Gilad Japhet

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Gilad Japhet
גלעד יפת
Gilad Japhet.jpg
BornDecember 19, 1969
Jerusalem, Israel
EducationBSc Software Engineering, Technion 1996, Summa Cum Laude
  • cyber security
  • entrepreneur
Known forCEO of MyHeritage

Gilad Japhet (Hebrew: גלעד יפת‎) (born December 19, 1969) is an Israeli entrepreneur and genealogist. He is the founder and CEO of MyHeritage, a high-tech company that has developed a platform for preserving family history and creating family trees. It also offers DNA testing.


Gilad Japhet was born in Jerusalem to Gideon Japhet, an attorney, and Sara Japhet, who won the 2004 Israel Prize in recognition of her contribution to Biblical studies.[1] Japhet has three sisters. His sister Shlomit Japhet-Bialik is the author of a travel guide series, "The Traveling Family". The family is directly descended from a line of distinguished rabbis, including Alexander Süsskind of Grodno, Eliezer Simcha Rabinowitz [2] and Binyamin Diskin. His grandfather, Chaim Japhet, was a member of the pre-state Jewish National Council, the deputy of Henrietta Szold and one of the pioneers of social work in Israel.[3] Japhet studied at the Hebrew University High School in Jerusalem. In 1984, he moved with his family to Oxford, England, where his mother was a visiting fellow. There Japhet became interested in personal computers, a field which was gaining momentum in those years. On his return to Israel, he established one of Israel's first computer programming groups on the Sinclair Spectrum computer, naming it "The Israeli Team."

In 1988–1992, Japhet served in the Israel Defense Forces as a technology officer. From 1992 to 1996, he studied software engineering at the Technion, and completed his BSc Summa Cum Laude.[4]

Japhet is married and the father of three. Today he lives in Moshav Bnei Atarot in Israel.[1]

Technology career[edit]

During his university studies, Japhet worked full-time at BRM Technologies as head of the computer virus analysis team (the product was later sold to Norton). His manager at BRM was Nir Barkat, who was later elected mayor of Jerusalem.[5] Japhet's work included analyzing computer viruses and creating algorithms for their detection and removal. Japhet was a member of CARO – an organization of anti-virus experts. Among his inventions was a new virus detection and classification system based on the similarity of code segments which significantly reduced the development time needed to detect and remove new viruses. In 1996–2000, Japhet worked for BackWeb Technologies, an intra-organizational communications technology company.[6] As product manager, he moved to Silicon Valley and contributed to the company's IPO on NASDAQ. At that point, Japhet took a six-month career break to research his family history, traveling around the world to interview relatives.[7] He then worked for Spearhead Technologies and Picatel Systems in product management positions, during 2001–2002.

Japhet is a popular speaker in Israel on topics of entrepreneurship, technology, DNA and genealogy


First MyHeritage office, Bnei Atarot

Japhet became interested in family history in the wake of a school project at the age of 13.[8] After interviewing his mother, genealogy became his hobby. In 2003, he created a simple software for family trees that became the basis of MyHeritage, a platform for building multi-lingual family trees. Based on software he created for his own use, he decided to launch a start-up focused on genealogy. The company, eventually named MyHeritage, started out in his home in Moshav Bnei Atarot near Tel Aviv.[9] As the number of employees grew, it moved to other premises in the moshav. Since 2012, MyHeritage has been headquartered in Or Yehuda.[10] The company uses a wide range of technologies to assist family history research, including face detection, semantic analysis, and DNA testing. MyHeritage's database of more than 9 billion records continues to grow and increase public awareness of genealogy. MyHeritage offers free tools for creating family trees, thereby making genealogical research accessible to the general population. The website has over 40 million family trees [11] in 42 languages.[12] At the end of 2016, the company launched a genetic DNA testing service with home kits.[13] In 2017, the company reported record revenues of $133 million.[14] On Israel's 70th Independence Day, the company was chosen for inclusion in the book Inventing Every Morning Anew, which lists the 70 most prominent inventions and innovations in the history of the state.[15]

Volunteering and philanthropic projects[edit]

Restitution of looted property[edit]

In 2013–2014 Japhet initiated and implemented a pro bono project for the restitution of Holocaust victims' property in East Germany after a reporter for an online newspaper, Ofer Aderet, revealed that there was a deadline for applying for compensation for assets stolen by the Nazis, and descendants would not be able to file claims after a certain date. That same day, Japhet conducted genealogical research in which he managed to locate the great-granddaughter of one of the victims on the list. The woman, who lives in Brazil, was informed of her right to claim the property. With the help of this project, many descendants of Jews murdered in the Holocaust were able to appeal to receive restitution for their property. [16]

Doreen Carvajal, a reporter for the New York Times in Paris, heard about this work and invited Japhet to cooperate with her in locating heirs, mostly Holocaust victims, whose artworks were stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Carvajal sent Japhet the names of four Jews listed in the MNR (National Museums Restitution) database of stolen art compiled by Rose Valland. [17] Through Japhet's genealogical research, the heirs of all four were located. She published a story about it in the New York Times that caused a stir and encouraged the French authorities to invest greater effort in locating heirs.[18] [19]

Digitizing cemeteries[edit]

