Archive for November 2009

Jerusalem & coexistence – where do they meet?

November 30, 2009

Read the international press, and you could assume that Jerusalem is one divisive city. After all, Jerusalem has been the centre of disputes for thousands of years; 2 destroyed temples, crusades, Turkish rule, 4 different Christian sects fighting today for control of the Church of the Holy Sceptre, different orthodox Jewish groups, and loads more. So, it is easy for editors to play on the theme. 

But if you walk round the city itself, you would have to ask why such drivel is sent to print by respected journalists. Jerusalem actively and continuously supports projects which encourage coexistence.

I recently wrote about Jerusalem hospitals hosting co-projects with Palestinians. I did not mention the sprawling Alyn rehab centre. It has been the saviours of countless lives, particularly young children, from all ethnic backgrounds. 

Alyn’s “Wheels of Love” annual bike ride saw 650 participants from over 12 countries and several religions raise nearly US$3 million. When the bikers returned, many kids and their families, several distinguishable from their different attire, came to meet them.

Sounds too inspiring or Hollywoody, take something more mundane. Israel’s police force has sent a delegation to Northern Ireland to teach their co-professionals about “fair policing models”. 

These are successful techniques, which have evolved over time. Whether it be work in Jerusalem’s crowded streets or patrolling the diverse communities in the north of Israel, the Holy Land has much to teach police counterparts overseas.

Last Thursday night, I enjoyed a wonderful “thanksgiving meal”.  I met up with one of the founders of the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which now has reps in dozens of countries around the globe. With other friends, we commented on the new park planned in East Jerusalem, next to several Arab suburbs……..And the list goes on.

Yes. Not all is rosy. In the past 2 months, there have been provoked riots in the Old City. And ultra orthodox Jews have taken to the streets with violence against the police.

But these are not the stories of what is going on daily, the on-going stories of good news. And now you appreciate why good news rarely makes it in to leading media outlets.

Dubai 0: Israel 1

November 29, 2009

Like Iceland, Dubai tried to expand too fast, until boring old reality caught up with it. Sooner or later, people will not finance debt without reward.

Meanwhile, Israel plods along with its mundane officials ensuring that the essentials are done right. Hence, the encouraging growth predictions from the Treasury, the IMF, Barclays Capital and others for 2010.

So why are most Israeli financiers rather amused at the Dubai fiasco? Well, first of all, because of the malicious Arab Boycott, officially Israelis are not allowed to conduct affairs with Dubai. Just speak to tennis player Shahar Peer, who has been banned from taking part in competitions there.

So, maybe the view from the Holy Land is that these guys are getting what it deserves.

On the other hand, business encourages any politicians, including those from Dubai, to be hypocrites. Today’s Israeli press reports of Kibbutz Afikim and maybe a dozen other agricultural companies that have or are conducting commerce in the country. I have a Jerusalem friend, who regularly travels there to go to exhibitions, where he meets other Hebrew speakers. etc etc etc.

Yes, Israel’s wealthy have bought interests in Dubai and will suffer, at least in the short-term. Lev Leviev has a flagship diamond shop in Dubai. Yes, Israel’s stock market will dip temporarily in sympathy with its rivals around the world.

Actually, the most interesting effect on Israel may come through the back door. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Palestinians are in danger of losing their jobs and being thrown out of Dubai. I wonder where they will go?

Bank of Israel gets it right

November 26, 2009

Earlier this week, I commented on how the Bank of Israel had ignored local pressure groups and fought its corner on behalf of the whole economy. Interest rates were raised by 0.25% to 1%.

3 days later, and the governor, Stanley Fisher, is bathing in praise.

Avi Temkin in the Globes financial newspaper described Fisher as a “light unto central banks”. 

Fischer is simply ahead of other economies, and is blazing a new trail that others will follow in a while. The Bank of Israel Governor has not hidden in recent months his opinion that countries must abandon their expansionary policies if economic conditions obligate and enable them to do so. His latest step is a type of call to all to move in this direction, and a sign to the world that talking about a continuation of expansionary policies for a long period is not accepted by everybody.

Michael Eisenberg, a popular blogger and venture capitalist, notes that Fisher’s term in office will soon be over. He recommneds that Prime Minister Netanyahu must keep him on.

In some ways, the softest and sweetest praise has emerged from the Wall Street Journal. Its headline noted that the interest increase came on the back of an economic turnaround. As I have said several times in recent months, many other financial can only be jealous of such a relatively strong economy.

The signs for 2010 and Israel’s economy continue to look good. Well done, Stanley.

When a rise in interest rates is good news

November 24, 2009

Usually, when a central bank raises interest rates, the sectorial lobbyists press their automatic convulsion button; trades unions, manufacturers, small business groups, and anti-government newspapers.

True the world over, and definitely true in Israel. Just look at the Hebrew press to judge the reactions to the Bank of Israel’s surprise announcement yesterday to raise the inter bank rate by 0.25% to 1.00%.  

In fact, the change is a sign of praise for the economy and those running it. It shows that the country is becoming more worried about possible inflation and public sector deficits rather than the recession. In other words, Israel’s economy is growing.

