The Golani Officer who Became the Most Successful Entrepreneur in Israel

Eyal Waldman, one of the leading and most successful high-tech entrepreneurs in Israel and the man who founded Galileo and Mellanox, speaks about his army service (“a school for leadership”), about selling Mellanox to Nvidia (“a great deal for all parties”), and estimates that the Israel high-tech industry will continue to remain in the lead (“its condition is great”).

Joel Tzafrir | Menahalim | September 2019

Eyal Waldman. Photo: Courtesy of Mellanox

Rehovot-Scottland-Jerusalem: “I went to elementary school in Rehovot. Then we moved to Scotland to follow my mother, who went to get her post-doc. We then went back to Jerusalem, where I studied at “Boyar” high-school – one of the best high schools in the country that also offers social-values education. As a child, I moved from one place to the next, and each time I didn’t only change homes, I also changed friends. The disadvantage lies in the fact that you don’t grow with the same group of people, from 1st grade to your senior year. But it also entails advantages – you open up to the world, learn new cultures. I find it interesting that my children had a similar experience. They went with me to California, where I worked for several years.”

The Technion: “The Technion is where I obtained both my BSc and MSc. It is one of the best educational institutes in Israel and the entire world. Both in terms of the thoroughness, as well as the content taught and the quality of the professors. The institution rightfully earned its 8th place for its number of Nobel Prize winners.”

From Elbit to Galileo

Elbit: “Elbit is my first workplace. Fine organization. I worked there for six years as a programmer on a mission related to the Lavi project. Elbit was then a sub-contractor of the project. In my opinion, the subcontracting method is not good. It causes laziness and covert unemployment in the organizations that use it.”

Intel: “An incredible company, moving quickly forward. I learned a lot while being there – running a multinational team, running varied projects, and being thorough.”

Galileo: “During my work at Intel, I thought that instead of working for an American company, perhaps I should start an independent Israeli company. I used to meet some friends at the pub, and we’d toss ideas around. We turned to the CEOs of American and Japanese companies and offered them to open a DESIGN center in Israel. One of the CEOs who agreed to meet with us was Len Perham, the IDT CEO. We presented the idea to him, and he recommended that I meet with Avigdor Willenz, who worked with him at the time, and together with him, we founded Galileo in 1993.

“The company developed chips for communication networks. Memory was expensive at the time, and the formative idea was to make it cheaper. We managed to create a component for printers that reduced the printer’s memory and diminished the costs. We sold the SYSTEM CONTROL component to MIPS, and it was a great success. I then worked as the VP and ran the engineering division of the company. Then, in 1997, the company went public. Later on, our paths split. Avigdor and I had a difference of opinions, which also included an emotional aspect. Afterward, the company was sold to Marvel.”

The Mezuzah installment ceremony at the new Mellanox building at the headquarters in Yoqneam. From the right: “Eyal Waldman, Jansen Huang, CEO, and founder of Nvidia and Simon Alfasi, mayor of Yoqneam (Photo: Yossi Massa)

“I always looked at the long term”

Founding Mellanox: “It was after retiring from Galileo in 1999. I sat at home for three weeks and realized I wanted to do something else. I was in Sunnyvale, California, at the time. A few investors who knew me had heard I was interested in founding something new and said they would invest money in me. I had heard then about the new NGIU standard and said to myself, ‘it sounds like a great idea for a company.’ Then we founded Mellanox with Michael Kagan, Roni Ashori, and Shai Cohen. We focused on developing and manufacturing products and electronic devices for fast communication systems in InfiniBand and Ethernet technologies.

“Since then, I have worked as the company’s CEO, and for several years I also served as its chairman. At first, I funded the company by myself, but then we raised money from ‘Sakoya’ and others. Venture capital funds wanted to invest and in fact the money turned to me to do something. In 2007, the company went public on the NASDAQ and raised 500 million dollars. In July 2007, we made a dual-listing on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The company’s market value is estimated at 5.9 billion dollars and it employs about 3,000 employees.”

About the technology: “Mellanox is considered a pioneer in the InfiniBand technology (a standard for fast transfer of data), which together with its other Ethernet solutions (data communication standard) is currently used in more than half the supercomputers in the world, on the TOP500 list, and in many leading data centers.

The company offers a selection of fast connectivity solutions designed to accelerate data traffic between various servers or devices and storage solutions. The variety of products – adapters, switches, software, and silicon – accelerate applications’ launch time and maximize revenue for a wide range of markets including high-performance computing, data centers for organizations, Web 2.0, cloud computing, storage, telecom, and financial services.”

World leader: “Today, Mellanox is a world leader in providing end-to-end smart connectivity solutions for data center servers and storage systems, which is why Facebook, Alibaba, and all the big ones use us. We are the best, and using our solutions, the computer works much more efficiently. Mellanox’s technology affects us all. Our products assist in medication research and production, improving vehicle safety, climate studies, establishing systems for early warning of natural disasters, and also in the entertainment industry – for example, in implementing special effects in motion pictures.”

 “I didn’t work for the analysts”

Managing a technology company: “There were many ups and downs. I can’t say it was easy. There were difficulties in adapting the technology, and there were challenges related to the financial market. The company only started standing on its feet in 2006. You constantly have to stay in contact with the clients. I always tell entrepreneurs at the beginning of their career: ‘Be professional, consistent even if there are fluctuations, and don’t give up. Given, of course, that you know what you are doing. And most importantly – have uncompromising integrity.”

Mergers and acquisitions: “To date, we have made nine acquisitions at a scope of 1.1 billion dollars to accelerate our growth. The major purchases are Voltaire from Ra’anana, which we purchased for 218 million dollars in cash. Voltaire provided communication infrastructure solutions and computer networks for data centers, and the merger of the two companies created a leading provider of connectivity solutions. In 2016 we purchased and merged EZchip for 800 million dollars. This company specialized in designing and developing integrated processors for use in high-speed communication networks. It gave us data transfer processing capabilities, ones we could not achieve on our own.”

Development centers in Palestinian cities: “Mellanox has three such development centers – in Gaza, Nablus, and Rawabi. The first of these three centers was founded in 2010, and in Gaza, the company started employing employees in 2016. Our Palestinian neighbors are a human reservoir with tremendous potential. They are just as smart as we are. Their employment is also right on a political level. I brought five companies to Gaza and now a huge American company as well, of which I cannot yet speak.”

Name: Eyal Waldman.
Age and family status: 59 + 3 children.
Residency: Tel-Aviv.
Education: BSc in Computer Sciences and MSc in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.
Position: President and CEO of Mellanox.
Previous positions: VP of Engineering at Galileo Technologies Project Manager at Intel, Software Engineer at Elbit.
Hobbies: Scuba diving, ski, horse riding, and boating

Contribution to society: Personally donates to many organizations. Through Mellanox – contributes to the promotion of excellence in education (rewards to outstanding teachers who meet predetermined criteria), assisting Olympic athletes, and assisting in rehabilitating reservists suffering from post-trauma (battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade).

Something people don’t know about him: In 2016, he was awarded an honorary PhD from the Technion.

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