How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

June 1, 2013

The Israel Conference in LA

Filed under: Good News,Israel,productivity,technology,work — Tags: , , — howdoyoujew @ 22:48

I attended the Israel Conference in LA this past Thursday (it continued into Friday but I had other commitments), and wrote up this reflection for publication. I’ll be doing reviews of several of the startups that exhibited there in the coming days and weeks, and, as referenced below, I’ll also be reviewing The Unstoppables, a new book on entrepreneurship that heavily draws on the Israeli startup spirit and culture (the book’s author, Bill Schley, and Graham Weston, who wrote the foreword, spoke on a panel at the Conference, hence the connection).

***
There’s some inherent risk to getting any group of hundreds of people together for a conference at a boutique hotel in Los Angeles. All sorts of logistical snafus could arise with the meeting spaces, Internet connectivity might be slow, traffic could of course be a problem, causing speakers or vendors to be late to their sessions, and on and on. But make this a gathering of people who tend to talk with their hands as much as Israelis are wont to do, and you’d just be asking for trouble. Or so it would seem if you only knew The Israel Conference on paper.

In practice, the fifth annual such meeting, which took place at West LA’s Luxe Hotel on Sunset Blvd. May 30 & 31, was a dynamic and injury-free event, featuring hundreds of attendees and representatives of dozens of Israeli and Israel-facing companies doing what people who love to talk do best – networking, making deals, and sharing ideas. The businesses included brand new to mid-stage startups, more established companies, and venture capital firms, all looking to be or be behind the next big thing. The driving force behind The Israel Conference is Sharona Justman, managing director of STEP Strategy Advisors, a business advising firm focusing on improving their clients’ profitability and market position through acquisitions. After being in Sharona’s presence for just a few minutes, you can’t help but be swept up in her positive energy, secure that her smile would light the way forward even if the electricity went out.

If you weren’t as immersed in both the Israeli economy and technology tools and toys as I am, you might be surprised at the plethora of innovative ideas coming out of Israel. You’d be less surprised if you’d read Start-Up Nation, the 2011 book that opened many people’s eyes to the remarkable success of the Israeli high-tech sector and broader economy (with its consistent growth over the last decade, even as countless other global economies have stagnated, shrunk, or utterly melted down). And you’d get completely over your surprise and just move into being inspired if you’d read The Unstoppables, the new book by Bill Schley (with a foreword by Graham Weston, founder of Rackspace). Schley and Weston, having read Start-Up Nation but with no previous experience in Israel, wanted to follow up and get another perspective on Israel’s entrepreneurial engine, so they did something incredibly Israeli: they flew to Israel with no agenda, no meetings set up, and no idea if they’d succeed. Of course, this being Israel, one contact turned into eight, which turned into dozens more, and by the end of the week, they had enough material for a book (a formal review of the book will follow). They shared the story of the genesis of the book and some of their impressions of Israeli ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit that imbues the Holy Land on a panel at The Israel Conference moderated by the conference’s co-chair, Yossi Vardi (known as the Godfather of Israeli high-tech).

Other panels at the conference covered topics such as cyber-security (particularly in the mobile device space), fundraising for startups at various stages of product and capital development, gaming, emerging sustainable energy solutions, and other areas where Israeli companies are on the bleeding edge of innovation. In between the panels, conference organizers built in plenty of time for attendees to network, schmooze, and – this being a Jewishly informed event – eat. The conference’s Pavilion of Companies featured some remarkable products and services offered by companies in varying stages of the startup cycle (some seeking funding to come out of limited beta testing, others that were just there to build awareness and maybe score additional clients and customers; I’ll review several of these individually in subsequent posts). But as often happens, some of the most interesting (and profitable) conversations happened off the beaten path, at small tables with three or four people who may not have known each other before this event. Arguably the greatest value in an event like The Israel Conference is to provide a space for people to find common ground and mutual personal and business interests that lead them to collaborate in ways that not only benefit them financially, but in many cases, in true Israeli and Jewish form, make the world a better place.

