The following day, on January 9th, we visited two additional companies: Itamar, a medical device company, and Iscar, a metal working tools company. The theme of innovation was yet again quite strong, and is even included in the slogan to Iscar.
At Itamar Medical we were greeted and given a presentation by Giora Yaron, a co-founder. From his talk, it was evident that the culture of Israel has really helped the company develop into what it is. Although they are dealing with medical devices, the mechanisms, the operations, the engineering all still tie back to having the backbone and foundation from defense technology. Since every Israeli is required to join the army after high school, they develop an understanding of things that others around the world do not; this strongly contributes to the overall culture of the country. Due to the constant battles they are fighting, they must invest heavily in defense technology, but as Giora had mentioned, this investment goes beyond just the development of arms, it is really an investment into the knowledge of its people. Many of the high tech companies now use their knowledge gained from working with engineering in the military and apply it to other business sectors, in this example it is the medical industry. Being a part of the defense industry is a large part of the evolutional phases of the Israeli High Tech sector.
Giora Yaron also explained the importance and large recognition of the government. Without government support, even though the knowledge is there, many companies would never have been started. The government however, realizes the potential that has been created and have created various programs, many which have come from the Office of the Chief Scientist, to help put these skills their citizens learned from the army to use. From his own personal experience, Giora spoke to the fact that not only can technical skills come from the army, but management as well.
Itamar medical has developed technology that measures blood and can signal sleep apnea, a disease that can lead to coronary disease. The basic concept of their device is that they can detect this sleep apnea from the finger. A small device is fastened to the finger and a small sensor monitors activity. This compact machine allows the consumer to take the test conveniently in their very own home. The technical terminology for this product is “Peripheral Arterial Tone (PAT)”.It measures the volume changes in your finger’s pulse.
Although the technology at Itamar is extremely high tech and innovative, the greatest thing I learned from Giora’s talk is that “it requires 20 years of sweat to gain success over night”. If it was not for the experience through the army, the years of learning, looking for investors, working with the government, developing management skills in other areas, the company would not be running in the same successful way that it is today.
The second company that we visited was Iscar where their slogan is “Innovation never stops!” and according to this innovation is driven by their extensive R&D. Their mission is to keep the wheels of their industry turning by always having something new. At Iscar, they produce cutting tools for metalworking. It was founded by Stef Wertheimer and has now expanded to a multinational company present in over 50 countries. Today, 80% of the company is overseen and managed by Bershire Hathaway. At this visit we were met by Moshe Goldberg. As we learned about Iscar and the values of the company, it become eminent that the employees are one of their strongest assets. They believe that the key to success comes from academia and so they invest heavily in both their R&D and the people that work for them. With the success of their company, they believe that at this stage, they are competing against themselves. They create a benchmark against themselves and compete from there.
Yes, they have nano technology and robots that maximize their operations, but after visiting the company I have witnessed that their greatest asset is their culture and their people. They have developed a culture in which the employees are encouraged to thrive, and this is what keeps pushing the company forward.