Science & Technology
- Written by MFA
New Israeli micro-VC assures that 'great people with great ideas' won't get passed over in the race for investment funds.
Lool Ventures, "growing companies @ Internet speed," was hatched from the collective imaginations of Nissenbaum and
Over the past five years, they've been mentoring and investing in new Israeli businesses and realized that nobody was addressing what Nissenbaum calls "a surge of Internet/mobile/web kinds of startups in the last few years. We do a lot of pro bono work with many entrepreneurs, listening to their pitches and giving our insights. We recognized there is a big gap in Israel in terms of early-stage investment."
Shortcut to Israeli ingenuity
On a recent business trip to the United States, Nissenbaum learned that major companies "don't want to miss the next Twitter or Facebook coming out of Israel" but have no way to source that new technology without people on the ground. That's where lool comes in. It will allow established companies to benefit from the success of its portfolio startups and also pique their interest in investing in specific ones and taking them public.
Whereas VCs tend to withhold their largesse until a new company has gained some traction, a micro-VC comes in on the ground level, says Nissenbaum. This approach more closely tracks the current reality in a business world where Google, for example, is snatching up promising startups at the rate of two per month for less than $100 million a pop. "Traditional VCs have funds of half a billion dollars, and need to return about three times that amount to investors," he explains, "so they're going for things that will be extremely huge. That means that sometimes great people with great ideas will get passed over."
However, he continues, "the market is a pyramid. At the top are those few companies that were sold for billions. Yet hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions are going on at the bottom of the pyramid, where companies are getting acquired for $50 million. A VC is not going to make its numbers on that. A micro VC is not shy about taking an offer below $100 million - in fact, we are structured to be very successful specifically at those rates."
An open space for synergizing
Lool, started in February with one portfolio investment (Nissenbaum couldn't release the details save to say that it specializes in commerce and content on the go), also is dedicated to providing its hatchlings with holistic value-added services throughout the life of the company. He and Golan, who are still wrapping things up at AOL and seeking office space for lool, expect to finance about two dozen startups in the next five years.
"In the beginning, it's all about the product and its tangible value," says Nissenbaum. "Then we add professional, social marketing, legal and financial services. We are putting these companies into the lool, an open space where they can synergize with others like them. And we've established an extensive network of mentors who are also helping companies to be successful." Among these mentors are Yaron Galai, CEO of Outbrain and Gil Hirsch, CEO of face.com.
What attracts lool first and foremost are the personalities behind the products. "It's all about the people," says Nissenbaum.One of Time Warner Cable's major shareholders is investing through lool, "and others of that caliber, but there is room for more," says Nissenbaum, who is on the board of IncrediMail; chairs comparative pricing site WinBuyer; and mentors student entrepreneurs through the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at IDC-Herzliya.
- Written by European Union
A European Union 'twinning' project to provide Israel with technical assistance in the field of telecommunications is to be launched at an international conference at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem on Monday, March 28 in the presence of Minister of Communications, Moshe Kahalon.
"Twinning" projects are one of the tools that the European Union employs in the framework of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). A twinning project consists of sending a resident advisor from an EU member state (supported by other advisors on shorter term missions) to a partner country for at least one year.
The telecom twinning project is called "Assist the Israeli Telecommunications regulator to establish greater approximation to the European Union regulatory approach, specifically with wholesale markets". It is being conducted by the Israel Ministry of Communications with the cooperation of the German Federal Network Agency, the Italian Authority for Communications, and the Telecommunications Market Commission of Spain.
The Resident Twinning Advisor will be Ms. Yvonne Groesch of the German Federal Network Agency's department 'International Policy Issues and Regulatory Strategies', who has vast experience in advising public authorities on regulatory reform and sector specific regulation.
The launch of the project will be also be attended by Ambassador Andrew Standley, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Israel, the Ambassador of Spain Alvaro Iranzo Gutierrez, the directors of the National Regulatory Agencies of Germany, Italy and Spain, and other guests.
- Written by MFA
The first Bedouin woman to earn a Ph.D. navigates between Bedouin, Arab and Israeli cultures as she blazes new pathways in higher education.
Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder, the eldest of four daughters and one son born to the first Bedouin physician in the Negev and his wife, an Arab from northern Israel, never had to fight for her right to an education. On the contrary, "For my father, it was not an option not to go to school," she says. "You could study anything at all, as long as you didn't sit at home."
Sarab, the first female Bedouin to hold a doctorate in Israel, is a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University's Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research. Her latest book, "Palestinian Women in Israel: Life and Struggle from the Margins," co-edited with Naomi Weiner, will be the topic at a February 27 conference in the mixed Jewish Arab Beit Berl College near Kfar Saba.
The approximately 180,000 Bedouin Arabs living in the Negev, Israel's vast southern desert region, are mostly divided among homogenous cities such as Rahat and unrecognized encampments where these traditionally nomadic clans have dwelled for millennia. But Sarab grew up in Beersheva, the Negev's unofficial capital. "I see myself connected to local Bedouin culture, Arab northern culture (because of my mother) and the surrounding Israeli culture," she says. "I grew up like an insider/outsider in each of these three cultures."
