I made my first trip to Israel the week of Oct 15th, and spoke at the VC Summit on the morning of the17th. The event was coordinated and planned by my colleague, Barak Shein.
The morning session was limited to VCs and then opened up to a town hall meeting in the afternoon -- co-sponsored by leading Israeli VC, Pitango -- with the theme "The Future of Communication Services."
Moshe Lichtman heads up Microsoft's Israel R&D Center and he kicked of the morning with a casual and engaging presentation on How Microsoft Israel is working with the local community. I followed Moshe with a discussion of how the Microsoft Emerging Business Team operates worldwide and answered a lot of great questions from a very boisterous and friendly crowd. Questions included:
Why doesn't Microsoft have a startup fund like, say, Intel's?
- there's no shortage of liquidity, so the market doesn't need our investment
- we are software developers; not investors
- an investment in one company would likely distort our perspective on partnering with, or acquiring, others
Does Microsoft just look for potential threats like Google and try to head them off?
The questioner said this was asked kindly and in jest, so I took him at his word and answered with another question:
- if it's that easy to spot future winners why bother to be in the software business?
David Vaskevitch, Microsoft CTO, wrapped up the morning with an insightful view of Microsoft as an innovator and also delved in to some of the technology issues the company is tackling.
The town hall style meeting in the afternoon focused on communications and two panels compared the perspectives of the tech community (the mobile operators and carriers are doomed) with those of the carriers themselves (we are differentiating around our franchise).
It was an excellent day. The audience was boisterous and very friendly and I felt at home. Thanks for the invitation and the opportunity, Barak.