BY ADAM CAILLER
UNLESS you are a technology fan, you probably don’t know who Hillel Fuld is. In short, he is THE go to guy for some of the world’s leading media outlets who want to cover the booming technology industry in Israel.
The 38-year-old New York native is the co-founder and chief marketing officer at Zcast — a company taking on the pain of modern audio broadcasting — and he blogs for the likes of TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat and others.
And, when he’s not bringing up five children with wife Racheli, he mentors start-ups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction and more.
And he has been named Israel’s top marketer; been featured on CNBC and Forbes; and was recently added by Google to its marketing experts programme.
“I was born in New York, but moved to Israel when I was 15,” he told me.
“My parents were very much old school Zionists.
“Both my dad, Yona, and mum, Mary, were educators and instilled in us such a love of Israel that whenever we visited, we would kiss the ground.
“My dad was so old school with it that on Tisha b’Av, he would cry about Jerusalem.”
Having attended a normal high school in New York, Hillel went to a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
This, he recalls, was quite a difficult transition.
He said: “I wasn’t too happy about it for the first couple of years, both culturally and academically.
“In retrospect, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
“Israel is such a small market that having gone to a yeshiva helped me stand out.”
Serving in the IDF, Hillel was part of the artillery . . . which meant he didn’t exactly have to serve on the front line.
He said: “We were about 20 kilometres from the front line. I definitely shot into Lebanon!”
One of five boys, Hillel accidentally fell into the technology world.
At a summer camp, everyone was sharing email addresses, but he didn’t have one.
“I didn’t do email,” he laughed. “But the first time I turned on a computer, it really was love at first sight.
“I started my career writing user guides for a big tech company called Comverse, but I quickly realised that this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing at the age of 26.
“So I became a blogger, before blogging was even a word, but I didn’t have a business plan”.
Friends had suggested to Hillel that he make money from his blog.
He said: “It wasn’t what I was after. Start-up companies reached out to seek advice from me, but I was not taking any money from anyone.
“Very often people would ask me ‘what’s in it for you?’.
“I didn’t have an immediate answer, but, over the last decade, a lot of companies that I had helped would come back to me and wanted to take me on as an adviser.
“I built a nice portfolio of companies where I’m an adviser, such as Umoove, ProoV and ZutA — all remarkable companies that I am very lucky to be able to help.”
Hillel’s blog started out as looking at technology from a slightly different angle, specifically examining technology trends.
He explained: “I wrote about things such as five reasons why Blackberry would take over the market, or why Apple doesn’t have a chance against Nokia. It was my passion.
“I would wake up in the morning and read what was going on in the technology world because it interested me.”
The first company to show an interest in Hillel was Umoove which specialises in mobile eye tracking technology.
Hillel recalled: “I questioned why they were doing this when Microsoft were spending billions of dollars on cameras for this.
“It didn’t make sense how they were able to do this with just software. When they showed it to me I was absolutely blown away.
“So I set up a few meetings and some introductions. They came back to me and thanked me for the help and that was my first advisory role, of which I now work for anywhere between 17 and 20 . . . it fluctuates, but that is the nature of start-ups.”
Hillel has built up quite a reputation within the industry. This goes back to his selfless attitude.
He said: “I’m a giver, not a taker. A lot of people want credit, respect and money, while I’m focused on giving value.
“I never monetised my blog or charged companies to meet with me. I just show them what I can do for them and they come back to me. Doing that just felt right to me.
“I’m not going to charge a start-up to sit and brainstorm with me or to introduce them to an investor.
“Charging them short term was not the smart thing to do — I was focused on long term.
“It worked as I built this reputation that has paid off.”
The Israeli technology scene is going through a boom period at the moment.
There are around 4,300 start-ups operating in Israel, with about 2,900 of these located within a 10-mile radius — a rate of development second in intensity only to the famed Silicon Valley.
But, the surface has only just been scratched, according to Hillel.
He explained: “Israel is, right now, in the top two of the world. Intel makes all of its decisions in Israel.
“For a country the size of New Jersey, it is remarkable what we have done here and what we’ve built.”
One thing that does anger Hillel about the technology scene is those who seek to boycott it.
He said: “I think it’s complete silliness.
“If you have any honesty or integrity then you can’t boycott Israeli tech.
“The iPhone I’m talking to you from has Israeli tech inside it. Windows is running Israeli tech.
“There is nobody on Planet Earth who can boycott Israeli tech.”
He went on: “I do think the boycott movement is nothing to do with Israel. It is old-school antisemitism, because if they cared about the human rights like they pretend to do, they would care about Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“With all due respect to them, stop kidding yourselves.
“Israeli tech is curing cancer and bringing defensive systems to the world, the likes that nobody has ever seen.
“You can’t boycott it and live in the modern world.”
And what does the future hold for Hillel? Well, he admitted that he is considering funding some of the start-ups himself.
Details: hillelfuld.com or follow him on Twitter @HilzFuld