Tech of the town! Israeli firm seeks new CEO

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Tech of the town! Israeli firm seeks new CEO

Microdel entrepreneur Yossi De Levie tells Joe Millis why he wants to hand over the baton to someone who can invest, lead and succeed

Joe Millis is a journalist

Novokid is a natural, plant-based treatment, which tackles lice and  lice eggs
Novokid is a natural, plant-based treatment, which tackles lice and  lice eggs

If you have a spare $3 million (£2.25 million) to invest, an Israeli serial entrepreneur has just the offer for you. 

Yossi De Levie, the man behind 19 successful start-ups, is looking to relinquish the leadership of Israeli technology incubator Microdel and bring aboard the next CEO-investor. 

A sprightly 70-year-old – who doesn’t sound his age – he says: “You have to know when to stand aside and 70 seems to me to be the right age.”

He began investing “in 1974, upon completion of my army service, when
I established a real estate development company that at its peak employed 70 workers”. He adds: “As a member of the Israeli Union of Industrialists, I also voluntarily assisted in the construction of the Ashkelon Marina.” 

From there, De Levie branched out into playground equipment. His Games & Sports company, which became a leading Israeli manufacturer and exporter, sold more than 300 products to the international market with annual revenues of $15 million. 

Yossi De Levie

In 2002, Games & Sports was acquired by Gaon Holdings, controlled by the late Benny Gaon.

His current company, Microdel, which he set up in 2004, focuses on business development and exit processes, and offers a diverse entrepreneurial-technological incubator for the development of start-ups, both high and low-tech. 

The start-ups under the Microdel umbrella have created products ranging from a bio-filtration capsule for cleaning fishponds and a twist-and-sit folding stool that is sold all over the world. 

This is how De Levie defines the Microdel he founded, in order to help inventors fulfil their dream. 

“There are 17 entities in the incubator,” he says. “Some will be acquired and some will bring in revenue from sales. These are a dozen core companies and the rest are other concepts that have not yet been materialised as commercial companies. 

“We have a bio-filtration capsule for dealing with one of the most painful, and expensive problems facing industrial fish farmers that was developed by one of our subsidiaries, Sea Dream.

The Mini Max stool

“Such a company will make an exit for hundreds of millions of dollars and the CEO will be among those who profits from its sale.”

His folding Mini Max stool is sold in Japan, the Netherlands, on QVC US and in other countries around the world.

Other Microdel successes include Novokid, a natural, plant-based treatment, which tackles lice and lice eggs, the portable and accurate MIDetector heart monitor developed by subsidiary Corsens Medical and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and an on-land aquaculture farm in the Negev, which raises 2,000 tons of Barramundi fish in the heart of the desert.  

Microdel’s management team includes expert leaders from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and focuses on identifying the few most promising and extraordinary ideas with the highest potential to become profitable and marketable products. 

Through pinpointing of the right ideas and close and continuous involvement by Microdel’s management team and advisory board, the selected ideas grow from early concept to a global, product-ready company. All portfolio companies work in full synergy with each other to ensure mutual success.

In the first two years after its establishment, Microdel turned to students at universities and colleges in order to find suitable ideas for a start-up. 

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“We published one ad and got 40 ideas every day. Today, after sorting out the right ideas, we are interested in selling the same start-ups in which we developed the ideas, making an exit and making a profit.”

“Since its inception, [Microdel has] sorted 14,000 ideas, in order to promote the best and avoid failures,” De Levie says, adding: “After selecting the best ideas, we set up subsidiaries, in which each start-up develops and promotes their product.” 

What differentiates Microdel from other entrepreneurial-technological incubators is, says De Levie, that most of the entities “deal with sales and business development; this is thanks to strict selection, correct planning and selection of the right group of investors”. He adds: “This is a company that is based on thinking outside the box.”

Microdel isn’t quick to blow its own trumpet; it rarely “makes noise in the media – we know how to make the right moves quietly and register success”. 

Israel, the start-up nation, “has a very impressive pool of minds and ideas,” he notes when asked about the benefits of investing in the country. 

“The advantage of human capital in the country is the ability to think creatively. Israel is different from the countries of the world, given the collective memory of the Jewish people.”  

Thinking outside the box, De Levie adds, has “become an integral part of the DNA of the Jews… Even after the establishment of the state, if we return to the Israeli wars, such as the Yom Kippur War, it was a people fighting for its survival. The wars we go through are wars of survival.”

Now De Levie is “looking for a CEO who I can mentor. He or she will invest in the company in exchange for an equity stake that will pass into their hands and who will later inherit my part”. 

The ideal candidate will have – apart from the $3m to invest – “skills and abilities in business development and understanding of finances. It is not a problem to find a CEO who will be responsible for management and promotion”. 

He continues: “The new CEO’s success will be reflected in increasing sales and exiting most companies. At the same time, success for me is establishing an inheritance chain, with the transfer of management into the hands of a CEO who can serve as a mentor and march the incubator and its subsidiaries forward for many years.” 

When asked why he thought his successor might be in the UK, De Levie says: “The atmosphere towards Jews is changing in the UK and in Europe. Many are considering making aliyah to Israel that, Covid-19 aside, has become a true paradise. Any person who wants to immigrate to Israel will want a business of their own there, where they can leave their mark. Microdel is a perfect opportunity. An established business that is constantly innovating and growing.”

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