California entrepreneurs eye Israeli high-tech

Orange County businessmen plan investment in Start-Up Nation and the region.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch (rear right) meets with the visiting business leaders in Jerusalem, May 18, 2023. Courtesy of the Lincoln Club of Orange County/Bar Shvo.
Education Minister Yoav Kisch (rear right) meets with the visiting business leaders in Jerusalem, May 18, 2023. Courtesy of the Lincoln Club of Orange County/Bar Shvo.

There was the non-invasive sensor that identifies alcohol in a driver’s blood and can prevent the ignition of the vehicle if needed.

There were the dough-based products with minimal carbs.

There was the alternative to cement that could circumvent soil erosion problems.

And there was the famous Jerusalem stone.

These Israeli inventions—and others like them—caught the eye of a high-level delegation of 40 American businessmen in Israel this month seeking investment opportunities. The group was looking to bring some of Israel’s latest innovations—and more classic ones—back to the United States.

The entrepreneurs, members of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a conservative political donor organization, were on the group’s first-ever regional Middle East tour. They visited Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories in an effort to promote financial prosperity and political cooperation between the U.S. and the region.

“I almost want to send my kids to Israel to see this most innovative technological hub which teaches people to create with their entrepreneurial spirit,” Wayne Lindholm, executive vice president of Hensel Phelps Construction Company, said in an interview during the group’s visit to Tel Aviv last week.

Lindholm’s firm built both Los Angeles International Airport and the Intel semiconductor fabrication plant in Kiryat Gat, Israel. He is both a board member and a former president of the Lincoln Club.

Sammy Sayago, a serial tech entrepreneur and founder and CEO of WhyW8t LLC, a data-driven technology, research, marketing and communications company, said, “You Israelis love your country. If you have peace, stability and transparency, businesses want to come.” He manages a database of 100 million unique records in the U.S. alone.

Lei Wang, the executive vice president of Gemdale USA, a national real estate investment firm, said, “I feel that Israel is really the safest and most democratic place both for the U.S. and for other countries around the world.”

The delegation tours the Old City of Jerusalem, May 18, 2023. Courtesy of the Lincoln Club of Orange County/Bar Shvo.

The delegation toured the country and met with government figures, including Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Economy Minister Nir Barkat, and opposition leaders, including Yesh Atid Party Chairman Yair Lapid and National Unity Party head Benny Gantz.

The Israeli politicos briefed them on the Iranian nuclear threat and the judicial reform program.

They also met with startup companies at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa and discussed Israel’s technological know-how at the royal palace in Amman.

Changed times

Established in 1962, the Lincoln Club of Orange County has supported some of the most prominent Republican leaders, including former U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. It now has its first Latina as president and has expanded its eye to Israel and the region as well as to investments throughout the world.

“The club has evolved and is more diverse than ever before … including the state’s most public-spirited entrepreneurs,” said Teresa Hernandez, president of the club. ”Through our Middle East tour we aim to strengthen global partnerships and set an example for U.S. relations abroad.”

International focus

“Israel is at the center of attention and potential for investment opportunities,” said Benny Mor, an Israeli expat and the club’s chairman of international affairs.

The trip aimed to advance “large-scale financial activity” that will strengthen the region and the peace treaties between Israel and neighboring countries, he added.

Similar trips are envisioned every other year, as the business leaders plan additional international trips to Africa and Kazakhstan, while smaller delegations of around a dozen entrepreneurs each will come to Israel twice a year, Mor said.

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