The next Israel Conference will take place in Los Angeles on May 29 & 30, 2014. Information is at http://www.theisraelconference.org/.

February 26, 2013

Remember ICQ?

Filed under: Israel,News,San Diego Jewish Community,technology,UCSD,work — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 11:40

Do you remember ICQ, the first Internet-wide instant messaging service? Do you remember that it was invented by four young Israelis? You do? Well, I just met the guy who gave them the money to start the company – his name is Yossi Vardi, and he’s known as the Godfather of Israeli High-Tech. His son Arik was one of the four kids who created Mirabilis, the company that marketed ICQ and was sold to AOL for around $400 million a year and a half after they released ICQ to the public.

Anyway, Yossi was in San Diego this week and I had the pleasure of attending a reception and lecture with him at the Rady School of Management at UCSD. I wrote up the evening for publication thusly (it was intended as a journalistic piece, not a blog entry, hence the non-bloggy voice). Make sure to read my note at the bottom.
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Sunday night at UCSD’s Rady School of Management, Israeli entrepreneur and high-tech investor Yossi Vardi gave an informative, at times uproariously funny talk on the culture of innovation and creativity that has innervated and driven Israel’s economy for almost two decades. Vardi should know a thing or two about this topic: in 1996, he gave his son and three of his friends the seed money to found a tech start-up. They created ICQ, the first Internet-wide instant messaging service, AOL purchased the company less than two years later for over $400 million.

Vardi regaled the 200+ member audience with many amusing anecdotes about his upbringing, which he says drove him to take the risks necessary to be successful as an entrepreneur and later a venture capitalist. Most notable were the stories about his mother, whose absurdly critical admonishments included telling him he was an idiot and negatively comparing him to all his “smarter” cousins. He also noted, however, that his mother was one of the first start-up entrepreneurs in Israel, saying that she started a small restaurant in Israel in the 1950s, when the country was under severe austerity measures. As he put it, she excelled in bioengineering, as she could turn any organic ingredients into chopped liver.

Interspersed between these tales were nuggets of business and innovation advice and trivia, including listing some of the major American technology companies that have major operations in Israel. Sitting in the audience and on the receiving end of a great deal of praise from Vardi was Dr. Irwin Jacobs, the founder of San Diego-based tech giant Qualcomm, which has purchased several Israeli companies and employs hundreds of people in its Israeli R&D center.

Vardi noted that entrepreneurship is a cultural, rather than technological or educational phenomenon, and that San Diego seemed to share a culture of innovation with Israel. He described innovators and creators as people who are impatient with the status quo, and noted the “hacker” mentality – the frame of mind of computer programmers, engineers, and other like-minded folks – as key to creativity. As an example, he pointed out that most people – typical users of technology – would look at a cellphone and ask, “How do I use this?” Hackers, innovators, dreamers who could go on to create the next big thing, look at the same gadget and ask, “How can I improve on this? What can I make it do that people haven’t thought about yet?” and other probing, out-of-the-box questions.

Vardi concluded his remarks by explaining how the Internet has changed the way products and services are developed, by empowering individuals to create and share ideas and tools. The engaging Q&A session, and the evening as a whole, was capped on a positive note as Vardi and a colleague, Rami Lipman, were joined by Dean Robert Sullivan of the Rady School of Management. All three spoke about technology innovation serving a greater need, and the importance of tech innovators and entrepreneurs, who are some of the most successful and wealthy individuals in the world, giving back to society.

Yossi Vardi’s visit to UCSD was co-sponsored by the Rady School of Management and the Jacobs School of Engineering; the lecture was part of StandWithUs San Diego’s Israel Startup Nation Series.
**
Best part of the night for me, besides all of it, was getting to meet Irwin Jacobs, the aforementioned founder of Qualcomm. Vardi had called out to Jacobs earlier in the evening to bring back Eudora, the much-loved email client Qualcomm discontinued supporting some years ago (yes, I know there’s an open source version available now, but it’s not the same). So when I chatted with Dr. Jacobs for a moment, I repeated that request, telling him that they had to pry the last supported version of Eudora away from me by force here at work. He smiled and told me that he still uses it! So yeah, I had a moment with Irwin Jacobs. It was awesome.