Life under the microscope
Sent to a Jewish school after seventh grade for its superior academics, she found herself uncomfortably under the microscope as the first Arab uprising (intifada) terrorized Israelis from 1987 to 1993. "It was difficult as the only Arab girl in the school during the intifada. A lot of my Jewish friends used to examine my loyalty every time there was a bombing or some other event. So it was not easy," she explains.
The first girl from her tribe to go to college, she was one of just eight Bedouin women at BGU when she started her studies in 1995; now there are hundreds. That is partly because in 1998, BGU established the Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development with the aim of encouraging and supporting young Bedouins seeking a higher education. Many parents, they discovered, did not object to their sons or daughters attending university but simply could not afford it.
Today, the Arnow Center provides a platform for advanced research, academic conferences and a series of publications to advance knowledge about the community and introduce it to the general population.
According to Prof. Rivka Carmi, president of the university: "There is no denying that there is a long way to go to achieve parity in socio-economic conditions and education, but we at BGU believe the center will continue to provide a valuable vehicle for change, growth and advancement."
Sarab did her postdoctoral studies in 2007 at the Gender Studies Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and, on a scholarship from the Yad Hanadiv Foundation did further postdoctoral studies in 2008 at the International Department of Development Studies at the University of Oxford.
Pioneers in education
Her first book, Mudrot ve'Ahuvot (Excluded and Loved: Educated Bedouin Women's Life Stories; 2008) includes interviews with 17 female university graduates from Bedouin Negev villages. This was an outgrowth of her 2006 Ph.D. thesis, "Pioneer Women in Higher Education: The Meaning of Pioneering among Educated Women in the Negev."
The topic evolved from a drama in her personal life. She chose to marry fellow BGU student and civil-society activist Hassan Abu-Queder, a Bedouin from outside her tribal limits. "This kind of match was forbidden, so we had to struggle and fight for our marriage," she relates. "This was the trigger for me to write about the topic of Bedouin women in higher education, about what happens after graduating in their professional and personal lives."
Sarab explains that the culture of the insular Negev Bedouins is quite different from that of the smaller Bedouin tribes of the Galilee, up north. "The Galil Bedouin live near or with other Arabs, so they have different models to learn from. That's why we find the Bedouin in other Arab countries or in the north are more open and less conservative than the Negev Bedouin," she says.
Sarab notes that some of the women she interviewed for her book had attended high school in northern boarding schools, as did her father, and returned to the Negev with new values. Living tribally, southern Bedouins "can absorb changes in more appropriate ways without creating as many conflicts as those living in more modern townships who are exposed to modern values in a rapid way," she says.
The road to peace
The down side is that residents of unrecognized villages lack modern infrastructure and have few educational and employment opportunities. "The Israeli government must recognize these villages and work in cooperation with them to improve conditions," says Sarab, who is now a full-time lecturer occupying the D.E. Koshland Jr. Family Career Development Chair in Desert Studies. She teaches courses on the Negev Bedouin and other indigenous peoples, as well as Arab feminist literature of the Middle East and North Africa. Among her latest awards was a 2009 Rich Foundation Award for the Advancement of Women in Academia.
She and Hassan, an accountant, live with their three little boys - aged seven, five and 18 months - in a Jewish neighborhood of Beersheva. "The other option was to live in my husband's unrecognized village, where there is no electricity or [running] water," she explains, "and I don't want my children to suffer. I want to provide them with good opportunities in normal surroundings."
To offset the disadvantages of not living amongst other Bedouin, the couple send their older boys to a local bilingual school run by the Hagar Association, where Jewish and Arab children learn side by side.
"I think if something would bring real peace and understanding to our region, it is this school," she says. "They grow up knowing each other as human beings with day to day contact between them and their families, and with an understanding of each other's narratives and history."
- Written by MFA
Tel Aviv professor Yosef Shiloh's study of an uncommon genetic disease unlocks a mystery behind cellular DNA damage, an important link to cancer.
Prof. Yosef Shiloh of Tel Aviv University recently became the first Israeli ever to win the prestigious G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). He will receive a $10,000 grant and will address the AACR, the oldest and largest cancer organization in the world, in April.
Shiloh is renowned for his research on ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), a rare neurodegenerative inherited disease that leads to early death. This research is also relevant to an understanding of a mechanism behind cancer.
"Professor Shiloh is an international leader in his field and an extraordinary scientist," says AACR director Dr. Margaret Foti. "His work has launched a scientific revolution and opened up new horizons in the understanding of how the living cell copes with DNA damage, which is among the main factors in cancer."
"I was overwhelmed," says Shiloh of the award announcement. "Given the fantastic science being done in the US, I'm sure there's a long line of worthy scientists deserving of this award. I didn't think they would give it to a non-American."
Staying in Israel
Shiloh began exploring A-T in 1977, after meeting a family from the Negev whose four children suffered from the disease. Over the course of his research career, Shiloh made several discoveries that contributed to understanding the syndrome. Most importantly, he identified the defective gene that causes it.
