Moshe Hogeg presenting Mobli. Photo courtesy of Holatelcel
Profiles

Yo! Meet the man behind the app

Moshe Hogeg presenting Mobli. Photo courtesy of Holatelcel

Moshe Hogeg presenting Mobli. Photo courtesy of Holatelcel

Meet Moshe Hogeg, the Israeli venture capitalist and entrepreneur tagged by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 “Start-up Nation movers and shakers you need to know.”

The 33-year-old founder and chairman of Singulariteam  (a private investment fund and incubator formerly called Genesis Angels) — with an extensive network of companies he has created, technologies he has invested in, or both — is making an international name for himself.

His illustrious list of backers and partners includes Hollywood A-listers such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Serena Williams, and influential financiers including Mexican magnate Carlos Slim and Kazakh businessman Kenges Rakishev. With their help, Hogeg has made strategic investments in key up-and-coming technologies.

Among the tech companies in which Singulariteam, with a staff of 12, is backing are 30-second phone charger Storedot, Effective Space, Beyond Verbal and Infinity Augmented Reality.

Hogeg is an entrepreneur and investor.

Hogeg is an entrepreneur and investor.

Best known for founding Mobli, a real-time photo- and video-sharing platform predating Instagram (though the latter beat it to the punch on the market), Hogeg also made waves with the vastly popular app Yo.

Released this year, Yo has more than three million users, the first million of whom took a record four days to generate. Yo is an abbreviated method of communication, a “poke” that is understood between friends according to context.

His latest launch – in 20 languages — is Mirage, which puts a twist on Mobli: text, photos, voice messages and videos shared among users disappear after a few seconds.

The philosophy behind this platform was to enable real-life communication that is not stored in the cloud or on any device.

“The Internet was built by engineers,” Hogeg tells ISRAEL21c at the Mobli offices in Tel Aviv, where most of the company’s 70 employees are located. “It is structured so that everything is archived and documented and has a recorded history.”

Hogeg acknowledges that this is often as necessary as it is beneficial. But, he says, “There is also room for unrecorded communication — like when you see a beautiful girl on the street, and when she turns the corner, she’s gone; other than in your mind.”

Live fantasy league

Though Hogeg is a “techie by nature” who spent seven years in the Israel Defense Forces, rising to the rank of captain and serving as a company commander, his career was actually born out of his passion for soccer.

During a World Cup game in 2006, the coach of the Barcelona team did not put Lionel Messi in one of the matches, and that made Hogeg livid.

“Millions of people wanted to watch Messi play that day,” he recounts. “And one guy decides that we don’t get to do so. It made no sense. Sports are entertainment, after all, and the fans are the engine that propels it and makes it prosper.”

Hogeg decided to try and rectify the situation by creating a live version of a fantasy league.

“I took a third-division league in Tel Aviv – Kiryat Shalom – and I ‘replaced’ the coach with fans,” he says. “I broadcast live on a website I built, inviting spectators to decide which players would be in the starting line-up, for example.”

Mirage erases messages after they’re read.

Mirage erases messages after they’re read.

The idea was to “crowdsource” the league, to shape it as the fans saw fit. And from this emerged Hogeg’s first company, Web2Sport, which he created in 2007 upon finishing his military service.

“Imagine the thrill of bringing in a player and he scores a goal,” he says. “That’s why the site was so popular. But it was only in Hebrew, which limited its scope. That was a big mistake. An even bigger mistake was not charging for it. I made about 1,000 mistakes every single day in that period, but I learned from them.”

Indeed, Hogeg lived off his own savings, skimping on rent by moving from “one tiny dump to another,” and paying himself a meager salary – until 2008, when the global economic crisis caused the company to close.

This pushed him to become a self-employed consultant and on-line marketer earning what he considered an exorbitant salary – NIS 20,000 (about $5,000) per month. But this was a function of his being overloaded with clients and having no assistant.

“I was spreading myself thin,” he says. “Instead of being able to excel at one thing, I was chasing my own tail and being mediocre at everything.”

The risk pays off

At the advice of a concerned friend, Hogeg decided to quit working for others, and spent a year investing his energy in a single project of his own.

