LVEDC interviews Israeli Counsel General Yaron Sideman

By LVEDC Staff on September 4, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yaron Sideman began his tenure as the highest-ranking diplomatic official representing Israel in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States on August 27, 2012. During a recent interview with LVEDC, the consul general examined the nuainces of economic development in Israel and where the top opportunities for investment rest. Mr. Sideman is a graduate of the Israel National Defense College and prior to his current post, served his country at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Director of Congressional Affairs at the North America division, where he was responsible for supervising and directing Israel’s relations to the United States Congress.

LVEDC: How exactly do you “open doors” for American companies looking to do business in Israel?

Consul General Yaron Sideman: U.S. companies and investors should view the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic region as a primary resource for Business and investment opportunities in Israel. Other equally important resources are the Greater Philadelphia – Israel Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Mission in New York and the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley.

A significant part of what we do is to help identify opportunities for partnerships between U.S. and Israeli companies, facilitate business connections and provide information on how bi-lateral trade, business and investment in Israel works. The Consulate sometimes makes high-level introductions when we are asked to facilitate by members of the U.S. and Israeli business community and when we see a potential synergy between organizations that could work well together. You may think of our offices here as both libraries and as matchmakers.

We are engaged in a wide area of activities that open business and investment doors to Israel:  We bring Israeli companies to the region for “road shows”; We conduct “economic round tables” with interested businesses in the US, where we can both provide general information, such as who to contact and how to get started, or zoom in on a specific sector; We engage in a variety of programs that both educate and provide tools for the business and investment communities.

The Consulate helps to organize business delegations of companies that are looking to do business in Israel. We then tailor programs to the specific requirements of the companies participating. We encourage every American based company that is looking to do business in Israel to participate in these delegations. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience innovation in Israel, to get in contact with Israeli businesses and to enhance business opportunities.

LVEDC: In your estimation, what are the sectors of business that are flourishing in Israel?

Consul General Sideman: Israel is recognized as being in the forefront of high tech innovation in the life- sciences of biomedical and medical devices , clean tech and renewable energy,  communications technologies,  information technologies , homeland security,  and agricultural technologies. How does Israel manage to stay on top of technology in these sectors and others? Israel’s success hinges on several important elements, including: an intensive R&D process and strong synergies between academia and industry. Our civil and business investments are purpose built to feed continuous innovation as well as to create repeat entrepreneurs.

Our country had no known natural resources until very recently, we had to develop our intellectual capital in order to survive and thrive. Today Israel enjoys the highest percentage in the world of engineers in the workforce and one of the highest ratios of university degrees and academic publications per capita.

On a societal level we have an ability to quickly respond and adapt to market demands, identify future needs, and to identify solutions to global needs across different sectors.

LVEDC: Would you be able to give us an example of how a Lehigh Valley business or even our community at large could make a strategic investment in an Israeli company or incubator?

Consul General Sideman: Many companies now look to partner with emerging companies for their research and development process. When partnerships are formed it can lead to licensing agreements and, eventually,  an acquisition. Israel has a large number of small firms with advanced technologies that large and medium sized U.S. companies may want to investigate as potential partners or for future acquisitions.

The Lehigh Valley has a large number of life-science, health, renewable energy and logistics companies. Israel happens to be a very strong provider for new technologies in these sectors.  Lehigh Valley companies interested in developing new products or services should absolutely take a look at Israeli companies when they are trying to decide what investments to make to broaden their product and services offerings.

Investors who are interested in specific opportunities may contact our Israeli Economic Mission in New York, the Philadelphia – Israel Chamber of Commerce, as well as our Director of Economic Affairs at the Consulate of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, located in Philadelphia. We have a good perspective from which to help companies find relevant potential partners. We would also welcome Investors to participate in the frequent Road Shows of companies and incubators that occur throughout our region and the other Mid-Atlantic states. Details about which companies are coming to visit can be sourced from the Consulate and the Economic Mission.

LVEDC: Who are some of the leading Israeli entrepreneurs that, in your opinion, may surprise people to know?

Consul General Sideman: Given the recent acquisition of Waze by Google I would be remiss if I did not mention the team of entrepreneurs that founded the company: Uri Levine, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar. Waze has become the new ‘benchmark’ by which other Israeli tech companies will inevitably measure themselves. Two other companies I believe are ‘ones to watch’ include OurCrowd and its founder, the hugely successful serial entrepreneur Jon Medved, as well as WiX founders Giora Kaplan and brothers Nadav and Avishai Abrahami. Wix is planning its IPO on Nasdaq for later this year.

Your readers may also be interested to know that Berkshire Hathaway, and by extension Warren Buffet, made a sizable investment in the Israeli market by acquiring Iscar, a cutting tool firm. In March Berkshire Hathaway spent $2B to buy the remaining 20% of the company from the Wertheimer family. Berkshire acquired the original 80 percent if the company in 2006. We are proud to now call Mr. Buffet an honorary ‘Israeli Entrepreneur.’

But we are not solely focused on tracking huge deals. The Consulate is here to help emerging companies find their way in the U.S. whether to build a U.S. hub, find investors or to find new partners. I am always proud to help a company find a foothold in the U.S., or to reciprocate and help a U.S. company reach the right partners to establish operations in Israel.

LVEDC: During your recent trip through the Lehigh Valley, what impressions were you left with?

Consul General Sideman: The greatest impression I was left with from my trip to the Lehigh Valley was the sense of economic rebirth. The Lehigh Valley, site of so many historical American manufacturing companies, has finally found the right formula for re-igniting its economic engine. I was impressed with the vibrancy of the organizations I visited and the communities they work with and in. It is exciting that I can count the Lehigh Valley as a major part of the territory I have been sent by Israel to partner with and to learn from. It was a very exciting visit. I hope to encourage many businesspeople in the Lehigh Valley to continue our exchange by exploring Israeli companies and perhaps by visiting Israel. My office and I are here to serve the people of the Lehigh Valley in that endeavor.

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