from the June 2017 issue

"8200 graduates aren't like 23 year-olds in Texas or Norway"

Team8 CEO and former Unit 8200 commander Brig. Gen. (res.) Nadav Zafrir explains how much Israeli high tech owes to the army's technological units.

It has already become a routine matter. An Israeli cyber security company has an exit, and its founders' CV includes service in the Israel Intelligence Corps Unit 8200. The connection between former members of Unit 8200 and Israeli high tech, especially the cyber security sector, became natural long ago, and the man who may know the most about it is former Unit 8200 commander Brigadier General (reserves) Nadav Zafrir. Zafrir, who resigned from the IDF four years ago, wasted little time; immediately after his demobilization, he founded Team8, a cross between a venture capital fund and an incubator for founding cyber security companies in Israel. Zafrir, now Team8's CEO, will take part in the upcoming Globes Capital Markets Conference on June 13.

"From my point of view, four years after I left the army, and for the sake of poetic justice - the entire IDF, especially its technological units, made a great contribution to Israeli high tech," Zafrir says when asked about the connection between Unit 8200 and Israeli high tech, and how he sees it in the future. "What's interesting is that the experiences of young guys in the army during their military service prepare them for a large extent for the world of startups, innovation, and entrepreneurship almost better than any institution of higher learning or any other method. It wasn't planned that way, but in an era in which the pace of change is increasing, and the classic academic institutions, including the conventional educational methods, can't keep up with this pace, the IDF's method, based on a very careful selection and filtering process of compulsory recruitment and the need for personal accomplishment at a very young age, prepares them for quick adaptation, speedy learning, and leadership in civilian life."

Although Unit 8200 has existed in its current format for over three decades, Zafrir argues that even today, when an 18 year-old is recruited to the unit, he does not really know what Unit 8200 is. "It's a very large organization with many sub-units, many sub-topics within each of those sub-units, and various and widely divergent functions. As I said, the filtering process that the recruits go through contributes a lot to them. It's a process that includes socio-metric tests, psychological tests, personal interviews, tests of leadership and cooperation ability, and above all, the IDF is trying to assess their ability to learn new things very, very quickly. After all, the army is getting these recruits for a limited time, so it has to make sure that their learning ability - for languages, software, and intelligence professions, say - will be very quick. The army has no time for a two-year course, because after two years, a person's military service is almost over. In other words, it's a very intensive process that requires very rapid adaptation."

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2017

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