The risk paid off. He and a small team of techies – who agreed to take shares in place of salaries – created Mobli, using a local Tel Aviv café as their office.

“When the wait staff got visibly impatient with us, we would order a croissant to keep them from kicking us out,” he laughs. “It was all we could afford.”

Once the platform was presentable, Hogeg was able to garner investments.

The budding endeavor brought Hogeg – now married, with a two-year-old son — to New York for three years to engage in further fundraising, business development and marketing. Last year, he returned to Israel, where he plans to remain while aiming at markets in China, Latin America and Russia.

Hogeg says that one of the most important people on his team is a behavioral psychologist, whom he “plucked” from the Weizmann Institute of Science. His job is to vet the right potential partners for Hogeg to approach.

“In the end,” says Hogeg, whose Singulariteam companies have a net worth of more than $1 billion, “this is a people’s game.”

At a White House ceremony on November 20, 2014, President Obama honors Eli Harari with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Photo by Ryan K. Morris
Profiles

From Tel Aviv to the White House

At a White House ceremony on November 20, 2014, President Obama honors Eli Harari with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Photo by Ryan K. Morris

At a White House ceremony on November 20, 2014, President Obama honors Eli Harari with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Photo by Ryan K. Morris

He’s described as a kindly uncle, a low-key gentleman and one of the most successful executives in the world.

It’s for another distinction – revolutionizing data storage with a technology known as flash memory — that SanDisk founder Eli Harari traveled to the White House on November 20 to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Without the Tel Aviv-born Harari’s innovations, there could be no digital photography, USB drives, smartphones, tablets, notebooks, e-books, apps or portable game controls.

Upon presenting the medal, President Obama said: “One month after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Eli Harari came to America from Israel to study the effects of radiation on electronics in space.  The physics he learned as a PhD student at Princeton led him to co-found SanDisk, and, eventually, to the creation and commercialization of flash storage technology.  And today, his technology is in millions of portable electronic devices, which our lives would be completely different without.”

Speaking with ISRAEL21c from London, where he was vacationing in October with his wife, Britt, Harari said the award “is a source of pride for myself and my family and all of SanDisk, including the 800 or so employees we have in Israel.”

Now 69 and retired for the past four years, Harari hasn’t forgotten the hurdles that had to be overcome before flash memory became ubiquitous the world over.

“I enjoy explaining to the hundreds of millions who use flash memory everyday how challenging it was to develop this technology and make it accessible and affordable, reliable and pervasive,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

“Over the years, we drove the technology and made it affordable to even the poorest people on earth. Over 25 years, we were able to bring flash-drive cost down by a factor of 100,000 times. If the airline industry could do that, you’d fly from London to New York for one penny. That would entirely disrupt civilization.”

Under the covers

Harari beckons us to give some thought to this technology that powers so much in modern society.

“If you look at SanDisk’s leading product, the 512-gig SD card for digital cameras and other devices, it’s hard to understand how much storage that is. There are 1.5 trillion transistors on that little piece of plastic. Not all of them always work because that’s the nature of very large numbers, but as far as users are concerned, 100 percent of them always work because those that don’t are covered by the others,” Harari explains.

Eli Harari cofounded SanDisk.

Eli Harari cofounded SanDisk.

“The nice thing about flash memory is that if you store your pictures in your iPhone and then you lose it and find it in 50 years, the pictures will still be there. And because it’s extremely compact and uses almost no energy, flash enables people like Steve Jobs to make devices extremely thin, without need for a heavy battery.”

The Israeli company M-Systems, another pioneer in this industry, was acquired by California-based SanDisk in 2006 for nearly $1.6 billion.

“We invented portable storage and flash memory for the mobile world in 1988. Dov Moran and Aryeh Mergi founded M-Systems a year after us. Their approach was software-based, while ours was at the chip and system level. For 17 years we were competitors, but SanDisk’s approach became dominant and now is the only solution,”  Harari explains.

“The fact that we paid $1.55 billion for M-Systems shows how much we valued their invention of USB flash drive and embedded flash storage in smartphones,” he adds. “The combination of what Dov and I developed in our respective companies made a fantastic product and team, and we worked closely together to make it a success.”

