake is to ignore the small nations of Germany,France, China, Japan and India because they keep insisting on having their own culture and language. Not only they think differently, but they refuse to follow the same marketing, sales and product assumptions that work “at home”.


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