In a speech broadcast to over 2,000 attendees at Microsoft Israel’s annual Think Next event, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that Israeli contributions to technology fields such as analytics and security are “improving the world,” The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.
Gates, who addressed the Tel Aviv audience on a video call, also congratulated Microsoft’s Israeli research and development center on its 25th anniversary, wishing it “a happy birthday.”
The center initially opened in 1991 when a number of Microsoft’s Israeli engineers wished to return home. “We decided to open the center – it was our first one outside the US – and I think the technology they have produced over the years more than justifies our decision,” he said.
Gates also acknowledged long-standing rumors that major components of Microsoft’s Windows operating system were developed in Israel, which the company confirmed, though he did not identify which ones.
“I have been very impressed with what they have done in the past 25 years, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next 25,” he added.
Microsoft’s annual Think Next event originated in Israel and has since expanded to other Microsoft locations, including in India, China, and the United States. “This event is held in the framework of Microsoft’s efforts to promote high-tech in Israel, and especially in the start-up sector, where Microsoft holds various promotion and cooperation activities with some 1,000 startups,” the Times wrote.
Zack Weisfeld, who heads the start-up accelerator Microsoft Ventures, said the company is particularly proud of the program’s development since its 2012 launch in Israel.
“Worldwide we have had 454 graduates, who have raised $1.78 billion,” said Weisfeld of Ventures, which has opened six other accelerators since its Tel Aviv launch. “We’ve had 29 exits and 3 IPOs, and on average companies that graduated from the program received $4.9 million in funding in the first year after they graduate from the accelerator. That’s enough to make us the number one corporate accelerator in the world.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday met with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, seen in the video embedded below, to discuss matters including cyber-security. “Israel is a center of great technological innovation,” said Netanyahu. “Microsoft is a great technological company. It’s a marriage made in heaven, but recognized here on earth.”
Nadella responded, “It’s a real pleasure to be in Israel, and as you said, the 25 years have been a fantastic 25 years, and we look forward to 25 more.”
[Photo: Kobi Gideon / Flash90]