June 14: We had the honor to visit Microsoft R&D Headquarter in Herzliya, Israel yesterday and listen to Ed Mlavsky, basically the father of Israel’s venture capital industry, and Yoram Yaccovi, the General Manager of Microsoft Israel R&D Center.
Ed is a slow, lovely, and patient grandpa. He describes himself as “too bloody British.” The whole time he was holding the mic, he only sort of held it in from of his lower chest, like he was holding a cup of coffee. Even though we could still hear him clearly, the mic was more like a decoration for him than of utility. He also randomly hit really high pitches when he came across the things he wanted to emphasize.
Ed talked about the Israeli economy pre-internet, the birth of BIRD Fund (Binational Industrial R&D Fund) and his involvement in it, and the venture capital industry in Israeli after internet. The BIRD Fund basically opened up the channel for and incentivized the U.S. venture capital fund to flow in Israel and accelerate the births of numerous high-tech projects, and that further promoted the innovative culture of Israel and helped them get to where we are today.
There he is, smiling and patiently answering our questions.
The second speaker we got to meet was the General Manager of Microsoft Israel R&D Center, Yoram Yoaacovi. There is no doubt that Yoram is an impressive, intelligent, and driven person, but I was not impressed by his presentation. I guess what I was really looking forward to learning about his experience as an business manager, how his Israeli identity put him in advantage, and what his advice would be for us. But he spent the first 30 minutes presenting to us all of the impressive aspect of Israel high-tech industry, such as Israel has the highest number of engineers and scientists per capita and statistics like that. Then he went on emphasizing to us how computer is truly the future of human kind and that left us the impression that, as college students, if we are not studying comp sci or engineers, we are screwed.
However, when one of my classmates who studies sociology asked him what it would be for us if we choose not to specialize in high-tech industry, which addressed my concern, Yoram said: “Nowadays, with this new generation born into the computer age, everyone knows a thing or two about computer. So let’s say Microsoft received two resumés from two applicants, a straight-A computer engineer and a sociology with impressive experience or ability, which one would we pick? Ten years ago, the answer is clear – the computer engineer. But nowadays, we might pick the sociology student just as much as the computer engineer. ”
That story definitely calmed my nerve. I guess what I can take away from this is that the ability to integrate different expertise and come up with interdisciplinary solutions are in demand. With the use of internet, no expertise is really as closed and hard-to-obtain as before. The ability to combine different perspectives, work across different fields, and come up with creative solution is really what matters right now.
As business giants as they are, we were more than grateful and excited to listen to and meet both of them. It was an incredible opportunity to just look at their mannerism and presentation style as a window to speculate what it is like to interact in the modern business world and tech industry.
I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture of Yoram, but here is a picture of him off of Google.
For lunch, we stopped by a chocolate-themed restaurant/café called Max Brenner. the set-up inside and out is very comfortable and cute. Their business lunch is amazing as well.
I had their antipasti as appetizer, Thai fish noodle as entree and yellow granite as drink.
Below is the yellow granite.
I also just think it’s funny they have coins of 1/2 shekel. Not 0.5, but 1/2.