June 20, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together

I just successfully upgraded my WordPress installation, which powers this blog, to the latest version (3.0, called Thelonius – see the complete list of major WP releases, all named for jazz musicians). I did this with nary a bump, very few changes in settings, and everything seems to be right.

My first activities with the new version was changing the theme of the site (the look & feel theme, not the content theme) to WP’s default for this version, called Twenty Ten, then changing the header image that appears on each page. While the default image is nice, I wanted 1) to test the waters and modify something and make sure it worked, and 2) to personalize the site imagery. To that end, you’re currently enjoying a (cropped) view of the Brandeis Bardin Institute, home of BCI, the summer camp for Jewish young adults that I attended as a camper (’95) then returned to as an advisor/counselor (’98). This small image hardly does the place justice, but it’s indicative and evocative of the campus’s beauty. I’ll write and talk more about this place another time.

For now, I’m going to call it a night. The plan for tomorrow is to begin documenting my participation with a good friend in The Jonah Project.

Edited on 6/23 to change post title. Because I can.

February 19, 2010

I did it!

Filed under: entertainment,fun,humor,movies,random,sci-fi,technology,television,video — howdoyoujew @ 12:56

OK, in the grand scheme of things, and even in my own life, this doesn’t count as a HUGE deal, but it was an amusing distraction for a couple of days that kept my mind off much less fun things for at least a few minutes:

In the middle of last week, I brought up hulu.com on my laptop at home (probably to watch House with my lovely wife). On the front page was this promo for Ghostbusters, which had just been added to the Hulu catalog:
Ghostbusters screencap
The first thing I noticed, after thinking, “Huh, it’d probably be fun to see that again” was that the name of one of the stars was misspelled. I’ll give you a minute.

After verifying my suspicion (I knew I was right, but I needed independent confirmation, of course) with IMDB, I shot off this mildly snarky feedback email to Hulu:

He is one of the biggest names in American film/TV comedy history.

You are THE biggest name in online film/TV content delivery. You really shouldn’t make mistakes this egregious.

It’s spelled Aykroyd, not ACKroyd. Yes, it’s not spelled the way it sounds, but he’s been around long enough that I’d think you guys, at least, would know this.

Otherwise: keep up the great work!

A little over a week later, I got a response asking where I’d seen the error. After telling them (it was now on the Movies homepage, not the site’s front page), it took only 24 more hours to correct. Voila:
It's AYKroyd dammit!

February 9, 2009

Twelve minutes of excellence

Filed under: Blogging,Life Online,productivity,technology,video,work — Tags: — howdoyoujew @ 16:55

Seth Godin is a guy whose work I’ve been meaning to read/browse/digest for a while. This was an easily consumable chunk I thought I could handle in the middle of the day, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you are at all interested in social networks (online and off), technology, and people reaching their potential, watch this:

(via)

October 6, 2008

Debates? Who needs debates?

Filed under: Commentary,history,Politics,technology — howdoyoujew @ 14:33

Too many words. You know what they say about pictures…
The 2008 candidates as trains

August 25, 2008

Our civilization is doomed, reason #7080-175903

I just got off the phone with a teller at my banking institution. I had to call in to transfer some money from our joint savings account into our joint checking account, and to my lovely wife’s checking account. I don’t need to tell you why, I just need you to understand that I’m talking about our own money, transferred between our own accounts.

The reason I called in is that I got an error message when I tried to transfer the money online, where we take care of probably 99.9% of our banking needs. The error number is the cryptic one in the title of this post, and the text of the error message was utterly unhelpful, saying only that if the problem persisted I should call my banking institution. It did, so I did. And the teller was kind enough to explain to me why I encountered this problem:

Apparently there is a Federal regulation that prohibits a customer from making more than six (6) electronic transfers per month from any savings account to any other account.