SanDisk’s Cruzer Fit USB flash drive.

SanDisk’s Cruzer Fit USB flash drive.

SanDisk now employs more than 8,000 people worldwide, and has more than 5,000 patents and $6.5 billion in annual sales. Harari himself holds some 70 patents in the field of nonvolatile memories and storage systems.

40 years that changed the world

Eli Harari was born in 1945 to Abraham and Genia, prewar immigrants from Poland.

“When I was 13, my parents decided I needed to be educated as an English gentleman, so they sent me to a Jewish school in Brighton, England — one of the best things they could have done for me even though I didn’t think so at the time,” says Harari.

At 18, he came home and began his Israeli military service as a technical clerk in the air force. He was allowed to leave four months early to start studying math and physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and finished his undergraduate degree at Manchester University in England.

“When I returned 12 years later to serve the remaining four months — lecturing about technology to air force officers — I had a wife and two kids,” he recalls.

Afterward, Harari earned a master’s and doctorate in solid-state physics at Princeton University. The family then settled in California, where they and their children remain. Their daughter is a fulltime mother of four children, while their musician son runs a music school.

In 1975, while working at Hughes Aircraft, Harari invented the industry’s first electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM), a precursor to flash.

“This was a substantial improvement over the Israeli invention EPROM, by Dov Frohman at Intel,” he says. “EPROM was a critical chip to make microprocessors work, but you could only program it and not easily erase it. I invented a way to erase it electrically.”

The road to SanDisk

In 1983, Harari founded the semiconductor company Wafer Scale Integration. Four years later, he and the board of directors had a falling-out and Harari left, agreeing not to compete with WSI.

“I’d built a good team but it was based on a flawed strategy and I made a lot of mistakes,” he says with characteristic modesty. “I considered the four years to be a fantastic school because it was a failure, and taught me what it takes.”

Harari started a company called SunDisk the day after leaving WSI. His 15-year-old daughter came up with the cheerful name, but it was challenged by Sun Microsystems six years later as a trademark infringement. “So we came to an agreement to change ‘Sun’ to ‘San.’ They sound almost the same, and in some countries, like Israel, they’re spelled the same way.”

In his new venture – joined by cofounders Jack Yuan and current SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra – Harari continued developing the physics of flash memory. “I saw that the whole industry was focused on storing code only, and was missing a big market opportunity to use flash memory to store multimedia content. In order to make it suitable for this purpose we needed to invent new flash-memory architecture. That was DataFlash.”

The rest is history, and you’ll be able to read all about it when Harari finishes his book “about what I did in the last 40 years that changed the world.”

Meanwhile, he and Britt travel extensively, enjoying the couple-time they missed for the 35 years he was running a company. “We’ve been so many places: up the Amazon River, to Antarctica, to the northernmost island in Norway. And the wonderful thing is, wherever I go I find SanDisk products. That makes me really happy.”

Oz Korenberg is picky about his wines.
Food and Drink,Profiles

The 22-year-old who knows his wine

Oz Korenberg is picky about his wines.

Oz Korenberg is picky about his wines.

If Israeli winemakers want their bottles featured at Jerusalem’s deluxe Mamilla Hotel, they must please the palate of one man: Oz Korenberg, who at 22 is Israel’s youngest head sommelier.

Korenberg holds the key to the Mamilla’s wine cellar – containing up to 1,500 bottles, all Israeli vintages aside from champagne — and accepts only about one of every five wines he tastes.

“A lot of wineries want to get onto my wine menu because we offer them a lot of exposure. But you have to impress me,” Korenberg tells ISRAEL21c.

As the head wine steward at a hotel that attracts an international clientele, Korenberg is often the one to introduce Israeli wines to guests with sophisticated tastes. “You have to know your customer base, and I know my customers drink expensive wines,” he says.

Since starting as a sommelier at the Mamilla in 2011, Korenberg has served the likes of former US President Bill Clinton, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Prince of Monaco, Barbra Streisand and Sharon Stone.