In 2014, Japhet initiated a national project to photograph all the graves in the State of Israel, transcribe the information on the tombstones and publish photographs of the graves, to make them accessible to the public free of charge. As part of this project, Japhet recruited a team of 120 volunteers, half of them MyHeritage employees, to photograph the gravestones in Holon Cemetery, Israel's largest burial grounds, for the purpose of genealogical documentation. Within a few hours, pictures were taken of 150,000 gravestones, two thirds of the total. In the pilot for the project, 75,000 graves were photographed at Segula, a smaller cemetery in Petah Tikva.[1]

Family reunification[edit]

In 2016, Japhet established a DNA database to contribute to the reunification of Yemenite, North African and other families that were split up under mysterious circumstances in the early days of the state, an episode known as Yemenite Children Affair. The initiative was launched in cooperation with the Knesset Lobby on Yemenite Children headed by MK Nurit Koren.[20]

DNA Quest[edit]

In a pro-bono initiative in 2018, conceived by Japhet, MyHeritage announced it would provide 15,000 free DNA testing kits to individuals searching for their birth families and family members given up for adoption. The company currently charges $79 per kit, which contains cheek swabs.[21]

Chess competitions[edit]

Japhet is the organizer and sponsor of the Gideon Japhet Memorial Open Chess Tournament, an annual international competition dedicated to the memory of his father, Gideon Japhet, who was an avid chess and sports enthusiast. The competition attracts hundreds of chess players from Israel and around the world, and has been described as one of the strongest open chess tournaments in Israel.[22] [23]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2011, Sarah Lacy devoted a chapter in her book, Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky, to Japhet, as one the most influential global entrepreneurs outside the United States.[24] In 2014, he was included on the list of 36 "uberpreneurs" compiled by Peter Andrews and Fiona Wood, who the authors believe are transforming society.[25] [26] Japhet's achievements are documented in Robert Hisrich's book Advanced Introduction to Entrepreneurship [27] Japhet plays himself in the role of a DNA and genealogy expert in Aviv Talmor's 2014 documentary film I am Bialik.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Aderet, Ofer (December 21, 2014). Start-up aims to log all 200,000 gravestones in Israel's largest cemetery. Haaretz.
  2. ^ Kovno Stories: Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Rabinowitz.
  3. ^ Dash, J. (2003). Summoned to Jerusalem: The Life of Henrietta Szold. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 228. ISBN 9781592443055. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  4. ^ Corfu and Me, Ynet
  5. ^ Weissman, Lilach and Feldman, Batya (12 November 2008). Barkat, an early investor in Check Point, won 52% of the vote. Globes.
  6. ^ Andrews, P.; Wood, F. (2013). Uberpreneurs: How to Create Innovative Global Businesses and Transform Human Societies. Palgrave Macmillan UK. ISBN 9781137376152. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  7. ^ Pro tips on M&A from serial acquirer and MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet. Index Ventures.
  8. ^ Gobry, Pascal-Emmanuel (July 18, 2011). My heritage story: Gilad Japhet. Business Insider.
  9. ^ Talalay Dardashti, Schelly (May 3, 2006). Cutting edge geneaology. Ynet.
  10. ^ Klein Leichman, Abigail (September 27, 2017). Try to run a high-tech business with hens clucking outside. Israel21c.
  11. ^ Baumer, Lilach (March 4, 2018). Online genealogy company MyHeritage launches campaign to connect adoptees and birth families. Calcalist.
  12. ^ Levi, Ruti (January 5, 2018). Hashorashim lekhevra shel 133 milyon dolar beshana. TheMarker.
  13. ^ "Online Genealogy Company MyHeritage Launches Campaign to Connect Adoptees and Birth Families - CTech". Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  14. ^ "How MyHeritage found a new business in DNA". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  15. ^ Galit Hemi and Sofie Schulman, Lehamtzi kol boker mekhadash, Sipura shel hahadshanut hayisraelit, Yedioth Ahronoth-Sifrei Hemed, 2018, pp.296-299.
  16. ^ Venkataramana, Madhumita (17 April 2014). MyHeritage: reuniting the war's lost families. Wired.
  17. ^ MCC. "Site Rose-Valland - Musées Nationaux Récupération". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  18. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (January 30, 2014). Loot no longer: A reporter in France helps to return art taken by the Nazis, New York Times.
  19. ^ de Morant, Guillaume (Mars 22, 2014). Tableaux spoliés. La France peut mieux faire. Paris Match.
  20. ^ Zieve, Tamara (September 18, 2016). Start-up launches effort to reunify families of Yemenite children affair. Jerusalem Post.
  21. ^ "Online Genealogy Company MyHeritage Launches Campaign to Connect Adoptees and Birth Families - CTech". Retrieved 2018-06-24.
  22. ^ Afek, Yochanan (12 July 2016), Association of Chess Professionals: Uncompromising Chess Battles in Jerusalem. Chess Professionals org.
  23. ^ Gideon Japhet Memorial ACP Open Chess Tournament. Tournament site.
  24. ^ Sarah Lacy, Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky, John Wiley & Sons, 2011, pp.55-60
  25. ^ Peter Andrews and Fiona Wood, Uberpreneurs: How to Create Innovative Global Businesses and Transform Human Societies, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014, pp.149, 196-200
  26. ^ Übercast: Gilad Japhet. uberpreneurs.
  27. ^ Hisrich, R.D. (2014). Advanced Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. p. 190. ISBN 9781782546160. Retrieved 2018-06-13.

External links[edit]