Israeli tech entrepreneur Zohar Zisapel dies at 74

Zohar Zisapel  credit: Aviv Hofi
Zohar Zisapel credit: Aviv Hofi

Together with his brother Yehuda, Zisapel founded RAD Data Communications, which spawned a host of Israel tech companies.

Zohar Zisapel, one of Israel’s most prominent technology entrepreneurs and a senior figure in the local industry, has died at the age of 74.

Together with his brother Yehuda, Zohar Zisapel controlled RAD Data Communications, founded in 1981, which owned some twenty leading companies in the development, production and marketing of networking and telecommunication solutions. Among these are wireless broadband solutions company Ceragon Networks; network traffic control solutions company Radcom, founded by Zisapel in 1991; security solutions company Radware; and connectivity solutions company Silicom.

Zisapel was born in Tel Aviv to parents from Poland. He held a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in electrical engineering from the Technion and an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

In an interview with "Globes" in 2019, Zisapel spoke about the investment model that he and his brother developed, in which RAD helped startups with sales and marketing. "it was a model that suited Yehuda and me, because weren’t in a position to build empires," he said. "Today, startups don’t understand what I’m talking about when offer them help with logistics, so I’m very flattered by the fact that they want me because they think that I can still contribute."

In that same interview, Zisapel, who was always on the lookout for new and interesting areas in which to invest and had the ability to spot where real potential lay, said, "AI, for example, interests me. I’m not sure if it’s the right field yet, but ever since I studied at the Technion, AI has fascinated me. Then 50 years ago, it wasn’t serious; AI was pretty stupid. A few years ago, the breakthrough came, and a situation arose in which for the first time AI could really do things, and could replace people and natural intelligence."

Zisapel also commented in the interview on the ethical issues that AI raises and that have since become a subject of public concern. "Every time that there’s a new technology, the question is raised," he said. "Movies show us the computer that loves and hates, but that doesn’t really exist. There is still a risk though. In AI and in building a machine that makes decisions. An AI machine could be built with a certain purpose and go too far."

The Zisapel brothers set up the RAD Foundation that promotes technological education and excellence among poor teenagers and donates computers to schools. They also founded the RAD Biomed incubator, which invests in early-stage companies developing digital medicine equipment and solutions.

Active until the end

"We spoke just a few days ago; the man was active until the last moment, it’s astonishing," Omer Keilaf, founder of Innoviz, a company in which Zisapel invested and at which he served as chairperson, told "Globes". "After he put his full weight behind the company, there was no investor who didn’t want to be part of it. He gave so much from his wisdom along the way, and he was my mentor. I consulted him about everything at every opportunity I had. He was crazily smart, and on the other hand very modest and respectful and always ready to hear other opinions."

Keilaf, who served in the IDF Unit 81 technology unit, in which Zisapel had also served, said, "He was the youngest head the unit ever had, and he left an indelible mark on it. It’s not for nothing that he won the Israel Defense Prize."

Of Zisapel’s philanthropic activity and his efforts to continue developing the local technology industry, Keilaf said, "There are few people who reached the position that he reached for whom it was so important to leverage it. It was important to him to help the community and the country, it was very important o him to advance the State of Israel."

Assaf Rappaport, Yinon Costica, Roy Reznik, Ami Luttwak, founders of cloud security companies Adallom and Wiz, said in a statement: "We were heartbroken at the news of Zohar Zisapel’s death. He was the first to believe in us at Adallom, and thanks to him we were eventually able to found Wiz. He changed our lives for the better not just thanks to his belief in us and his technological knowledge, but chiefly because of the enormous generosity he showed in every area, his warmth and endless support, his ability to give good advice at any time. He will be missed by the State of Israel, by Israeli high-tech, and by each of us personally."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on May 21, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Zohar Zisapel  credit: Aviv Hofi
Zohar Zisapel credit: Aviv Hofi
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