Peace on the agenda: Inas Said, the CEO of Galil Software. At Israeli company Galil Software, business isn’t the only thing on the agenda – so is peace. Founded in the mixed city of Nazareth in the Galilee where Israeli Jews and Arabs live side by side, the company is dedicated not only to making money, but to helping Israeli Arabs enter Israel’s competitive high-tech industry, a market that has eluded them for so long.
Rather than outsource high tech R&D to China and India, Galil Software prefers to look closer to home. Some 90 percent of the company’s engineers are Israeli-Arabs from local communities.
“So what?” You might think, but in Israel lack of trust, misunderstandings, and security issues, have created huge social and professional gaps between the Jewish Israeli population, and the other 20 percent of the country’s citizens, who are defined as Arab Israelis.
Israel may today be known as the second largest hotbed of innovation after Silicon Valley in California, but most of that success doesn’t reach the country’s Arab population who see little in the way of job offerings or support of new ventures.
Part of the problem is that in Israel referrals account for 80 percent of most new job placements, 10% higher than elsewhere around the world. For Arab engineers this is problematic, because many significant work relationships, particularly in the high-tech arena, are founded in Israel’s army culture.
With little or no experience of this, they find themselves shut out of job opportunities, despite the fact that so many Arabs graduate with top grades from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.
Spreading the high-tech fortune
Galil Software hopes to change all that. Rather than send R&D to China, where work can be done for a fraction of the cost, the company employs 40 engineers to carry out outsourcing work ranging from software development and integration, maintenance of legacy systems, testing & QA, system re-engineering, and more in Israel.
“Last year Israel exported 8,000 jobs in outsourcing,” Inas Said, the CEO of Galil Software, tells ISRAEL21c. “That’s $3 billion exported last year. I consider this a leak from our GDP.
“Here [in Israel] we have 2,500 Israeli Arab engineers,” he continues. “Of them less than 400 penetrate the Israeli high-tech bubble. There are more than 2,000 people out there sitting on the bench dreaming about how ‘I can be a part of it’.”
Work in Israel may be more expensive than in emerging economies like China, but the company hopes that the results will speak for themselves. For clients it’s a more comfortable and productive experience as language, pricing and culture is all familiar.
Social venturing for a change
“The Harvard’s of the world call this project social venturing or social entrepreneurship,” says Inis, who has been working for high-tech companies like Nokia, Ericsson, Stratus and ECI for the last 15 years.
“It’s about time we put money in something with a social byproduct. The entrepreneurial idea is based on business terms, but it has a huge social by-product that relates to the employment of people in the periphery.”
An Israeli Arab himself, Inis – who has worked in Germany and Boston – is all too familiar with global misconceptions about Israel and Israeli Arabs. Most people in the West think that Arabs live either in Gaza or the West Bank, he explains. They don’t realize there is a thriving Israeli Arab community, who share similar Western values such as democracy and a vision for peace.
But peace isn’t what necessarily interest clients who come to Galil Software. Since it opened last year, the company has been winning projects from some of the world’s biggest clients headquartered in Israel, like General Electric Medical.
“None of our customers decided on us because of the social aspects of what we do, but based on data and financials,” says Inis. “Guys, you should start thinking of Galil Software as an alternative. If we can succeed business-wise than the social impact will be huge.”
Peace-building with substance
Investors in the vision include Zeev Bregman (chairman), Jimmy Levy (founder), Elias Tanous, Itzik Danziger, Oren Zeev, Shai Reshef, Adam Parnas, Adi Pundak and Lior Berger.
Visiting the office of Galil Software can make for an interesting anthropological experience, agrees Inis, who finds himself supervising teams where an Arab employee manages a Jewish one – a rare occurrence in Israel where real-world practice hasn’t kept up with equal opportunity laws.
“The people we integrate become part of the middle class. This is important for the stability of the society,” says Inis noting that the $1 million venture is very close to breaking even. “This is not just a belief, it is a practice. This is the drive of our investors. It’s peacemaking with substance,” he says.
Inis is hoping the company’s business will extend outside of Israeli-based projects so that his team can service the R&D needs of American companies, based in the US, too. Supporting companies like Galil Software is Middle East peace-building in the making through deeds, and not just talking about it, Inis says.
“One should come and visit and see what happens when managers truly create a multi-cultural environment,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “Here, the language becomes different. It’s easy to get up in the morning and come to work when I see what’s happening here. I am definitely motivated.”