The Race for Israel’s Next Hi-tech Czar Heats Up

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(L) Mooly (Shmuel) Eden, Dedi Perlmutter, Ronen Nir and (R) Avner Halperin
Some of the big names vying to be Israel's next hi-tech czar: (L) Mooly (Shmuel) Eden, Dedi Perlmutter, Ronen Nir and (R) Avner HalperinCredit:

Some 50 people have submitted their candidacy for the job of CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority. 

The Innovation Authority, previously known as the Chief Scientist’s Office, is the government agency that supports high tech. It assists startups via incubators, innovation labs and a host of other programs. It was also recently responsible for a program to encourage institutional investors to invest in high tech.

The authority’s budget is usually around 1.8 billion shekels ($520 million) a year. But this year, due to the coronavirus crisis, it was increased to two billion shekels.

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The authority was established in its current form in 2016 and has been headed ever since by Aharon Aharon, who came from the tech world and has stepped down earlier this year. Now, however, the industry is worried that the choice of the next CEO might be politicized, and even that Aharon’s successor might be a government official, which could undermine the authority’s image. 

However, two of the candidates to replace Aharon are Avner Halperin and Ronen Nir, both have direct experience in the field. 

Halperin was the founder of EarlySense, a medical device startup that develops products to monitor patients in hospitals. He has been with the company since it was founded in 2004 and left the position of CEO just last year. Halperin has been involved as a director or manager in other high tech companies, including Radcom, EyeControl and Emmunet. He has published research on Israeli high tech and taught the subject. He has volunteered to advise the female mayor of the religious town of Beit Shemesh, Aliza Bloch, and has served as a mentor to younger CEOs of startups. He is married to Michal Halperin, Israel’s antitrust commissioner. Halperin confirmed he is a candidate.

Nir is also a candidate for head of the Innovation Authority. He has worked in the venture capital industry for years and is a partner in the Viola Ventures fund. He joined the fund in 2008 after working at Verint, and served for 14 years in intelligence in the Israel Defense Forces. Over the years he has invested in a large number of startups, including Pilops, Redis Labs, Payoneer, Code Fresh, Ensilo and Verbit. 

Other names that have been mentioned in the past for the job are Mooly (Shmuel) Eden and Dedi Perlmutter, both formerly senior executives at Intel. 

The minimum requirements for the competitive tender for the job include: The candidate must have at least eight years of experience – over the past 15 years – as the CEO of an industrial corporation with revenues of at least 80 million shekels a year, or as the manager of a business division of such a corporation. Alternately, they may have been a partner in a venture capital fund that has made a minimum of 200 million shekels in investments.

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