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Who are the top haredi entrepreneurs in hi-tech?

CM 29/04/2021

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Entrepreneurship and the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) lifestyle don’t often go together, but that is beginning to change. A series of events last week addressed the challenges of integrating haredim into Israel’s hi-tech sector following the coronavirus pandemic, hosted by Kama-Tech, an initiative to integrate haredim into Israel’s hi-tech sector, along with haredi radio station Kol Hai.
The organizers said that 55% of businesses surveyed believe that the rise of remote work models during the pandemic will prompt more haredim to seek work in Israel’s hi-tech sector, and 18% said that they hired more haredi workers during the past year. Meanwhile, 78% said they believe that the current shortages of tech manpower will lead more haredi workers to seek work in the sector, and 91% said they have a “high” or “very high” willingness to hire more ultra-Orthodox workers.
Kama-Tech offers two programs to the ultra-Orthodox community, its founder Moshe Friedman explained. The first offers training courses to help men and women find work in hi-tech fields. The second, which began as a suggestion from Mobileye founder Amnon Shashua, is an accelerator program to train haredi entrepreneurs how to build startups. That program has 50 graduates, including 12 women, Friedman said. 
“When I founded Kama-Tech, people told me that the idea was just a dream: that there was no way haredim would ever find a place in the tech world,” said Friedman. “Now, just five years later, I know of 1,500 haredim in the process of building companies. 
Kama-Tech also published a list of some of the most successful haredi business people in the world, including many that are not well-known. Most of the Israeli founders listed, with the exception of Shlomo Eisenberg, are graduates of Kama-Tech’s accelerator. 
CLARK VALBERG of Brooklyn, NY, is the founder of Invision, a digital product design platform that is valued at more than $1 billion. The company employs more than a thousand people, and has raised $350 million from some of the largest investment funds and banks in the world, such as Goldman Sachs and Axel Capital. Valberg is well known in the world of Torah and charitable organizations, and a prominent philanthropist.
Yoni Luksenberg, a graduate of Yeshivat Ateret Yisrael, and Ariel Klikstein, a graduate of Yeshivat Torah Or, are among the founders of Elementor, which develops a very popular system for WordPress users to easily create and edit site templates. The two founded the company, which is considered one of Israel’s most promising startups, in a warehouse in Bnei Brak in 2016. The platform, now valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, is available in over 57 languages and is the 5th most popular WordPress plugin, with over 5 million active installations worldwide.

Yisrael Gross is a co-founder of L7 Defense, a Beersheva-based cybersecurity company that specializes in web application security and DDoS protection solutions. Gross studied at Jerusalem’s Ateret Yisrael yeshiva and lives in Giv’at Ze’ev. Gross founded L7 in partnership with Elbit Systems. The company has raised $6.6 million in funding since it was founded in 2015, and is valued at tens of millions of dollars.
RABBI RONY OHAYON, author of the book “Mishpatei Chaim” and one of the most important members of the haredi community in Rehovot, was the co-founder and CTO of LiveU, a product offering simple video live-streaming for social media. LiveU was sold to private equity firm Francisco Partners Management and Tel Aviv-based Israel Growth Partners in 2019 for $200 million. Ohayon is now acting as the co-founder and CEO of DriveU, which enables communications for autonomous vehicles, as well as founder and CEO of AI company DeepKeep.
Simcha Neumark and Shmuel Kalmus, both South American Olim, created Weel, a Jerusalem-based payment and financing solution for small businesses in Brazil, in 2014. The company has raised some $60 million in funding, and is valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Neumark, who is ordained as a rabbi, studied at the Chazon Ish Kollel in Bnei Brak, and most of the company’s staff in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood are ultra-Orthodox.
Shlomo Eisenberg, a graduate of haredi yeshivot and a resident of Bnei Brak, is the controlling owner and CEO of Malam Team, which provides software solutions to government ministries, local authorities and large corporations. Malam is one of Israel’s largest tech employers, and trades on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at a market capitalization of NIS 2.2 billion ($678 million).
Paul Besnainou, a London-based Jew from France who studied at Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva for seven years, is the founder of Sweet Inn, an innovative startup offering upscale vacation apartments with hotel services for tourists and business travelers. Launched in 2014, the company manages more than 550 apartments around Europe and Israel, and has raised more than $50 million in funding.
JOSEPH BORNSTEIN, another Mir Yeshiva alumni, founded CauseMatch, a Jerusalem-based crowdfunding platform that allows companies to use matching grants to inspire a higher frequency of donors and larger gift sizes. Yehuda Gurwitz, a Chabadnik from Crown Heights, NY, founded a similar type of platform in Brooklyn called Charidy a few years earlier, and now has some 100 employees around the world. Together, the two companies have helped (mostly Jewish) non-profits raise hundreds of millions of dollars in donations.
Gilles Gade is the founder, president and CEO of Cross River Bank, a New Jersey bank with some 300 employees that is considered a pioneer in digital lending. Gade grew up in the Jewish communities of New York, and named the bank in honor of Abraham’s biblical crossing of the Euphrates River to the Land of Israel, as well as his own daily commute over the Hudson River.
Cross River, which has about $10 billion in assets, was one of the top lenders in America during the coronavirus pandemic, with $6.5 billion in loans to more than 198,000 small businesses.
Yisrael Gurt, a Ger Hassid, was named the 23rd best hacker in the world by Google. He co-founded cybersecurity company Reflectiz in 2016 with non-religious hacker Idan Cohen, with the goal of creating a solution to monitoring vulnerabilities in third-party applications. The Ramat Gan-based company has raised more than $5 million in funding, and counts international banks, insurers and retailers among its customers. Gurt grew up in Bnei Brak, studied in Hassidic yeshivot, taught himself English and was named to Forbes Israel’s ’30 under 30′ list in 2018. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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