There are two things I am very proud of: my fulfilling technology career leading an incredible team and my Israeli roots. Unfortunately, being based in Israel means that my frequent travel experience to Silicon Valley can get really tiring, with multiple layovers and being at the mercy of unpredictable weather conditions. This week, United Airlines made it significantly easier when they introduced the first nonstop flight between Tel Aviv and San Francisco. Imagine closing your eyes at midnight in Tel Aviv and waking up the next morning in San Francisco after a long overseas nap.
While the direct flight lessens the impact of time and distance, what really excites me is being part of the first ever flying conference at 40,000 feet of altitude. Instead of passing the time watching a movie or catching up on emails, the passengers on this flight, dubbed Unite-Tech, got to experience an information-filled networking opportunity like no other.
Unite-Tech brought together 250 high profile Israeli leaders such as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the Mayor of Jerusalem, and the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Finance, as well as executives from Israeli business news publication Calcalist, Nespresso, KPMG, Check Point Software Technologies, Yahoo, Google, Cisco, and many others. In 2015, the total number of new technology startups in Israel reached 1,400, and many companies recognize the importance of Israel and Silicon Valley working closely together to speed innovation and growth. During the flight several executives shared their vision for the industry while passengers watched the broadcast from an app on their mobile devices.
The event didn’t end when the plane touched down. Upon arriving in San Francisco, we met with the Israeli Consul and toured several Silicon Valley technology headquarters. The trip also included a visit to the Cisco Customer Experience Center, where Zorawar Biri Singh, Cisco Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Cloud Services and Platforms, outlined the company’s vision for digital business, enabled by the latest innovations in hybrid cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), and analytics. The event capped off with an engaging dinner hosted by John Chambers, Cisco Chairman.
The audience was mesmerized by John’s vision for the role of technology in driving greater inclusion, equality, and even peace. His candid observations on Israel’s role as a startup nation and focus on mentoring young startups stirred great passion among this highly driven entrepreneurial audience.
Like every Cinderella story, this ball had also come to an end. But the great insight and even greater new friends that I acquired on this trip will remain. And we departed with the promise to do it again.