High-tech Execs Dominate List of 100 Most Influential People in Israeli Economy

Startup Nation leaders take 11th through 23rd spots, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits atop the pile

Elihay Vidal
Elihay Vidal
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Gil Shwed, founder and CEO, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, speaks at a Cyber security conference in Tel Aviv, January 31, 2017.
Gil Shwed, CEO of Check Point Software. The military technology expertise gained by soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces has been behind its success.Credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters
Elihay Vidal
Elihay Vidal

The huge influence of the high-tech sector is clear in the latest TheMarker Magazine list of Israelis with the most influence on the local economy.

High-tech executives landed all of the spots on the list from 11 though 23 on the list.

Topping the overall rankings are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (in first place), followed by Yedioth Ahronoth media group publisher Arnon Mozes and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

Sharing 11th spot are two Israel Defense Forces: Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, who heads the C4I and Cyber Defense Directorate; and a second person, who can only be identified by his first initial, Brig. Gen. K., who heads the much vaunted Unit 8200 of the Intelligence Corps, which has produced a large number of soldiers who went on to achieve success in establishing “Startup Nation” – the moniker authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer gave to Israel as a high-tech leader.

Ranked 12th on the list is Gil Shwed, the co-founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies, which this year became the Israeli company with the largest market capitalization ($17 billion). He shares 12th spot with co-founder Shlomo Kramer.

Right behind at 13 is Amnon Shashua, founder of the Jerusalem-based autonomous driving technology firm Mobileye, which was sold earlier this year to Intel for $15.3 billion – a record for an Israeli company.

The 14th spot is shared by the heads of the local research and development centers of four multinational corporations: Intel, Google, Microsoft and Apple. Israel is home to about 300 R&D centers run by multinationals. Together, these local offices – which influence not only the local tech scene but also the global one – employ about a quarter of all Israeli high-tech workers.

No. 15 on the list is Nadav Zafrir, the former Unit 8200 commander who went on to found Team8, a firm that bills itself as a platform for building cybersecurity companies. Its policy is to create a new company every year.

Taking 16th spot is Yaniv Garty, CEO of Israeli operations at Intel, the multinational with the largest high-tech presence in the country. Last year alone, Intel’s Kiryat Gat plant was responsible for $3.3 billion in Israeli exports – 8 percent of the country’s entire high-tech export volume.

The company has an Israeli workforce of some 10,200, including 6,900 at four R&D centers and 3,300 at Kiryat Gat. The company is also indirectly responsible for the jobs of 30,000 Israelis who work at businesses supplying Intel Israel.

Interestingly, 19th spot was collectively reserved for a highly wealthy group of Israeli serial entrepreneurs who have built and then sold off high-tech companies. They are proof of the maturity of the Israeli high-tech sector and the development of a group of experienced business executives who have already “made it.”

The 20th spot was taken by Aharon Aharon, director of the Israel Innovation Authority at the Economy and Industry Ministry. The authority is one of the most important when it comes to industrial innovation in Israel: It’s responsible for providing grants to startups and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel, among companies that are new or that haven’t managed to attract venture capital.

It also works to encourage traditional industries to embrace technology.

The 22nd spot is shared by four “ambassadors: for Israeli high-tech: Eugene Kandel, the director of the nonprofit organization Start-Up Nation Central; high-tech investor Yossi Vardi, an early high-tech figure and founding investor in Mirabilis, which invented ICQ chat technology; Guy Franklin, who directs the SOSA New York “landing pad” – which has a counterpart in Tel Aviv and links startups, investors and corporations; and Yasmin Lukatz, the executive director of Icon, which seeks to organize events and speakers, along with promotional efforts that publicize Israeli high-tech abroad and attract additional high-tech firms and the flow of investment to Israel.

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