Archive for June 2010

OECD confirms Israel “green and clean”

June 30, 2010

Cleantech 2010 in Tel Aviv is Israel’s premiere platform, allowing the Holy Land to show off its technologies in this latest industrial revolution. The country may offer barely 400 companies in the field, but its capabilities are being copied by many others.

Better Place is driven by an Israeli – American CEO, Mr Shai Agassy, who intends that Israel will host the world’s first all-electric car network within the next 12 months. IDE operates 2 huge desalination plants in Israel and has been commissioned to expand an existing operation in China. Siemens has already invested hundreds of millions in Israeli solar technology, with a new agreement announced this week. Personally, I am involved in an exciting biomass project, successfully converting poisoned waste into energy.

I can mentioned algae farms. We can discuss wind technology, which redirects the direction of the air around the turbines. And there is much more out there on google.

But it goes further than that, much of it is unseen. Israel’s electricity company is completing a pilot project, involving 150 internet users. They have access to a 100 mega line, way faster and cheaper than anything currently available. Within approximately 30 months, it is expected that the whole country will have access to the same service.

And the OECD in its first report on Israeli agriculture has confirmed the important skills that the country possesses. The press release is none too encouraging, probably the sign of some childish internal politics. However, the content is extremely positive.

According to the report, ………, a string of reforms in (Israel’s agriculture) sector between 1990 and 2007 caused a 60% rise in output leading to an annual average growth rate of 2.2%, higher than any other industry and higher than in most OECD countries.

The report states that Israel enjoys advantages in season and expertise, which allow it to successfully export many of its crops to the European market, but that its primary source of agricultural export is in technology. According to the document, in 2007 agricultural technology exports amounted to $2.2 billion, eclipsing agro-food exports.

It is nearly a year ago since McKinsey confirmed Israel’s strong positioning in the cleantech sector. This month’s exhibition and news serves to consolidate and publicise these significant global advances.

Reduced “weight of government”

June 29, 2010

The phrase, the “weight of government” often conjures up negative connotations – something along the lines of “what stupid thing are they going to force on me now”.

I assume the idiom comes from a time when there were so many people in government, sitting round doing nothing and getting fat. In Israel, there are currently 30 ministers of government, 25% of the whole Parliament. Clearly, the public budget has mushroomed in order to accommodate all of these people, their assistants, offices and other heavy baggage.

Israelis are used to seeing TV pictures of the opening of cabinet debates, where the table is full of sweet-tasting goodies. But suddenly, several months back, Prime Minister Netanyahu instituted a policy that has won the support of all factions and all religions. Fattening, unhealthy delicacies will no longer be provided. Ministers have been asked to join keep fit programmes. Cut up veggies are now the main part of the noshing menu.

If I was to paraphrase from a popular American TV reality programme, if the Israeli executive wants to change people’s lives, it has started to set an example with their own behaviour,

Netanyahu is reported to have lost 5 kg; the minister for tourism – 6kg; Yisrael Katz at the Transport Ministry – 30 kg; Barak and Lieberman, defence and foreign affairs – 6kg and 15kg. The finance minister plays basketball once a week.

Just adding up these figures alone comes to the average weight of an adult female. In other words, in terms of fat, the Israeli government is literally shrinking away. Now there’s a thought for the country’s enemies.

Orange, Israel, fails 101 “service for dummies” course

June 28, 2010

With the click of a button, an unhappy client could send your company or its sales into a tailspin. “Don’t underestimate the power of a disgruntled customer,” says Rebecca Morgan, who authored Calming Upset Customers.

Isn’t that obvious? Well, apparently not. We all know the stories of Dell and other multinationals who lost mega sales and many branding points by treating customers with arrogance. It would seem that bigger you are, there is a greater danger that you are less responsive to your income source.

Take the Israeli mobile operator, Orange, or Partner as it is sometimes known. It has a large and enticing website, with even larger profits to match. I called them to verify my latest monthly bill.

Do you think that I could get the customer service team to admit that there was a mistake? You must be joking. I asked for an explanation of how I was being charged. She responded. I said that her words did not match the line-by-line items. She said that her words also appeared on the bill. So what? What did that help me?

Her solution: Would I like to hear about a better deal? Nothing about how to resolve the discrepancy. So much for being a help desk.

In fact all my questions and comments were treated with the same kind of answer. In other words, the lady was well-trained and found a textbook response to each issue. Her problem was that she sounded just like… a textbook. Has nobody taught Orange staff that formalities do not work? In fact, they are offensive!

Anyway, I accepted the chance to hear about a different pricing system. So sexy voice number two comes on the phone to stroke my wounded ego. Yes, I deliberately use mixed metaphors, because I assume that this is part of “their” game. In effect, this was an insult to my intelligence, but they did not seem to understand that.

The new offer was clear. No penalty clause for changing programmes. But when pushed, she did admit that I had to commit to being on the scheme for 18 months. Why? Because “we are trying to help you”.

Sounds caring, yes? No, a thousand times, NO. If they wanted to help, they would just move me over to the new scheme immediately, no strings attached. Genuine assistance is something you learn about in the first lesson of  the service for dummies course, which it would appear that Orange employees are not allowed to study.