And though he has often been offered positions abroad, Shiloh is first and foremost an Israeli scientist. "I've been offered very nice positions in the US. [I always say] 'Thanks so much, I appreciate it, but I'm going to stay in Israel,'" he says.
The 62-year-old scientist is a professor in cancer research in the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University; research professor of the Israel Cancer Research Fund; and member of the American Association of Cancer Research and numerous editorial boards and organizations. He regularly flies to the United States to take part in research conferences and lectures and sees firsthand the monetary difference between grants received by researchers in Israel and those abroad.
However, Shiloh notes, "Israeli science and research is top notch. The fact that we can do good science and get these [international] awards means that the quality of science in Israel is excellent. Thanks to our innovation, Israelis have the ability to make the best out of what we have."
Israeli scientists in the forefront
This may be the first time an Israeli scientist has won the AACR honor, but the country's science institutions are used to international accolades. One example is the Weizmann Institute of Science, where Shiloh's daughter studies, which was chosen as the best university in the world for life scientists to conduct research.
Shiloh says the award has even greater significance for his students and colleagues. He oversees 12 research assistants and graduate students in his David and Inez Myers Laboratory for Cancer Genetics at the university.
"Other than being thrilled, it simply means that what we're doing here is good and can make a difference. It means a lot to Israeli science," says Shiloh. He adds that the award is a "message to my colleagues and to our students that the scientific community at large recognizes the work being done in Israel. "Even when you compete with much stronger labs, even with our political instability, things can be done in Israel and the international community recognizes it," says Shiloh.
Giving hope through science
In 1977, when Shiloh first started investigating A-T and the defect in the DNA damage response that leads to this disease, even doctors questioned his purpose. But seeing the despair that the patients and their families were dealing with, Shiloh marched on.
"I think that we, the medical and scientific community, owe these families the same work that we invest in more common diseases. For them it doesn't make a difference if it's a common disease or a rare one," says Shiloh. "It was clear just from looking at these patients that if we understand this disease we'll understand the implications in many areas of science."
In 1995, Shiloh's identified the A-T gene and successfully cloned it, calling it ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM). The identification of the ATM gene revolutionized the field, opening many new avenues of inquiry and research. Shiloh's lab and others found that this gene encodes a protein (also called ATM) that controls an intricate defense system against specific types of DNA damage - one of the major threats to cellular life. This defense system also protects the cell from becoming cancerous.
Shiloh's work enabled detection of the disease in the early stages of pregnancy and paved the way to understanding the defective DNA damage response underlying it. "Our great hope is that understanding the complex defense mechanism will enable new ways of treating the disease and other diseases caused by failures in our defense from DNA damages," Shiloh says.
In Israel, A-T disease affects about 120 families - Jews of North African origin as well as Palestinian, Druze and Bedouin families. Epidemiologists estimate the frequency of A-T as one in 40,000 to 100,000 persons worldwide. A-T patients usually die from respiratory failure or cancer by their early 20s.
Shiloh says there is more awareness about A-T today than 30 years ago when he started his research. "Today people recognize that these rare diseases are worth attention," says Shiloh. "Mining these diseases, a lot can be gained about basic scientific knowledge that has implications for many [other] diseases."
And while there is still no cure for this devastating genetic disorder, A-T patients around the world have new hope for a brighter future, with scientists like Shiloh behind the microscope.
- Written by Ariel Rubinsky
Over 200 exhibitors and thousands of visitors attended the international annually agriculture exhibition "Agro-Mashov 2011" which was held at the Israeli fair center.
By Ariel Rubinsky
Stand by stand, gathered advanced water systems manufactures, greenhouses manufactures, flower and bee growers, tractors importers and technology exporters and even olive oil manufactures from an isolated farm, next to Palestinian stand that offered beer from Taybe Ramalla, different kinds of olive oil, and organic fruits from the Palestinian authority.
At the exhibition attended many foreign representatives from United States, Spain, India, China and more. A special hall was dedicated to solar energy developers, which had a small cowshed with two young calves that was very curious to the fuss around them.
"This is the world cup of agriculture", Says CEO of Agro-Mashov, Haim Alush to Diplomacy Publishing, he added that the exhibition allows direct encounter of manufactures and their target audience and during these two days, many deals involving millions of dollars are closing.
Alush points out the large number of foreign exhibitors as he emphasized the Palestinian stand, "Through agriculture we are generating good neighborhood and making peace".
The exhibition opened officially with a conference dedicated to the world hunger crisis. The speakers in the conference were minister of agriculture, Orit Noked, Professor Haim Rabinovich from the agriculture faculty, Dr. Ismail Dayik, Palestinian minister of agriculture, Maria Berenguer, Ambassador of Brazil in Israel, and Moses Adwai, CEO of the national fund for agriculture development and marketing in Nigeria.
"Israel, since its establishment, is working under harsh climate constraints and developed, during the years, a number of technological agriculture means, which can benefit to dealing with the world hunger crisis." Said minister Noked, and called to "All those who are practicing to solve this crisis, to use the knowledge and coordinate and promote and joint action around the world to eliminate the phenomenon of hunger."