There is much statistical and anecdotal evidence for this – eg, surveys of the labour market. One strong indication is what has been happening on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE). A 9 month survey to 30.9.09 shows how shares are shaking off volatility and recording deep gains.

To quote from part of the report:

In August TASE saw its first equity IPO in eighteen months. Foreign financial investors injected $0.9 billion to TASE.
Prices of corporate bonds, which had declined in the closing four months of 2008, staged a comeback as well during the period under review. In the corporate bond market mainly banks and a number of large companies raised capital in public offerings and private placements to institutional investors.

TA-25 and International indices – 1-9/2009
In USD terms

The TASE has been expecting higher interest rates for some time. The fact that they have not appeared for 3 months will not arrest a further rise in prices for the near future at least. Let us hope that the investors are showing their confidence in the economy and not just fuelling another market sell out.

I want to start up my business, but…..(1)

November 23, 2009

Whether you are a budding entrepreneur or business advisor, we all know that phrase. We feel the trepidation behind the voice. “I have a great idea, but how do I convert it into a go project?”

So the first thing many people do these days is to google ‘how to start up’. And they will invariably hit a site offering 10 key points to make your business a success.

Very useful…or not? Because these simple facts of life often demand that you possess money, work space, a website, and loads of other resources that 99% of start ups do not have. Oops, and back you go to square one.

Looking for a fresh approach, there are plenty of other factors to consider. All they will cost you is a bit of time and patience. And they set you up in a much healthier position.

First, work out your vision; a very clearly defined idea of where you want to be after 12 months and 3 years. Simple? Actually, when many people carry out this exercise fully, they end up asking a lot of very searching questions of themselves and their chosen path of gold.

Even more important is that the resources they had initially thought that were required are way now different. They have changed in nature and in scale. Time and money saved before you start.

Then, once you have understood your vision, summarise it in a 15 second “elevator speech”. If you cannot do that, it implies that you have not worked out in enough detail what you want to do. And that means you are not sure what you are selling. Ouch!

When you have completed these seemingly simple tasks, you will have developed a reasonable degree of confidence in what you want to deliver to the waiting public. So what?

Look around you. Most successful new enterprises have been created by people full of themselves. Obama has used the phrase “yes, we can”. He is only suggesting that all of us can control what we want to achieve.

It is at this point that you are ready to look in on those necessary inputs. The difference is you will know exactly how much you need. The next blog describes the process of evaluating resources.

Jerusalem: hot, holy & a hightech success

November 22, 2009

If you were to judge by the reporting of the international media, Jerusalem today is a city waiting to explode.

The Israeli government is accused of building on Palestinian land in Gilo. Actually Gilo is a full suburb of Jerusalem with over 30,000 residents, and the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee has also granted permits for 5,000 new apartments to be built for Palestinians in the east of the city.

In parallel, thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews have been demonstrating violently against the opening on the Sabbath of the local Intel factory.

The fact is that commercially, Jerusalem is one on the most important facets of Israel’s hightech community. And this statement does not just rest on Intel’s existing complex in the city. For example, this coming week, the corner-stone of a new IDPj factoy will be laid, which will employ a further 200 locals.

According to the BioJerusalem website, “nearly half of the biotech research and half of the medical research in Israel is conducted in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its affiliate Hadassah Medical Center”. In fact, down the road from Intel, a new nanotech centre is being completed.

Israel’s capital city hosts many of the world’s leaders in solar energy. LUZ began its history in Jerusalem. GSE has created a new technology for solar panels. Leviathan (wind energy) and Cequesta (water treatment) lead the way in other aspects of the alternative energy business.

Jerusalem has an amazing biblical and modern history. If left to the ill of extrmists or the simplistic writings of journalist meeting deadlines, the true successes of the city will be lost to the world.



Israel’s cleantech future

November 22, 2009

Bob Ackerman has been around Silicon Valley’s entrepreneur scene for many years. For Bob, Cleantech is the “latest shiny object”, wrapped in a bubble which is about to go pop.

The bubble is being led by overstated expectations and magnified by inexperienced people selling into a fantasy of hope.  That is not a good combination and it is not grounded.  That’s why I don’t believe in investing in clean technology even though there are real opportunities in the space.

Maybe, but not in Israel. Why?

Last week, Israel hosted Watec, the 5th international water and renewable techs exhibition. The Israeli Export Institute estimated that over hundred countries sent delegations to the conference.

It is difficult to estimate the number of deals which resulted from the three days of hectic activity. Formal trade agreements were announced with Wisconsin, California and Australia – to name but three. With my own eyes, I saw one start-up watch, as investors from Japan, Europe and America fought for positions.

Israeli entrepreneurs have consistently proven that Cleantech can deliver on its promises. The country is ranked first in the world in recycling water for agriculture. The Ashkelon desalination seawater reverse osmosis plant is probably the largest in the world. Jerusalem based companies are setting international standards in solar power.

A bubble collapses when commercial promises are not followed with deliverables. Israeli companies have so far managed to convert business plans into dollars. Time for Mr Ackerman to pay (another?) visit to the Holy Land.