Hundreds of leading high-tech figures, army officers, and senior academics crowded into the Reading 3 hall in the Tel Aviv Port last week to celebrate the second biggest exit ever in Israeli high tech - the acquisition of Mellanox by Nvidia for $6.9 billion. "I'm not an Israeli by birth, but I'm an Israeli in my heart. We'll soon be a very large company in Israel," declared Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang on the stage, adding, "Mellanox is a company I've liked for a long time, and it brings great pride to Israel. It's a great treasure."
"One of the things I've learned about Israeli companies is that everyone wants them. I don't know of any large company in the world today that doesn't want to be in Israel. Ask the bankers - all of the companies wanted Mellanox. Look at me - I won," Huang added.
Mellanox founder and CEO Eyal Waldman said, "I regard Nvidia as the brain and Mellanox as the nerve system bringing the data to the brain. We want to be a company making the best building blocks for everything that you want to do, whether it's data center, on the cloud, or autonomous cars."
Huang told "Globes" about the possibility that Nvidia would acquire one of the designers of special chips for artificial intelligence, an area in which Nvidia is outstanding. These companies develop chips designed to reach speeds 1,000-10,000 as fast. Two of these companies are Avigdor Willenz's Habana Labs and Hailo, both Israeli. "I haven't met either of them, but I would certainly be happy to meet each of them. I've been in the high-tech industry for 26 years. I've seen many large companies, and these sound like very promising companies," Huang said.
He added, "We are always trying to foster the ecosystem. Look at all of the people here - there are developers using our platform to build their company or for research purposes. Sometimes what they need from us is only access to the platform. Sometimes they need a little help in financing. Sometimes they need a little help with sales and penetrating the market, and sometimes they need us to help them by acquiring them. We're open to everything. We want to foster the ecosystem and promote innovation as fast as possible."
"Globes": Do you think that 10 years from now, the Israeli prime minister will say that Mellanox was sold too cheaply, as he said in the Waze deal?
Huang: "I hope so."
Waldman told "Globes," "This could very well happen. It's a very attractive deal."
So why didn't you wait a little, especially when the data centers sector is still growing?
"There are situations in which you have to do things so that things work out right, and this was one of those situations."
Keeping big companies is also necessary for the local ecosystem to progress from adolescence to maturity.
"Nvidia in Israel is definitely good, and Mellanox within Nvidia can continue to grow, so that it will have more resources from all directions, not just in the business aspect, but also in the technological aspect. This is very good for Israel, and we'll continue investing in many startups and developing the ecosystem and technological capabilities."
Like Hailo and Habana?
"Including like them."
Are you interested in them?
"Yes, yes. Mellanox invested in 14 startups. We don't publicize it. We invested in 14 companies and acquired nine companies. We're also seeing a return on the money we invested. We're in a good situation, and we'll continue it within Nvidia, too. It's certainly possible that we'll acquire companies like Habana and Hailo. You can't do everything by yourself."
Huang said on the stage that you want to start looking at data centers as a holistic product. What does that mean - like a closed box?
"No, but it will be more comfortable for customers. Instead of building a data center part by part, there will suddenly be a data center solution with the best performances. We'll do all sorts of things so that the synergy between the building blocks will be better."
What are the links that you are missing in order to compete with companies like Intel, which has more links in the chain?
"We'll work together with Intel. The central processing unit (CPU) will still be from Intel, but I think that up until now, we've built the biggest computers in a lot of places in the world, and we'll go on doing it. It's not that we're missing something; we want to do it more efficiently."
The Israeli startups that made presentations at the event
At the event held by Nvidia and Mellanox, Israeli companies demonstrated to the audience applications developed in Israel with the help of Nvidia's graphic processors. These tools are from artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, and machine vision, plus Mellanox's high-speed connectivity technology.
Nucleai CEO Avi Veidman presented technology for helping doctors detect and diagnose prostate cancer and breast cancer using AI-based machine vision systems. Deep Instinct cofounder and CTO Dr. Eli David present a cyber security platform based on deep learning technology that helps prevent cyber attacks in real time.
Cognata CEO Danny Atsmon presented an AI and machine vision-based simulation system designed for the autonomous vehicle market. Cognata's simulator simulates situations in real cities for trying out and practicing autonomous systems. The system builds copies of real cities and puts into them transportation information from the authorities and other information providers in order to simulate an authentic a driving experience as possible, while shortening testing, training, and development times needed in order to teach the autonomous cars to drive themselves.
AnyVision CPA Alex Zilberman presented an algorithm for identifying faces, bodies, and various objects. The algorithm is capable of tracking people in a large audience and being connected to security cameras in airports, streets, and stores. The company makes it possible to turn any ordinary security camera into a smart camera with computer vision capabilities by analyzing and classifying all the information recorded on the camera's sensors. The technology developed by the company is capable of precisely identifying people, even if they have put on or lost weight, used makeup, or are wearing accessories such as beards, eyeglasses, or hats.
Excelero cofounder and CEO Lior Gal presented a software-based solution enabling organizations to utilize the potential of flash drives that generate loads on processors and create bottlenecks. The company's solution makes it possible to enlarge the storage space in the drives and increase data retrieval speeds.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 31, 2019
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