This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Eliezer Manor: International Top-ranking Venture Capitalist, Business and Technology Leader, Industry-Leading Visionary Innovator, Global Executive.
Eliezer Manor is a businessman engaged in hi-tech entrepreneurship and venture capital. His activities are carried out through his wholly-owned company - Shirat Enterprises Ltd., registered in Israel. Shirat is holding a portfolio of private investments and in parallel acts as a management company with offices in Israel and in China. In addition to being pro-active in part of its portfolio companies, Shirat carries out a broad program dedicated to establishment of joint ventures between Israeli hi-tech companies and Chinese industrial mature companies, as well as establishment and operation of technological incubators, venture capital funds and corporate venture capital in China and in other countries around the world. This program was supported and assisted by the Government of Israel and today is supported by several local authorities in major cities in China.
Eliezer was the founder and entrepreneur of several hi-tech start-up companies, as well as board member and Chairman in many of them. He was also for several years a member of the international team of WJ Hopper investment bank.
In the past Eliezer was among the founders of two VC funds (Mofet in Israel and GCP in the Silicon Valley), as well as member of their boards, general partner and management companies. Eliezer was also a founder of IVA (Israel Venture Capital and Private Equity Association) and served as its first Executive Director.
During his career, Eliezer was engaged in activities such as:
- Hi-tech entrepreneurship in Israel and in USA
- Angel investments
- Venture capital: raising, management and operation in Israel and in the US
- Technological incubators in Israel
- Work with Israeli government agencies related to hi-tech, venture capital and international cooperation
- Corporate venture capital with multi-national companies
- Investment banking
- International cooperation with foreign governments related to establishment of national programs for encouragement of hi-tech and venture capital
- Stock markets for hi-growth companies in Europe and in USA
- Establishment of a broad program in China related to hi-tech entrepreneurship, incubation and venture capital, creating cross-national force multipliers between Israel and China
- Board membership on boards of private and public companies
- Venture philanthropy
Eliezer is a physicist - M.Sc. from the Weizmann Institute of Science, specializing in electro-optics, and is member of the Advisory Editorial Board of Photonics Spectra - the international journal of electro-optical engineers.
Eliezer is also engaged in venture philanthropy. He and his family established and are supporting Schools-On-Line, a NGO active among high-school children and teachers, dedicated to bridge between children from different sectors, usually under conflict.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Please tell us about your long career of success, how you got started and where you are today in your work?
"....I started by studying physics and was exposed later to advanced technologies, large industries and big projects....Afterwards I became an entrepreneur and went through the whole sequence of the hi-tech 'life chain', being actively involved and working on each of them...."
Tell us more about your vision and objectives behind your current roles? What do you hope to accomplish in the future and how will you bring this about?
"....If I can summarize my vision, it is: Expand and use the new dimension of cross-national force-multipliers in our global village. Creation, development, commercialization and introduction of new products is the only way for leading economies to keep growing...."
Which global regions offer the best opportunities for investment? Why is this so?
"....For me, VC is not an art of financial investments, but an art of entrepreneurship and related creativity, which requires permanently coming out with new ideas and approaches....In my opinion, the best regions to invest for the mid and long-term would be the regions where cross-national force multipliers can be established in order to promote hi-tech entrepreneurship, on a strong industrial, commercial, market size and financial infrastructure...."
What about the future?
"....Cross-national force multipliers will always create new investment opportunities - there is almost no limit for the near/mid-term future in this domain...."
What kinds of opportunities or investments would you recommend for the future?
"....Addressing this question only from the standpoint of financial profits is a lottery and we don't play the lottery! You could pose this simple question to many people, and for sure in the future, one of them would be proven to be right. In my opinion, the way is creation of opportunities after understanding the arena, crystallizing a vision, working hard and accepting failures...."
If we could drill down more specifically. What do you see as the differences between China and Israel from a culture, philosophy, entrepreneurship, and investment standpoint?
