Meet The General Who Positioned Israel To Win In $175 Billion Cybersecurity Market

July 18, 2016

When it comes to cybersecurity, Israel sits at the center of the world. Israeli companies exported $6.5 billion a year worth of cyberproducts, about 10% of the world market, based on data from Israel’s National Cyber Bureau.

That’s up from only a 1-2% share of the much smaller market five years ago. The cybersecurity business in the United States is obviously bigger, but per capita, Israeli companies’ presence in this market — one of the fastest-growing opportunities of the 21st century — is huge.

In short, the Startup Nation has a sub-specialty. How did it get one? It turns out to be a top-down initiative, straight from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week, I interviewed Isaac ben Israel, who’s called the father of Israel’s cybersecurity business. He recently wrote an academic-style book on the topic called Cybersecurity in Israel.

It was a fascinating conversation in ben Israel’s small office, decorated with posters of Albert Einstein (ben Israel has a degree in physics). I walked away thinking about how entrepreneurs and their supporters ought to look at a world in which technology is the biggest friend and greatest vulnerability.

By happenstance, almost, ben Israel, turned out to be an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder. He is a retired Israeli Defense Force major general and a long-time figure in the company’s military research and development world. He is now, among other titles, director of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center at Tel Aviv University. In 2002, he said, Ehud Barak called Isaacson to ask him to develop cyber protection for the country’s infrastructure. In 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to launch the National Cyber Initiative.

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