Zachy Hennessey
April 24

Israel would be a very different country without its thriving high-tech industry, and that industry exists in part thanks to an entrepreneur with his hand in many pies on the high-tech windowsill: Erel Margalit.

A prominent figure in the tech and venture capital sectors, Margalit has emerged as a driving force in Israel’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. His strategic insights, commitment to fostering innovation and dedication to societal progress have positioned him as a key figure shaping Israel’s trajectory in the global tech arena.

After Hamas’ deadly terror attack on October 7, Margalit mobilized resources and initiatives to support affected individuals and communities.

One of his primary activities is rallying support for employees and families impacted by the events, ensuring their wellbeing and providing financial stability during a challenging period. He brought together CEOs, business leaders and stakeholders to develop strategies for navigating the uncertainties and disruptions.

Recognizing the importance of business continuity and maintaining momentum, Margalit has encouraged companies under his purview to stay focused on their goals and seek international engagements with key markets, customers and ecosystems.

“[We’ve been] pushing these companies forward and, just like you have a timeout in basketball when you need to figure out what you’re doing, we’ve been getting these timeouts for each of the companies in order to make sure that we know what we’re doing, and that we’re overcoming the difficulty,” he says.

Building a tech industry

Born and raised in Israel, Margalit’s early years were marked by the communal spirit of a kibbutz and the rich cultural tapestry of Jerusalem. These formative experiences instilled in him a deep sense of community, a passion for learning and a drive to make a difference.

After completing his military service in an elite special forces unit, Margalit studied philosophy, logic, mathematics and literature — “things that my mom said were not very practical, but after the first Lebanon war I felt like I needed to give myself the gift of studying what I’m interested in,” he recalls.

“I was interested in big ideas and I was interested in what Israel could do in a very prominent way.”

After receiving his bachelor’s at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he enrolled in a PhD program in logic at Columbia University. His courses there got him thinking about the potential of Israel as a high-tech haven.

“I became obsessed with it, and thought that I could have something to do with it,” he says.

Armed with a newfound sense of purpose and inspired by the possibilities he saw for Israel’s tech future, Margalit returned to his home country in the late 1980s determined to turn Jerusalem and Israel into thriving centers of innovation and entrepreneurship. 

This marked the beginning of a journey that would see Margalit play a pivotal role in shaping Israel’s tech ecosystem and fostering social change.

Creating opportunities

He leveraged his connections to attract major companies like EMC, Intel, IBM and others to Jerusalem, laying the groundwork for what would become a booming tech scene. 

His efforts were not just about business; they were about creating opportunities, driving economic growth and positioning Israel as a global leader in technology and innovation.

“We got lucky. We brought about 70 companies to the city in 36 months,” Margalit says.

By 1993, Margalit had founded Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). Despite challenges presented by the second intifada and other regional conflicts, Margalit managed to propel JVP to success. The firm’s portfolio grew to include transformative companies like Chromatis Networks (purchased by Lucent in 2000 for $4.8 billion) and CyberArk — and several more that achieved multibillion dollar exits — solidifying its reputation as a driving force in Israel’s tech revolution.

Dr. Erel Margalit, CEO and founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90
Dr. Erel Margalit, CEO and founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

Beyond his achievements in business and entrepreneurship, Margalit has launched social impact and community engagement initiatives such as Bakehila, which supports underprivileged children and responded quickly to mentor children harmed by the war after October 7, and has revitalized Israel’s northern region through innovative entrepreneurial initiatives such as the Margalit StartUp City International Foodtech Center.

Influence from beyond Knesset

In addition to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Margalit served as a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) from 2013 to 2017, where he put his energies into promoting policies supporting entrepreneurship, technology innovation and regional development.

That experience has given him a keen perspective on the current state of Israeli politics in the wake of October’s disaster.

“Israel needs a new deal after the war. Israel needs a different administration in Gaza besides Hamas, so that the military courage that soldiers and the commanders showed could be translated into a victory on the ground,” he says.

“Israel needs a plan in the north because otherwise it’s going to lose many young people there,” he adds. 

“[David] Ben-Gurion taught us that as a small country, you need to be decisive and fight a short war with a decisive ending. Whether you’re on the right or on the left or in the center, let’s end this war, bring back the hostages, and put together a different administration.”

These days, he believes that he can make a bigger impact from his current position, and has no intention of returning to the political sphere.

“I feel that where I am, I have a lot more influence than in the parliament itself,” he says. “You can be a leader in Israel if you’re in a university, if you’re in a high-tech company, if you’re an educator, if you’re a principal of the school, if you’re a reporter. Without rushing into the parliament, you can lead a sane, constructive, new message — which I think the country needs.”

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