As for the 18 months commitment, which other retail brand demands such loyalty from you? Does Safeway say that you can only shop with them, if you make all you purchases at their outlets for the whole month? Does your bank demand that you keep all your accounts with them? Do have you have to service your car at the same garage every time?

The 18 month rule is an abuse of the consumers right to freedom of choice, and it encourages Orange and their competitors to offer out lousy customer service.

And who is to blame? Well, let’s start with the regulators, but that is another blog altogether.

Eureka – EU blesses the world of start ups

June 27, 2010

EUREKA is a pan-European agency, investing €1.5 billion annually in start ups and emerging industries. Israel is considered one of the 5 most active partners of the project. For example, in 2008, it was associated with 40 of the 300 approved projects.

So, it comes as no surprise that this weekend, Israel was officially awarded the Presidency of EUREKA , succeeding Germany. In fact, of the 150 new initiatives, Israel will be concerned with 23  of them. Not bad, considering that Israel has only been a member since the year 2000.

Robert-Jan Smits, the deputy director-general of EUREKA, was quoted as seeing the Israeli leadership as a positive move for all. As reported in the Hebrew newspaper, Yediot,: –

Israel is a very good example of taking r&d seriously. Many European countries can learn from the way Israel’s government is involved in investing in industry. Israel has an educated workforce, excellent innovation and incubators…..

It will be interesting to see in what direction Israel will lead EUREKA. There has already been much talk of allowing in other countries, notably from Latin America. Israel’s minister for trade and industry, Fuad Ben Eliezer has also made it clear that he wants to bring Egypt into this exclusive club.

Israel wounds a $9 billion market

June 25, 2010

Many analysts have commented how Israel’s successful high tech economy is a fact driven by necessity. Never was this more true than in the fields of medical devices and applications.

Specifically, look at the example of wound healing, a subject that reaches out to the civilian and heavy military markets alike in Israel. Estimates calculate the value of the global market at around US$9 billion.

And here’s the catch. Many of the global players with something significant to offer are Israeli:

Israel will have the world’s largest company for burn and chronic wound treatments, if all goes according to plan in a complex merger deal between Clal Biotechnology Industries Ltd. (TASE: CBI) portfolio companies MediWound Ltd. and Polyheal Ltd., which will come under the control of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA). Under the proposed deal, MediWound will acquire full control of Polyheal, and Teva will gradually increase its stake in MediWound to 51%.

There are several other, but lesser known, Israeli companies, which operate in the field. One is called Cupron. It offers a copper-based platform technology, which is known to support skin regeneration. Could it make stitches in the skin an irrelevant subject?

These discoveries, shoved into the media limelight, come at a time, when there are growing shouts for economies to boycott Israeli products. The hypocrisy of such a world campaign is drawn out by these very products.

Can you imagine an organiser for these unilateral moves, which are often basted on hate turning round, saying: “I refuse Israeli treatment on my skin”? What nonsense!

When “branding” meets “networking”…

June 23, 2010

I am one of the moderators at JBNF, a monthly meet up forum for business folk in the Jerusalem region. This week, we conducted a frantic session of speed dating; 40+ people getting to know each other’s commercial strengths inside 90 minutes.

I was drained by the end of it. And yet, the results were clear as people left the hall. It was more than the swapping of business cards. Meetings were being fixed up. Interviews and site visits were arranged. Seminar material was being snatched up. And much more.

Interspersed amongst the one-on-ones, we arranged for 3 guests speakers to give tips about how to network; the importance and structure of an elevator speech, how to listen to others with empathy, moving out of our comfort zones – these were just a few of the themes mentioned.

What did it boil down to? When you network, you are showing off your own brand. And remember:

Before seeking the spotlight, the first question you should answer is, “What do I have to offer that no one else can?”

I told the story of how so many of us, when faced with a reception where we know nobody, end up spending most of our time creating an in-depth relationship with a glass of orange juice. In fact, a quick look around will probably reveal 30 other people in a similar situation. The trick is to start talking to them and to create new hubs of contacts. Draw them in to your circle – after all, as they are probably just as bored as you, they will be only to happy to talk to you.

And that’s the point. Moving out of your comfort zone may not be easy at first. However, as most of us find once we have moved on, the new level is just as satisfying as your previous set up. Surprise!

How tech brings you a better world cup

June 22, 2010

There must be dozens of countries around the world, that every 4 years have hopes of getting to the World Cup Finals but continuously miss out.

Israel is a strong member of that not-so-unique contingent. In fact, similar comments can be made of it efforts at the Olympics. Far more is spoken and written than actually done…done, that is on the playing fields and track.

You see, Israel often has a major part at these sporting triumphs, although the role is confined to behind the scenes. For example, for the past decade, numerous companies from the Holy Land have secured contracts for security at the Olympics, and this includes software and hardware providers. 

South Africa 2010 is no exception to the rule. LiveU is based north of Tel Aviv and connects real time video links to any camera within seconds. Barely in operation 4 years, by January 2010, their tech was used to capture behind the scenes action at the Grammy awards.

And as the current footballing grand prix plods on, LiveU has taken tens of its units to the World Cup. Clients renting their “black box” include media giants such as NBC and AP. Another line of sales are buses showing games as they are played.

40 workers, a growing line of investment partners and a small office in America. Amazing how simple it can be if you want to make it big. And millions around the world are now benefitting.