Let me rephrase that, just so we’re all clear on what’s going on here:

The government of these here United States has a rule in place that prohibits ME from moving MY OWN MONEY from MY OWN SAVINGS ACCOUNT to MY OWN CHECKING ACCOUNT more than half a dozen times in a month without walking into a branch of the banking institution that I’ve chosen to hold MY MONEY.

The mind, it doth boggle.

Then again, since money is an artificial construct that has absolutely no intrinsic value to begin with, what am I complaining about? Oh, yeah… my rights, that was it!

Well, I wasn’t using them anyway…

fucking fascists

June 23, 2008

HDYJ Podcast: Episode 1

Filed under: Blogging,Family,fun,Life Online,Podcasting,technology — howdoyoujew @ 13:33

So this newest version of WordPress I’m now running, after that wacked-out update, has this handy “add media” gadget right in the interface instead of relying on a plugin, so I’m going to try it with the already-recorded episode 1. If this works, I’ll come back at ‘ya with another show this week… Here goes nothin’: How Do You Jew episode 1

June 4, 2008

HMO = Hellacious Medical Offerings

Filed under: Family,Health,Parenting,technology,work — howdoyoujew @ 21:16

OK, that was a stretch, but I couldn’t come up with a good Kaiser joke. I just need to vent my frustration at the situation I encountered yesterday when I took Hadarya for a physical and vaccination appointment.

Now, I’ll begin by saying that we love Hadarya’s pediatrician. Dr. S is a sweet, caring professional who takes her time with us and seems genuinely enamored with our little girl. Unfortunately, she works for an organization that is peopled with automatons blindly following rules and regulations and apparently at the mercy of the computer system they so proudly inaugurated within the last year or so. See, we made this appointment a couple of months ago to make up for the 18-month checkup we missed because Hadarya was sick, and the automaton who made the appointment had access to all our previous visits, of course. We are first-time parents, so there was no way for us to know that the second Hep A shot Hadarya needed had to be given at least six full months after the first one. Kaiser staff who work in the pediatrics department, on the other hand, should presumably be informed of this fact, yet our appointment was set for a date exactly one day short of this six-month period. Thus it was that after checking Hadarya out and giving her a clean bill of health, the doctor informed me that we were early and she was so sorry.

Did I mention that all this was happening between 8 & 10 in the morning, meaning that I was missing work?

She went on to say (in between further apologies) that Hadarya could, in fact, get the shot, but that the computer system wouldn’t register the early shot and that someone might try to give Hadarya another Hep A booster after the six-month mark passed. I was so flabbergasted and pissed about the one-day error, that it didn’t occur to me until after I made another appointment for later in the week and left the medical offices to argue with this absurd line of illogic. How, exactly, with me (and, by extension, Jenn) knowing that Hadarya got her shot already, would someone else give it to her again without our knowledge or consent? It’s not like she takes herself to these appointments. Yes, she’s developmentally advanced, but even we don’t think she’s THAT precocious.

I honestly got more angry with myself after I left the medical offices than I had been at the system. I was mad for not standing up for myself and my innocent daughter, to whom I’d given a prophylactic dose of Tylenol to help ease the anticipated pain of the shot and who would now have to go through another doctor’s office visit, with all the inconvenience that entailed for all of us. I was mad that I yet again allowed myself to be cowed by the arbitrary authority of someone in a white coat, while I find myself able to rail against all sorts of authority when not faced with it directly.

Yeah… I guess that’s it: I felt like a wimp, and that made me mad, because that’s the last thing a father wants to feel like, no matter how old his little girl is.

May 15, 2008

Geeky, goofy goodness

I am going to HAVE to experiment with some of our own pics (too few and far between, unfortunately, since I’m usually behind the camera, but they’re around), but ManBabies.com is a treasure trove of silliness.

As is this collection of swapped grandparents and babies at SomethingAwful, dating way back to 2004.

Also tremendous is this Flickr set documenting The Secret Lives of Stormtroopers.

I also like playing with Legos.

I lovez the interwebs.

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