Unit 8200: How The IDF Serves Technology Entrepreneurs

“In the early 1990s, by Avishai Avrahami, as is the case with most Israelis, when they finish school, he was drafted into the army. But Abraham was assigned to a division, which he was forbidden to speak even with their parents — unit 8200 involved in cybersecurity and intelligence”, — writes the edition. During his service he was given the task. Hack the computer network of some hostile state.

Had to figure out how to break into a network, how to crack the encryption, and where to take that amount of computing power that will allow you to process the encrypted data. Abraham came up with the following solution. He broke into the computer networks of two other hostile States and “stole” their computing power to extract data from the network of the state, which was the original purpose. In conversation with the magazine, he admits that if about the surgery then someone found out, there would be a major scandal.

“But in the end society still heard about Abraham, who is now 45 years old. After demobilization he created Wix, one of the global market-leading cloud platforms for web development”, — writes Forbes. The businessman says that he knows more than 100 people from his unit who, after leaving the service, created startups and subsequently sold them for big money. Another “graduate” of unit 8200, the 31-year-old Ron Reuther, has just sold his startup to Oracle for $50 million recalls in conversation with the publication of similar stories.

“Was the man who sold his startup to Apple for 300 million, and another, whose company for $500 million bought Cisco. We both lived in the same barracks”. The journal notes that Israel has many reasons to be a “nation of startups”, despite the fact that the country size yields to the state of new Jersey, and according to the population — new York. “In per capita terms, Israel can boast a large amount of venture capital, a large number of startups, a large number of scientists and technological experts than any other country in the world”.

Forbes connects this success with the activities of unit 8200. Official information about the number of people employed in it, but the magazine estimates it at about 5 thousand people, each of which works with the most modern technology in conditions when you need to make decisions which determine life or death, and with a small number of instructions from above. “Theres no one tells exactly how to solve the problem.

Internal culture is designed so that the command sets the task and gives great freedom in its decision. For the entrepreneur it is the most important skill. After working on five, 10 or 20 such projects, you will be able to come up with three things that a startup will succeed,” says Abraham. According to the publication, former members of unit 8200 has created more than 1 thousand startups.

“On the existence of the divisions really were not known 10 years ago, and his whole history consists of fragmentary information. Heres our version. The story of unit 8200 started before the war of independence 1948 during the British mandate in Palestine. Then it was called “Shin MEM 2” and tapped telephone conversations of the Arab tribes. In 1948 it was renamed the “515” is a random set of numbers which may be mentioned, without resorting to any words.

In 1956 the name was changed again — to “848”. The turning point came in 1973 after the Yom Kippur War, when the country, surrounded by enemies, caught off guard by the invasion of Egypt and Syria — it was the biggest Israeli intelligence failure in the history. The Syrians captured the officers unit, and he gave them important information, says the journalist Yossi Melman, specializing in matters of intelligence and national security,” writes Forbes.

After that, the unit got its present name — 8200. Its administrative structure changed in such a way that the members of his formation he knew nothing about the activities of his other colleagues. “Every formation, as a startup, relied on their own strength,” writes Forbes. In addition, Israel has realized that you can no longer depend on technologies from other countries, especially America,. “So 8200 became a national R&D hub, fuel for the nation of startups”.

Since conscription in Israel are subject to almost all citizens, shortly before graduation unit 8200 is exploring all future soldiers and can choose any, explains the journal. When the unit determine the candidates, they undergo rigorous interviews, tests, and then courses lasting up to six months on a wide range of subjects — from the connection to the Arabic language. “You pay attention.

On advances in mathematics, computer science, foreign languages, but most importantly — its potential, which is assessed by the ability to learn quickly, adapt to changing conditions, teamwork, and skill to work with what others thought impossible”, — writes the magazine. A former officer of Dor Skuler says that the school was “disgusting” a disciple, when “8200” drew attention to it. According to him, the unit can detect undiscovered geniuses, because it looks at what people can become, not on what is. The former commander of unit 8200 Yair Cohen recalls the job that got soon after entering the service in the early 1980-ies.

