Capernaum, CIOs and Israeli Start-ups


It’s been a week since the end of CIOmove 2018. Time for a short summary.








By Horst Ellermann, Publisher of CIO Magazine


Let’s start from the beginning.  The day before the opening of CIOmove on April 27 in Tel Aviv Sabine and I were drenched by rain at the Sea of Galilee. We had really not planned to even leave the car, but then there was another one of these brown signs. You can find these historical markers every 2-3 kilometers. Usually there are at least three buses with Christian tourists parked next to them and at least one group of them breaks out in song. This good mood is contagious and that’s why we got out of the car.  Our historical marker said Capernaum.


What does Capernaum have to do with CIOmove?  What even happened at Capernaum? It’s no shame if you can’t remember. I had chosen religion as one of my main exam topics for the Abitur (comprehensive exam to graduate from secondary school in Germany). I graduated because they allowed me to major in religion. And although I did graduate thanks to the saving points from my religion exam, I had to research Capernaum: the town where Jesus lived, close to the famous mountain where he gave the Sermon of the Mount in which he said among other things: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5, 39)

Much has been written about this phrase, so much even that you could write a whole Abitur exam on this topic. Somehow all the different interpretations do not seem real when you stand at the Sea of Galilee and look towards the Golan Heights. Here the opposite model of Matthew 5, 39 is lived out: If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, slap them on the left before they get any ideas.”

Now let’s start talking about CIOmove 2018.

Nadav Zafrif, in my eyes the best speaker of CIOmove 2018, has impressively described what it’s like to see yourself constantly surrounded by enemies.  Nadav is CEO of “Team 8”, a well known incubator for Israeli start-ups. He was also commander of “Unit 8200”, the Israeli equivalent of the NSA. He was leading this unit at the time “Stuxnet” was programmed, the clearest evidence to date that the lines between cyber war and a military preemptive strike are blurry.


Nadav denies of course that Israel had anything to do with this preemptive war. We can see this as a positive confirmation of our value system that declares wars of aggression as taboo. Not so smart representatives of Unit 8200 or the NSA started to brag in the meantime how they damaged Iran’s nuclear program with this computer worm (see the documentary “Zero Days” from 2016). The fact that other centrifuges of nuclear plants in completely uninvolved countries were destroyed remains forgotten. Even Siemens, one of Stuxnet’s main victims, prefers not to talk about this affair.

So now the generation of Stuxnet developers (discovered in 2010) is of the age where they retire from the army and return to civilian life. This works markedly better in Israel than in other countries. Especially members of “Unit 8200”repeatedly manage to launch IT companies with new IT security ideas. We have seen a few of them. A complete list will be posted on in the coming days.

However, I would prefer to draw your attention to a few other companies.

Ryan Mattinson, Security and Privacy Professional of Nagarro, has expressed this in his opening speech at CIOmove: “Where are they, the many thousands of Israeli startups? It seems to be their trademark to quickly bring a very specific idea to market and then to immediately sell. Nothing is wrong with this approach according to venture capitalists and incubators. CIOs with an interest in long-term business relations, however, should take note. There are two better approaches for them:


First, why not go straight to the established security providers in Israel? We got to know two of them. Market leader Checkpoint, founded in 1993, has matured to one of the largest companies in Israel and thus offers sufficient investment protection. Dorit Dor, Chief of Development and Products, has also signaled more commitment on Saturday (on thenSabbath) than all the other eleven startups in their elevator speeches on Monday. They would not have shown up on the Sabbath. The third commandment is too holy for that.

Skybox, founded in 2002, is the second largest provider in Israel with whom a long-term cooperation is possible. Banks, financial service providers, but also governments and energy providers worldwide use their solutions. As other Israeli companies Skybox started its international expansion in the US. Europe and Asia are next, that’s the way it is for Israeli companies.  After all, CEO Gidi Cohen took Friday night to explain more about Israeli culture, the army and IT security before he flew back to his adopted home in California.

And then there is the second approach: Why not simply choose one of the proven IT providers with a strong local presence? We saw the Accenture Security Center in Herzliya. Marius von Spreti and Frédéric Brunier have explained how individual security solutions are integrated into a larger whole. For a CIO who doesn’t want to get too involved with IT security, that’s probably the best way to go. As Markus Ehrle of Salesforce put it so beautifully: “Our core goal is to improve our relationship with customers. Of course it has to be secure. That’s part of it.”

Salesforce is once again the best example of how a company uses its ecosystem to take away the best ideas from a market that is difficult to manage. Box, HPE, Hitachi or Telstra do the same. Even the small start-up Celonis – possibly the next unicorn from Germany – draws ideas from the confusing security market.

Actually, no CIO has to travel to Israel himself to have the solutions presented to him. But it’s fun – not only because of the singing Christian tour groups.