"....I see many differences in all of the fields that you mentioned but this is also a bright opportunity. We have differences in language of course, communication and culture, but in entrepreneurship the big difference between Israel and China is the acceptance of failure. The essence of entrepreneurship is a culture that will accept failure. The culture of investment is also very different between China and Israel...."
As a follow-up question, what do you see as the role of China and Israel in the next 100 years?
".....I think it is difficult to make predictions, but I can make wishes....That China will understand and adapt (not adopt) the Western entrepreneurial culture....That Israel will find the way to capitalize on its hi-tech achievements by creating cross-national force multipliers...."
Eliezer talks about the pros and cons of VC and Startup entrepreneurship in China.
".....When talking about venture capital I discriminate between the two. VC related to Private Equity and VC related to hi-tech....China is a virgin land in terms of venture capital for hi-tech...."
How does this compare to Israel?
"....It is the opposite! I will emphasize in particular the entrepreneurial culture. The question is now how to establish this culture in China....These complementary values of the two nations constitute the background and the reason for the execution of my program in China...."
What qualities make for good entrepreneurship?
"....Entrepreneurship is not a science, it is an art. Science you can teach, but it is clear that art you cannot teach, but you can encourage and train...."
What do you find are the greatest difficulties working to try to encourage an infrastructure, ensure the education is there, to find the proper talent, to make sure there are policies and support for entrepreneurship, this culture of accepting failure, this incubation, the R&D, VC and Angel environment? What is the most difficult thing in trying to set up in China?
"....My belief is that people are the same everywhere. What makes the difference is the environment and the conditions...."
What qualities make for good limited partners?
"....'What attracts an LP?'....successful track record....opportunity....Corporate VC....'What make him a good LP?'.....strategic added value.....active participation...."
What qualities make for good general partners?
"....creativity....experience in hi-tech entrepreneurship (not only financial).....technical background.....business background (including exits)....active participation on boards of portfolio companies....added value...."
What are your recommendations or best practices for starting and then managing an investment fund?
"....In China (relating to hi-tech startups).....Look for the deal flow.....A good and professional team....Establishment of a good source of internal deal flow (like an incubator)...."
What are your recommendations or best practices for starting and then managing an investment fund in Israel?
"....This question is very similar as if you asked the question about managing an investment fund in the Silicon Valley....."
Eliezer profiles his current investment research, its challenges, opportunities, and implications.
Over your long and distinguished career, what are your top lessons you want to share with the broad audience?
"....Spirit and the art of entrepreneurship....Role of government in interaction with the private sector....Professional mechanisms for making an investment....Need of structural tools and mechanisms...."
If you could sum up your life experiences with career tips for investment professionals, what would be your tips and the reasons behind them?
"....Venture Capital in hi-tech is like an orchestra where you have many instruments which are playing, but if the instruments are not tuned and synchronized you do not have music, you have noise. In order to create music, you have to know every player and what his role is in order to work in harmony. You have to be familiar with everything...."
Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare?
"....Hi-tech will be the major player in development of economies. On the world scale this will be the transition from territory driven economies to technology driven economies...."
You have volunteer involvements in a program which works to improve the world. Can you talk a little about that?
".....This is a program called 'Schools On-line' in Israel....Based on our understanding, the roots of conflict are lack of communication between people....What we wanted to create here was communication between sectors....We created a program with cooperation between two classes from different sectors with the involvement of the teachers. We started it about 14 years ago (with what was then advanced technology), we donated computers and taught the people about the internet....Today after many years of operation and philanthropy it is now supported by the Ministry of Education...."
What do you see as the top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
"....Education....Insemination of hi-tech entrepreneurial culture....Establishment of efficient government supporting mechanisms for the private sector...."
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....I don't think you missed any relevant ones....But to summarize what I have talked about....Establish an entrepreneurial culture by the acceptance of failure and the establishment of cross-national force multipliers....because this is the real potential now to take advantage of...."