“You need $300 million, but only $3 million. Need 10 people, and there are only three. You need to look into the future and try to analyze what happens before the enemy will beat you to it”. After leaving the service, Cohen has created his own structure in Elbit Systems, one of Israels largest public companies specializing in cybersecurity.

“Israelis love each other to argue. This creates a flexible democratic system and allows you to let off steam. In combat units of the army, as in any other military organization, discipline and chain of command is not the issues to be discussed. But in the “8200” soldiers who think that the decisions of the commanders is wrong, can walk at least until the commander of the unit. This allows them a sense of ownership,” writes the journal.

In an example, the publication cites the story told by the Dor Scalera. Once he was alone “in the field” and was on the phone with the “chief decision maker in the country”, who wanted to know personal opinion of Schuler about something that he discovered. “I was 19 years old. I did it until my friends in the States studied on undergraduate courses.

In this period of life I had the most responsibility and influence on other people,” — said the ex-soldier. Now then obtained the skills he uses in his third consecutive start — Intuition Robotics. Another “graduate” of unit 8200, which interviewed Forbes, 29-year-old Kira Radinsky, he served in 2004-2007. After the army she worked at Microsoft, where he created, an algorithm based on historical data to predict the first 130 years of the outbreak of cholera in Cuba.

She later founded the company SalesPredict, which deals with Analytics in sales, and comprised of former soldiers of unit 8200. According to Radinsky, army experience allowed them to learn to “joint responsibility for a failed job, to win together and lose together”. “You either win, or die. The risk now is not terrible, because before I risked much stronger,” says Radinsky.

The father of Elad Benjamin, Menashe, a quarter of a century he served in unit 8200, where he commanded a division, and then created a company that produces software for processing medical images. “If not for the experience gained in the service, to create a company it would be difficult,” says 41-year-old Elad, who thinks the same thing about their own start associated with medicine. But the situation is even deeper. When the company Mesala Sr. bought a Kodak, it employs 55 people, a third of whom had served in the 8200.

A similar pattern in the company Elada, where half of the workers were serving in the unit.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the network of graduates of 8200 for the existence of the nation of startups. “It works like this. Contact buddy at 8200, which is soon withdrawn from service, and he knows when to resign other guys, and we just select them one by one. Are we calling each and talking. Your commander is already with us, why dont you go to see,” says Elad Benjamin.

The success of the division in the production of innovations there are different points of view, says Forbes. So, the author of the book “a Nation of smart people. The story of Israels economic miracle”, Saul singer is convinced that the army is not the ideal place for training the staff for the technology sector. “This recipe is not universal for the rest of the world, and for ourselves, we, too, want another.

We want this to be over. The question is how to do this without an army. Why this cant handle the education system. Education need to be reinvented,” he was quoted journal.

In Israel, the newspaper says, the plan is a curious trend. The Arabs are not obliged to serve in the army, even though they have the right to enter the army voluntarily, and therefore they have no chance to get into unit 8200. However, Israeli Arabs recently able to benefit from the current system of production innovation, aiming at reducing tensions between the two Nations. “Six years ago a group of alumni, “8200”, headed by Inbal Arieli under the non-profit initiative, Start-Up Nation Central is beginning to establish contacts with Arab communities in order to invite the best entrepreneurs to six-month courses that teach former members of the division”, — says the magazine.

The idea from the beginning was controversial, the newspaper notes. According to Ariely, venture investors immediately told her that studying at the program “8200” for Israeli Arabs — “this too”, but she was persistent. To get on the course almost as difficult as in the unit itself. One of the participants of the program became Israeli Arab Jafar Shabba, who is now developing his third startup.

He says that he had received from the courses very much — from the knowledge in the field of product design to marketing and financing. In addition, it has widened the circle of acquaintances. “When I speak to investors that have graduated from this program, they exclaim. “Wow!” It is very good for me,” says the entrepreneur.

“As long as people like Shabba pave this path, it is not difficult to imagine that once Israeli citizens-Arabs will get in the unit 8200. And then the world will also tell. “Wow!” And its very good for Israel,” sums up Forbes.

Read more: google.co.uk/software-engineering.html

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