Zohar Zisapel in Ashkelon
|Native name||Hebrew: זהר זיסאפל|
|Born||February 15, 1949 (age 65)
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Occupation||Businessman in Israel's High-Tech Industry|
|Known for||"Father" of Israel's High-Tech Industry|
Zohar Zisapel (born February 15, 1949; Hebrew: זהר זיסאפל), is a successful Israeli entrepreneur in Israel’s advanced hi-tech industry, sometimes referred to as "the Bill Gates of Israel." The RAD Group of companies he co-founded with his brother, Yehuda Zisapel, has been called "the world's most successful incubator" of telecom-related start-ups by Business 2.0 magazine.
The RAD Group employs 4,500 people and closed 2011 with a total of $1.2 billion in global sales. Four RAD Group companies are currently traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange: Ceragon Networks, Radware , RADCOM, and Silicom.
Zisapel was born in Tel Aviv, one of three children of immigrant parents from Poland who owned and ran a shoe store on Herzl Street, then one of the city’s main arteries. He received a public education and upon graduation from high school he enrolled as a student at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. He received his B.Sc and M.Sc in electrical engineering from the Technion and later earned an MBA from the Tel Aviv University. To help finance his education, he worked in his spare time supplying lighting to Tel Aviv discos, eventually becoming the largest manufacturer of strobe lights in the country.
Following his undergraduate education at the Technion, Zisapel completed his compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), after which he was hired by the Electronic Research Department of the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, ultimately serving as its head. He received the Israel Defense Prize in 1979 for his work.
Zisapel is known throughout Israel’s business community for his penchant for wearing jeans and sandals while at work and his preference for flying economy while traveling abroad. He is the father of two children: a daughter, Klil, an accomplished artist and Hebrew writer whose books have been translated into German, Dutch and Chinese; and Michael, a physician.
In the mid 1970s, Yehuda Zisapel, Zohar's elder brother, founded a small private company that marketed data communications products. That one company, Bynet, would eventually become Israel’s leading system integrator and grow into a group of eight companies of its own. The data communications products Bynet distributed in Israel in the later half of the 1970s were all manufactured abroad. Though today Israel hosts more companies traded on NASDAQ than any other country apart from the United States and China, at that juncture in its history, Israel’s exports were disproportionately agricultural. The country had no home-grown, export-oriented hi-tech telecommunications industry. Undeterred by the fact that no venture capital was then available in the country, the Zisapel brothers decided to try their luck by establishing an export-oriented company in Israel to manufacture the types of devices that Bynet had been distributing.
Founding RAD Data Communications
In 1981 Zohar Zisapel resigned from his position at the Ministry of Defense and, together with Yehuda, founded RAD Data Communications Ltd. Operating from small, cramped quarters in the back of Bynet’s offices, Zohar oversaw the development of RAD’s first product, a miniature modem that would revolutionize the industry. The modems that were then on the market were the size of pizza boxes. RAD’s modem, however, could fit into one’s hand, and, remarkably, it did not require an independent power source, having been designed to operate instead by utilizing power flowing over the telephone line. One version of this modem, SRM-3, would be recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest ever manufactured. Within two years of its founding, RAD had become a profitable international manufacturer of access solutions for data communications and telecommunications applications. In 1987 the company had reached $10 million in annual sales. RAD won the Israel Export Prize in 1993, the year in which its sales first exceeded $50 million. It surpassed the $100 million mark in global sales in 1996.
Creating the RAD Group
The Zisapel brothers had expanded their focus beyond miniature modems. While RAD would go on to release its first fiber optic product in 1986 and its first multiplexer one year later, the Zisapels were developing new ideas for communications products for enterprise applications - adapters for servers and security appliances; integrated network management solutions; video conferencing infrastructure and development tools; wireless devices, and other industry niches. But rather than follow the traditional industry paradigm by having their one existing company branch out into new areas beyond its original mandate, the Zisapels decided to found a new company that would focus on each specific industry niche they targeted. This approach grew into the RAD Group, a family of independent companies that develop, manufacture and market solutions for diverse segments of the networking and telecommunications industry.
Business philosophy and corporate values
What was unique about the Zisapels' business philosophy was that each company would operate independently, without a holding company, but all of the companies would be guided by them under a collective strategic umbrella. Companies may cooperate in the development of their solutions, engage in joint marketing activities and benefit from a common management structure. This decentralized business philosophy was designed to maximize the advantages inherent in smaller business units, such as flexibility, entrepreneurial spirit and management focus. As a result, since 1984, when the RAD Group came into being, it has spawned more than 185 companies, 8 IPOs and 19 mergers and acquisitions.