“A lot of cool people stay at the Mamilla,” he says. “The last time Tony Blair was here, all the managers lined up and the only guy he recognized was me. He smiled and said, ‘What are we drinking tonight?’ I was so honored.”

Every Friday evening, Korenberg hosts wine tastings (free for hotel guests, NIS 90 for others). He talks about the history of winemaking in Israel, what makes wine kosher, how to drink and store wine, how long you can drink wine after it’s opened, wine-and-food pairings and related topics.

Oz Korenberg on the job.

Oz Korenberg on the job.

At dinnertime, he makes the rounds of the hotel’s lounges and restaurants, offering suggestions to guests eager to try local vintages.

“I ask a few simple questions about what you usually drink, what you feel like drinking now, what you’re eating now, and my instincts will guide me. Being a sommelier is about getting the vibe of the customer, making your guests really feel comfortable and making their culinary experience perfect.”

Something classy

One may wonder how a man of such a tender age, and no formal training, landed a job like this.

Born in 1992 and raised in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion, Korenberg decided at 15 to go live with an aunt and uncle in Florida so that he could attend an exclusive high school on scholarship. As it happens, his uncle has a 500-bottle wine cellar.

“My uncle said, ‘Sit down, Ozzie, and I’ll teach you how to drink something classy.’ He’s part of a private group that wines and dines together, and I got hooked on the combinations of food and wines the first time he took me along. We did this about once a month and I explored really expensive wines.”

Six months after arriving in Florida, the teen was diagnosed with a rare malignant brain tumor. He endured a 17-hour operation at Miami Children’s Hospital and 14 months of chemotherapy, all the while knowing his chances of survival were slim. Even now, in full remission, he is aware that the cancer could return at any time.

“What gave me hope was to go to school and stay as normal as possible and treat the cancer as a sort of really bad flu with really hardcore medication,” he says. “I had to be really strong and positive even though I was in a new school, learning a new language and making new friends. And throughout my disease I was drinking wine, because I thought I wouldn’t make it anyway.”

Coming back to Israel at 18, he found that his medical history precluded any kind of military service and he was casting about for his next step. At a soccer game, Korenberg got to talking with the manager of the Mamilla’s Mirror Bar and agreed to an interview with David Dreyfus, then the head sommelier. He started out as one of three sommeliers and got promoted in 2013 when Dreyfus departed for France.

Korenberg took a management course at the Golan Heights Winery and plans to go abroad next year to gain official certification.

Great stuff

One of Korenberg’s most memorable moments involved the priciest bottle in the Mamilla’s cellar.

“There was a nice group from Napa Valley staying here for a week, and they tried all the good stuff. Then the head of the group asked for something interesting, and we talked for about 25 minutes about the 2003 Yatir Forest Double Magnum. The hotel had this bottle for a few years, selling for NIS 8,000 — about $2,000.”

Korenberg assured the Californian he would not be charged if the wine was disappointing. The group popped the cork and shared it with the sommelier.

“They really enjoyed it, and it was quite a magical moment for me. It’s not about the money, but the way we talked about the wine and how it felt to win someone’s trust like that.”

Another Mamilla guest wanted to try 1989 and 1990 vintages of cabernet sauvignon, which made Korenberg nervous not only because of the combined cost of about NIS 5,000. “Israeli wines don’t age that well yet because the vines are young, so that was taking a chance,” he explains.

Sweating bullets, he eased out the corks very, very slowly with a special opener, for fear of the softened corks falling into the wine. “The 1990 was still alive and very mature, but the 1989 wasn’t alive and I didn’t want to charge him. The customer insisted on paying for it. Being honest is very important to me,” says Korenberg.

At home, he loves to experiment. “It’s fun to have so many stories, so many people, so many different wines in Israel. Promoting the Israeli wine industry is one of the most important things to me. There are about 400 wineries here now, which is a little crazy but it’s a good thing. We have great stuff.”

 

 

Laetitia Beck playing for Duke University. Photo courtesy of Tim Cowie
Profiles,Sports

Israel’s only pro ladies golfer

Laetitia Beck playing for Duke University. Photo courtesy of Tim Cowie

Laetitia Beck playing for Duke University. Photo courtesy of Tim Cowie

“I’m a pretty boring person,” insists champion golfer Laetitia Beck, who made history at the Women’s British Open in July as the first Israeli to tee off as a professional in an LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) tournament. “If you ask me to play a sport, then I’ll get a smile on my face. I’m very athletic and very competitive.”

