Not many Israelis can boast "I changed the face of the world". VocalTec Communications chairman Dr. Elon A. Ganor can. Dr. Ganor is not a modest type, and many don't like it, but no one can deny the fact that he headed the first company to facilitate telephone calls through the Internet.
It happened in February 1995, when VocalTec announced its Internet Phone software, which enabled voice communication between computers over the Internet. At the time, VocalTec did not grasp what a revolution it had started. At the time, only a cheap Internet alternative to expensive international calls was spoken of. Today, it is common knowledge that Internet Protocol (IP) is the communications infrastructure of the future, while Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the future method for any telecommunications whatsoever.
Dr. Ganor, by the way, did not develop the software, which is credited to Alon Cohen. Cohen cofounded VocalTec with Lior Haramaty in 1991.
Dr. Ganor, MD, 49, turned to the world of business immediately after completing medical studies in the IDF academic reserve. He was pushed into it by his father-in-law, Albert Tal. During 1987-1990, Dr. Ganor managed a Swiss bio-technological start-up company named Virovahl, which developed a kit for a synthetic peptides-based test for AIDS. The kit was sold to Swedish pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia, and Dr. Ganor's future was assured.
Then came VocalTec. Dr. Ganor mediated between the founders and the Swiss holding company La Cresta, which he owned, together with Albert and Ami Tal. La Cresta acquired half of VocalTec's shares in 1991. In VocalTec's 1996 issue on the US stock exchange, La Cresta sold shares for $4.3 million, the money going into Albert Tal's pocket. In return, he transferred his share to his son Ami and Dr. Ganor, each of whom currently holds a sizeable stake in the company.
VocalTec has had its troubles since then, but it still survives and is apparently doing well: Deutsche Telekom acquired 21% of its shares, it has strategic agreements with almost all the world's large telecommunications manufacturers, and it is still awaiting its big breakthrough. Perhaps that will come when it is acquired by Cisco, as rumor has it.
VocalTec continues to develop products, Dr. Ganor continues to guide ideas, mostly in marketing, and the company struggles to survive in a market of giants. Whether or not it succeeds, Dr. Ganor has written his page in world technological history.
Published by Israel's Business Arena on December 14, 1999