Former members of the RAD Group include LANNET, which was sold to Madge Networks in 1995 and then to Lucent in 1998; Armon, sold to Bay Networks in 1996; RADNET, sold to Siemens and Newbridge Networks in 1997; RADLINX, sold to VocalTec in 1998; RADWIZ, sold to Terayon Communications in 1999; RADLAN, sold to Marvell in 2003; RND, sold to USR Electronics in 2003, RiT, sold to Stins Coman Group, 2008, SANRAD, sold to OCZ Technology in 2012, and Radvision, sold to Avaya in 2012.
Zisapel has stated that he views corporate citizenship as a central element in RAD’s work ethic. Given the company's leadership role in the telecommunications industry, he believes that the company should serve a leadership role in developing and funding innovative programs that benefit the community around it. In order to support higher education, for example, RAD awards dozens of scholarships each year to outstanding university students majoring in engineering and computer science who otherwise would be unable to finance the full costs of their tuition. In a typical year, fifty such scholarships, worth over $250,000, are allocated.
One of Zisapel’s charitable contributions is to donate fully equipped computer rooms to educational institutions that serve children at risk and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. More than ten such projects are undertaken each year by RAD at a cost of approximately $500,000 annually. Zohar and Yehuda Zisapel have also donated $4.5 million to establish the Sara and Moshe Zisapel Nanoelectronics Center at their alma mater, the Technion, named in memory of their parents.
Awards and honors
- 1994 - Israel Export Award and Entrepreneur of the Year Award
- 1996 - Hugo Raminceanu Award for Economics
- 1998 - Nominated by the Technion as a Distinguished Fellow of its Faculty of Electrical Engineering
- 1998-2000 - Chairman of the Israel Association of Electronic Industries (IAEI)
- 1999 - Israeli Industry Life Award
- 2001 - Doctor Honoris Causa from the Technion
- 2004 - Israel Communications Award
- 2011 - Lifetime Achievement Award from the Israel Association of Electical and Electronic Engineers
- On its Web site, the Technion lists Zohar Zisapel as one of its most illustrious alumni.
- "25 Years of RAD Group: A Conversation with Zohar Zisapel", by Mae Kowalke, May 22, 2006
- "The Startup Factory: How a little-known Israeli telecom became the world’s most successful incubator", Business 2.0, August 2005
- "Zohar Zisapel, the RAD data of the world's telecom industry", by Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c, February 2, 2009
- “Zohar Zisapel: Founder and Chairman, RAD Group,” VON Magazine, May 2007
- "RAD Group Chairman Zohar Zisapel to Speak at VITAL Summit: Hugely Successful RAD Group Has Six Companies Listed on NASDAQ", by Fred Diamond, September 22, 2002
- "Solving an Israeli high tech riddle", by Allison Kaplan Sommer, Israel 21c, February 26, 2006
- Computer Business Review, August 10, 1992
- "Zisapel Zings Innovating Incumbents", Light Reading, May 15, 2006
- האמא של הסטארט-אפים: קבוצת רד הולידה 110 חברות, The Marker, January 18, 2012
- "The RAD Group - World Leaders in Voice and Data Communications Technologies," The RAD Group, June 2011
- רד תקשורת סוללת את הדרך ללימודים גבוהים, Ma'ariv, January 8, 2013
- "Technion alumni Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel continue to support their alma mater at every opportunity," by Greer Fay Cashman, The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 2007
- תעודת הוקרה על מפעל החיים בתחום תעשיית החשמל, האלקטרונירה וההיי-טק לאחים יהודה וזהר זיסאפל ,New Tech Magazine, December 23, 2011
- VON Magazine - Front cover story, May 2007
- 25 Years of RAD Group: A Conversation with Zohar Zisapel - by Mae Kowalke, TMCnet, May 22, 2006.
- Zisapel Zings Innovating Incumbents - by Light Reading, including a video interview, May 15, 2006.
- RAD Group Chairman Zohar Zisapel to Speak at VITAL Summit - by Fred Diamond, September 22, 2002
- Video Conference Now or Never? - a recorded lecture of Zohar Zisapel on Blip TV