Turning 23 in February 2015, Beck has racked up a list of achievements that’s anything but boring.

She’s a five-time winner of the Israeli Open Golf Championship, the first time when she was only 12 years old. She won golfing gold medals in the 2009 and 2013 Maccabiah Games and was voted Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year in 2011 as a member of the Duke University (North Carolina) Blue Devils.

That year, she qualified for her first LPGA event, the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open – marking the first time an Israeli played in an LPGA tourney. In 2013, Golf World cited her as one of the top 50 golfers to watch.

ISRAEL21c spoke to Beck in Florida, two days after she passed the second of three qualifying stages toward earning her LPGA Tour Card – the coveted ticket to the world’s major pro golf tournaments. She faces one more qualifier in December. Only 50 out of 240 players advance to the second stage, so Beck is already a standout.

She hopes to represent Israel at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics, when golfing returns to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904 and will be open to pros.

No excuses

Born in Belgium, the four Beck siblings were raised in Caesarea, the Mediterranean resort city that boasts Israel’s only 18-hole golf course. The elder Becks, both recreational golfers, introduced Laetitia and her twin sister, Olivia, to tennis at age eight and golf at age nine. Laetitia took to both with passion.

“I played every sport possible when I was younger — basketball, soccer, tennis – and I love them all, but now I don’t want to get injured, so I only play golf,” she says.

The sport caught young Laetitia’s fancy to the extent that by age 12 she dropped tennis.

“I like being by myself, and being able to practice alone made golf much easier for me than tennis. I can be in my own world and I could go to the course almost every day,” she explains. “Also, I don’t like to find excuses, and in golf you can’t blame anyone — it’s just you.”

Golf does not require the cardio fitness that tennis demands, “but we do need to be very strong in the entire body, and mentally it is one of the most demanding sports,” Beck tells ISRAEL21c.

“I have always been very focused and not easily distracted, even as a kid. And I love what I do.”

To take her training to the highest possible level, Beck left Israel at 14 to attend a sports academy in Florida, the IMG Pendleton School. “We practiced all morning and worked out every evening during my four years of high school,” she relates.

Laetitia Beck hitting a shot during the Annika Invitational in Florida, 2010. Photo by Tracy Wilcox/GOLFWEEK

Laetitia Beck hitting a shot during the Annika Invitational in Florida, 2010. Photo by Tracy Wilcox/GOLFWEEK

Representing Israel

At Duke, it was classes in the mornings and golf from 2 to 6, with workouts on weekends. Since graduating last May, Beck spends most days on the course, in addition to traveling to competitions and looking for sponsors to help foot the $85,000-$100,000 annual cost of touring. She’s living with a host family in Aventura, Florida, but frequently goes to Canada to train with her coach, Andrew Phillips.

She was introduced to Phillips in 2012 when she accepted an invitation to return to Montreal a year after wowing fans at the Open, to play in the Jewish General Hospital’s 20th annual Golf Tournament and fundraiser. “Ever since then, I’ve been practicing with him,” she says.

Beck visits her family in Israel every few months. Though she misses them – and the ready access to kosher food – she is committed to remaining in North America for the time being.

“For golf, it’s better for me to be here because the tournaments are here,” Beck says. “I will eventually go back to Israel, where I think I can have an influence on golf. I have a few other passions, too. It all depends on how things go.”

Beck is well known for the blue-and-white flag of Israel displayed on her golf shoes, hat and club head covers.

“I try to represent the country as much as I can,” she says. “Seeing the flag means a lot because I think it will help the sport and the sport in the country. I don’t think we have enough representation.”

However, she adds, “For me it’s less about Israel and more about being Jewish, because there are not many Jewish pro ladies on tour. I wear a Star of David that I have not taken off since high school. That’s how I connect to people in the States and around the world. I love when someone comes up and starts talking to me.”

