Curiosity Expert: Yossi Vardi
Yossi Vardi is one of Israel's early tech entrepreneurs. For 41 years he founded and helped build over 70 tech companies in diverse areas of software, energy, Internet, mobile, electro-optics, clean water and others. In 1969, at the age of 26, he co-founded and was the first CEO of Tekem, one of the very first software houses in Israel (which became the largest software company at the time, was sold to Tadiran, went public and now is part of Ness). He also co-founded Alon oil company, ITL (International Laser Technologies, went public), Granite Hacarmel (went public) and others. In 1996 he became the founding investor of Mirabilis - the creator of ICQ, which is the first Internet-wide Instant messaging. The company, which practically had no revenues, was sold to AOL just 19 months after it released its product for over 400 million dollars. The sale inspired a whole generation of young Israelis, creating a wave of start ups. In recent years Vardi is actively engaged in founding and helping young internet companies. Among the companies he invested in, or helped to build are Answers.com (went public), Gteko (sold to Microsoft), Airlink (sold to Sierra), Tivella (sold to Cisco), Scopus (went public), CTI2 (sold to Audiocodes), speedbit, Tucows (went public) , Foxytunes (sold to yahoo), Starnet (sold to IAC). He was advisor to the CEOs of AOL, Amazon.com, Allied-signal, Siemens-Albis and others.
Vardi is a member of the World Economic Forum, of the advisory board of Amdocs and of blackberry ventures, and serves as an advisor on Middle-Eastern economic affairs to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. He is the Co-Chair of the European Union - Israel Strategic Business Dialogue.
Vardi had a long civil service career serving as Director General of the Ministry of Development (at the age of 27), and of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. The Ministry of Development was in charge of the natural resources sector, the electric energy sector, water desalination technologies, research and regulation of oil explorations, the desert research institute, the geologic and the geophysics institutes and others. He served as the chairman of Israel Chemicals (at the age of 28), of Mifaley Tovala, of Harsit and Hol Zach, and as a member of the boards of Israel Electric Corporation, Dead Sea Works, Dead Sea Bromine, Dead Sea Periclase, Haifa Chemicals, Chemicals and Phosphates, and others. He also chaired the Oil Explorations Concessions Council.
The Ministry of Energy was in charge of the sector, including oil purchasing policy and regulation, oil explorations, electric generation, alternative energy and others. Vardi also chaired the Israel National Oil Company, and was a member of the board of the Oil Refineries Ltd. During his tenure Israel discovered and developed oil fields in the Gulf of Suez. Vardi handled the oil part in the peace agreement with Egypt. He also served as Consul For Economic Affairs of the State of Israel in New York, and as an advisor to the Israeli mission to the U.N. After retiring from the civil service Vardi co-founded Granite Hacarmel, who bought Sonol oil company, he co-founded Alon oil company. He acted as an advisor to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program on issues of energy policy and strategy in the developing world, and assisted Ormat Technologies to identify and develop its geothermal activity. Vardi chaired the Public Commission for the Regulation of the Electricity Sector. During Israel's peace negotiations he served as special advisor to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance, and headed the economic negotiations with Jordan. He served on the Advisory Council of the Bank of Israel and on the board of directors of the Development Corporation for Israel (State of Israel Bonds). He served on the boards of Maariv, Elite, Scitex, Bezeq, Arkia, Elisra, Hamashbir Hamerkazi and others. He also chaired a number of government-appointed commissions and committees, among them the Public Commission on Raising Venture Capital in the Stock Exchange, the Fertilizers Development Council, and others. He also took part in the formation of both Yozma and The Bi-national Industrial Research and Development Fund (BIRD-F). He served on the board of directors of Amdocs, and on the advisory board of 3i. He was the chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation, was a member of the council and the executive committee of the Open University of Israel and the board of trustees of the Hebrew University and on the board of governors of Weizmann Institute.
A graduate of the Technion, Israeli institute of Technology, Dr. Vardi earned his D. Sc. (thesis received the Kennedy-Leigh award), and M.Sc (dissertation with distinction) in Operation Research, and B.Sc. in Industrial Management Engineering (summa cum laude). He is co-author of Electric Energy Generation: Economics, Reliability and Rates, published by MIT Press. He also published various scientific papers on energy and operation research. He received an honorary doctorate from the Technion, twice the Prime Minister award for life achievements in the high tech area, The Industry Award, for his contribution to the development of Israel's industry, the Entrepreneur Of the Year and the Hugo Ramniceanu prize for Economics from Tel Aviv university, the CEO's Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame from the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, a Certificate of Merit for the pioneering of the software industry and Information Technology from the Israel Chamber of System Analysts, was nominated as one of The Most Influential International Executives by The Industry Standard and other awards. Vardi is a co-holder of a patent on instant messaging on telephones and is funding fring a global market leading Mobile VoIP service, as well as a number of other ventures in the mobile space.
He is married to Talma and the father of Arik, co-founder of ICQ, Oded and Danny.