SoftBank a big believer in Israeli high-tech, says former Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen
In his first public speech since becoming the head of SoftBank’s investment operations in Israel, Cohen told the Calcalist National Economic Conference that the local tech ecosystem is “21st century Zionism at its best”
"I love startups and am very excited about technology. In my previous role, I dealt with a lot of technology. Thanks to extraordinary people, very young, we are at the forefront of technology and constantly pushing the envelope. We have set up an investment fund unique to the Mossad called Libertad, combining a secretive organization with a private high-tech sector,” he said. “It created a massive new lab that does not deal with theory, rather with tangible problems and creates practical solutions.”"The other side of the equation, which is no less important, is the world of civil technology. The two forces feed off each other, sometimes compete, creating a whole life cycle with the exchange of talent and knowledge from sector to sector, as it all blends into prosperity and development.” Cohen knows that the world is currently experiencing a revolution. "Until 2020 Israel was on an impressive ascent and everything was optimistic. The world was global, entrepreneurs and business people lived on planes, but then came Covid-19. The world has experienced tougher events, but the virus managed to do something that never happened before. The world stood still, countries shut down, offices closed and airports emptied. The pandemic claimed the lives of many people, the stoppage hit the economy and many lost their jobs, national GDP plummeted and many moved to work from home and the world moved to Zoom. Those who were used to traveling for work switched to the screens and here hid a surprise, while entire sectors were harmed, others managed to maintain their strength and even grow and expand, mainly in the high-tech sector. "Every business owner who ran into the pandemic’s concrete wall realized that there was a need to respond and adapt fast, the local grocery store started taking orders online, boys were recruited to work as couriers, the restaurants, who suffered a hard hit, reinvented themselves with dishes suitable for sending on Wolt. Fitness instructors switched to remote classes, and family doctors began treating over the phone. Businesses of all sizes have undergone a drastic and rapid change. As a country, we must lend a hand and help those who have difficulty meeting the challenge. Maybe the new budget will help us all embark on a new path," Cohen said.
"We must exhaust the capabilities within Israel, we must invest in young people from all sectors and from all regions, provide them with knowledge and industry, science and research tools. Jews, Arabs, secular and religious, all sectors. It requires investment and a long-term vision, national dedication, and determination. This is our future.”
"Israel has two economies, they say, a high-tech economy and everything else. There is a great challenge and it must not be ignored - the national challenge is that the success of the high-tech sector will not be confined and closed rather will affect the entire market. Even the large sums of money invested here benefit everyone. How do we bring high-tech to new geographical areas? The state and industry must join hands, work together and create employment and social mobility that will strengthen the technological sector and share its abundance in a fair and inclusive manner.”