Technion USA - Winter 2016-2017 - page 8-9

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Technion graduate Lior Ron, an
ex-product lead at Google Maps, is a
co-founder of Otto, which has technology
in place for self-driving trucks.
Technion entrepreneurs add startup spark to economy
The recent purchase of two start-
ups developing pivotal self-driving
technology illustrates the grow-
ing role adventurous young Israeli
companies—often masterminded by
Technion alumni—are playing in the
American economy.
“Most people think of U.S.-Israel
relations as a one-way street,” with
Uncle Sam providing the financial
and geopolitical support, says Tech-
nion Professor Boaz Golany, Vice
President for External Relations and
Resource Development. “But these
relationships also benefit the U.S.”
One such benefit, he says, “is the
tremendous flow of Israeli technology
that helps leading U.S. companies
maintain a strong position in the
global competition.” That flow begins
in Israel, where American business
behemoths such as Google, Facebook
and Microsoft now run major R&D
facilities—and look to snap up any
startup with an app that might boost
the bottom line.
Now the pipeline increasingly
leads westward, as Israeli inventor-
preneurs pour into America—to
“Many two-
way bridges
connect the
U.S. and
“The tremendous
flow of Israeli
helps leading
U.S. companies
maintain a
strong position
in the global
business, law, other professional
services—that does not have some
connection to Israel,” says veteran
high-tech exec Zvi Alon, chairman of
CICC, the California Israel Chamber
of Commerce.
When Alon, a Technion electrical
engineering graduate, moved to the
U.S. in the 1980s, he was puzzled by
the trouble Israelis were having con-
verting their know-how into business
opportunities. He launched the CICC
to strengthen business ties between
his homeland and the Golden State.
“And today, we no longer need to
preach about the strength of Israeli
technology and business leadership,”
he says.
Relying on Technion
“Where do leading U.S. companies
go,” asks the Technion’s Prof. Golany,
“to seek the technologies they need to
stay in the race?”
Prof. Golany answers his own
question by pointing out that Ford
purchased SAIPS, an Israeli com-
pany specializing in machine learn-
ing, part of the artificial-intelligence
framework needed for autonomous
vehicles. And that Uber just bought
up California-based Otto, an Israeli-
led firm that unveiled technology
for driverless trucks.
ome people might
be understandably
cautious about self-
driving cars. Others
can’t wait to settle back
and let computers do
the driving. However
you feel, these cars are
not too far down the
road—with Technion
entrepreneurs helping
drive the concept.
Silicon Valley in particular. In 1999,
Technion electrical engineering
graduate Eyal Waldman established
Mellanox Technologies, Ltd., a leader
in connectivity solutions that has
headquarters both in Yokneam,
Israel, and in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Today, Mellanox has a NASDAQ
stock value of about $2 billion.
More recently, the Bay Area has
attracted hot alumni-founded start-
ups such as cybersecurity superstar
Tanium, led by David Hindawi, and
wireless powerhouse Cohere Tech-
nologies, headed by Shlomo Rakib. named Cohere
Technologies to its 2016 annual
“Fierce 15” list of startups with the
potential of becoming a major indus-
try player. Mr. Rakib holds more than
50 patents and has launched several
startups. In addition to his entre-
preneurial smarts, he is a Technion
Guardian, a designation reserved for
those who support the Technion at the
highest level.
As the influence of these compa-
nies ripples through Silicon Valley
and across the continent, the impact
can be seen not just in jobs and rev-
enue, but in the emerging innovations
that change the way we live.
“In today’s Silicon Valley you
can hardly find any major company—
not just technology but finance,
What do SAIPS and Otto
have in common? Technion alums
hold top posts at both. Udy Danino,
Founder and CEO of SAIPS, gradu-
ated from the MBA program, while
Otto Co-Founder Lior Ron earned
degrees in computer science.
Startups such as SAIPS and Otto
may not be household names, but
through buyouts and partnerships,
their innovations can reach consum-
ers on a vast scale. The diagnostic
PillCam invented by alumnus Gavriel
Iddan of Given Imaging, for example,
has been bought by global medical-
equipment maker Medtronic—which
also holds a major stake in a second
Technion-led company, spinal surgery
pioneer Mazor Robotics.
Two other Technion brain-children
were recently purchased by eBay in
a push to improve its merchandise
range and buyer-seller platform. They
are visual search engine Corrigon
of Tel Aviv, which was co-created
by Technion computer science alum
Einav Itamar, and Netanya-based
SalesPredict, which uses advanced
analytics to forecast customer behav-
ior. SalesPredict was co-founded
by fellow Technion computer science
graduate and Technion visiting
professor Kira Radinsky.
“Many such two-way bridges
connect the U.S. and Israel,” notes
Prof. Golany. These bridges, he
commented in a recent
opinion piece, “span a diverse
network of fields, including medical
devices, environmental protection,
homeland security and defense, chip
design, advanced materials and
much more.”
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