Rinat Abramovitch receiving her grant from Prof. Andreas Hoeft in May 2014 at the 10th annual Euroanesthesia Congress in Stockholm.
Profiles

The woman who tackles medical mysteries

Rinat Abramovitch receiving her grant from Prof. Andreas Hoeft in May 2014 at the 10th annual Euroanesthesia Congress in Stockholm.

Rinat Abramovitch receiving her grant from Prof. Andreas Hoeft in May 2014 at the 10th annual Euroanesthesia Congress in Stockholm.

Each year, one out of every 70 Americans receives a blood transfusion. With the help of preservatives, the shelf life of red blood cells is more than a month. Yet there is an active debate whether fresher blood is a better choice for certain patients.

Israeli researcher Dr. Rinat Abramovitch contributed critical information to this debate last year with her groundbreaking study proving that stored donor blood actually harms the liver.

Recently, Abramovitch received two major grants to investigate whether bleeding and further blood resuscitation affects the liver’s natural capacity to regenerate, and how this happens. “If you understand the mechanism, you can improve it,” Abramovitch tells ISRAEL21c.

She won one of only two €60,000 three-year research grants awarded in 2014 by the European Society of Anaesthesiology, as well as an additional three-year grant from Israel’s Ministry of Health. These funds will be put to good use in her lab at the Goldyne Savad Institute of Gene Therapy at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Abramovitch, 48, prefers to gear her research toward practical solutions rather than abstract theories.

“It is worth doing research about medical mysteries; something that can help people,” she says. “That is what gives me motivation.”

Over the past 13 years, eight graduate students have worked in her lab with sophisticated imaging modalities to find answers to medical conundrums involving tumors and new therapies.

“It’s a matter of opening your ears to hear the problems physicians are talking about,” says Abramovitch, who also is a senior lecturer at the Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine.

Novel findings about the liver

In this case, the study resulted from discussions with her former Hadassah colleague, Dr. Idit Matot, now head of the Anesthesia, Pain and Intensive Care Division and the Surgery Division at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

Matot told her that in surgeries to remove a tumor from the liver, there is often massive bleeding, necessitating a blood transfusion. “The real question is whether this stored blood is good or bad for these patients.”

Abramovitch and her team devised a study where they removed half of the liver from lab rats. The control group was not given a blood transfusion. A second group received seven-day-old blood and the third group received fresh red blood cells. They monitored the groups to see how the different approaches affected the liver’s ability to regenerate, a process that takes only about a week in rodents and slightly longer in humans.

“When we started to compare the process of liver regeneration, our first insight was that bleeding delays the regeneration process and so it is important to administer blood. We then compared fresh versus stored blood, and showed that while fresh blood is helpful, blood stored for too long can be harmful.”

Over the following year, Abramovitch’s lab began investigating the genetic and cellular mechanism responsible for this phenomenon. The Israeli group is collaborating with scientists in Bonn, Germany.

The results thus far were so promising that the European grant was awarded to Abramovitch in Stockholm last May at the annual Euroanesthesia congress.

Mosaics for the soul

Due to the novel lines of research she pursues, Abramovitch often participates in international conferences and collaborations.

She tells ISRAEL21c that her first interest was chemistry, and she earned her bachelor’s degree from Tel Aviv University in that subject. Later, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) caught her fancy, and she earned her doctorate at the Weizmann Institute of Science on how to use this noninvasive technology to assess angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.

She did two years of postdoctoral research at Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer before joining Hadassah. Her previous studies on aspects of liver regeneration appeared in the journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Genes & Development, Radiology and Hepatology.

Mosaics are a relaxing hobby for Abramovitch.

Mosaics are a relaxing hobby for Abramovitch.

Abramovitch lives in the central city of Modi’in, but grew up on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the south, Israel’s largest producer of honey. Her parents still live on the kibbutz.

She gets up at 5 in the morning to start her workday early and get home in time to spend the afternoon with her children. Her husband, a businessman, handles the morning routine with their 10-year-old son and their daughter, a senior in high school. They also have a son currently serving in the navy.

She also finds time for fitness and recently began taking classes in mosaic-making with her daughter. This is, she says, “a hobby for my soul.”