When Harel Kodesh moved to Seattle in the 1980s after graduating from Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, the tech landscape was much different than it is today. Now an operating partner at Silver Lake, a global private equity firm that’s one of the largest technology investors in the world, Kodesh has worked as chief technology officer at GE Digital, executive vice president for cloud business systems at EMC Corp., and vice president of the information appliances division at Microsoft.
Jewish in Seattle: Why do you think Israel has become such a leader in the innovation sector in such a short time?
Harel Kodesh: First, I think the educational system, especially higher education, is top notch. The fact that there is a military system that allows people with the right training to innovate, and actually they do it at the encouragement of the state, is a huge help. By the time somebody leaves a technological unit in the military, they’re fully accomplished technologists — they built things that Israel security is based on, they operated them, they fixed them, they worked on them in the most severe conditions, and once you do that, you go into civilian life and you can do exactly the same thing as an entrepreneur or as part of a new startup.
What’s something interesting you’ve noticed about innovation?
Most people are trying to build something that can be incorporated into [an existing] structure. When you innovate, in many cases you have to examine the idea by building a whole new world, not necessarily fitting your idea into something else. In 99 percent of cases it fails, but if you worry about that too much, chances are you’re not going to innovate that well.
What should we be thinking about in regards to innovation?
At the end of the bubble in 1999, Seattle was actually becoming almost a replica of Silicon Valley. Then when the bubble burst, the tree was not rooted enough, and a lot of the VCs [venture capitalists] packed their bags and went back to Silicon Valley. You have two Snow Whites — Microsoft and Amazon — and not too many dwarves. Something has not completely gelled yet, and it’s interesting for Seattleites to think about what we need to do to really turn it into a hyperactive ecosystem.
Technion's Ties to the Emerald City
While the Technion and Seattle are far apart geographically — 6,700 miles, give or take a few — they’re close in spirit. An active alumni group of more than 400 live in the area, many of whom work in the tech, medical, biomedical, and engineering sectors. And like Harel Kodesh, plenty of notable names have ties to both locations. Here are four Seattle-area industry giants with Technion degrees.
Title Corporate Vice President, HoloLens Hardware and Custom Silicon
Technion Degrees MSc and DSc in Electrical Engineering
Spillinger led the hardware design for Kinect and developed microprocessors at IBM. “Try to be in an environment that knows how to recognize and reward you even if your project initially fails,” he told EE Times.
Title Boeing Endowed Professor of Aeronautics & Astronautics
Technion Degrees BS and MSc in Aeronautical Engineering
Founder of the aeroelasticity/structural dynamic section of the Israeli Air Force, Livne heads the airplane design education and research program at UW, with expertise in multidisciplinary flight vehicle optimization, aircraft design, and more.
Irena and Dmitry Balin
Company DB Best Technologies
TitleS Managing Partner and Co-Founder
Technion Degrees BS in Computer Science
At DB Best, Microsoft’s dominant database modernization, migration, and optimization partner, Irena Balin handles
software development, business operations, and technology
leadership. Dmitry leads business development and customer/partner engagements.