Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I salivate over these guys

When Jon Medved, a Jerusalem based venture capitalist, examines the books of young startups seeking seed money, one number matters most 8200. Unit 8200 is the Israel Defense Force’s supersecret electronic espionage program. It is also the most important driver behind the success of Israel’s hightech business sector. Veterans of the unit have spun off some 50 tech startups worth billions of dollars in the past decade. “Everybody who matters in high tech here is ex8200,” says Medved. “I salivate over these guys.”
A partial list of 8200 vetscum millionaires includes Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s youngest billionaires. He spent four years in the unit in the late 1980s, then went on to found Check Point Software, whose firewall technology now protects the networks of 98 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. Shlomo Dovrat, an 8200 vet, sold his financial software company to a U.S. competitor for $210 million. Two other alums of the secretive unit, brothers Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel, are a veritable startup factory. They’ve sold 23 telecommunications companies six went public on New York’s NASDAQ, and seven sold for more than $1 billion each.
What exactly happens inside 8200 that makes its personnel so well placed to become hightech millionaires? No one really knows. The unit is so secret that the Israeli government won’t even discuss it. What is known is that it is responsible for eavesdropping and other forms of advanced espionage. It puts 21 year old soldiers in charge of multimillion dollar budgets and gives them wide latitude to innovate. The environment is high pressure where a timely algorithm or clever thread of Linux code can mean the difference between a suicide bomber getting through Israel’s defenses or getting nabbed in the nick of time.... (By Charles Levinson from foreignpolicy)

No comments:

Post a Comment