Israel's Booming Tech Start-Up Nation Starts To Give Back

Corporate Social Responsibility Takes Off in Jewish State

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By Ben Sales

Published January 20, 2014.
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(JTA) — When the Israeli mobile maps start-up Waze accepted a buyout from Google for more than $1 billion in June, each of the company’s 100 employees walked away with an average of $1.2 million from the sale.

An even bigger check, though, went to Baruch Lipner, a Canadian Israeli who hasn’t worked in the high-tech or finance industries for a decade. The acquisition put $1.5 million on his desk.

A veteran of the venture capital world, Lipner is now the sole employee of Tmura, a nonprofit that pushes Israeli start-ups to donate stock options to charity. If any of the donating nonprofits merges, goes public or is bought, Tmura cashes in the options and distributes the money to Israeli youth and educational charities. If the start-up fails, Tmura carries none of the risk.

Even though Tmura owned less than 1 percent of Waze, the record-breaking deal made 2013 a banner year for Tmura, comprising approximately three-quarters of the $2 million it raised.

“Our small fraction of a percent was worth a lot of money very quickly,” Lipner said. “A lot of the entrepreneurs running these companies are good people who are happy to help.”

Waze wasn’t the only Israeli company giving back in 2013.

As the country’s economy has grown in recent years, experts and corporate advisers are seeing a steady uptick in corporate donations and a growing culture of corporate responsibility.

Israeli corporate philanthropy experienced a nearly sevenfold jump between 1998 and 2008 – from 89 million shekels, or about $25 million, to 600 million shekels, or about $172 million – according to Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Philanthropy. More recent data isn’t available, but observers say the upward trend has continued.

Good Vision, an Israeli corporate social responsibility consultancy that counts El Al Israel Airlines and Bank Leumi among its 25 clients, prepared reports for three companies on corporate giving last year. Now it is writing 10. Of the 320 companies partnering with Tmura, 54 donated options in 2013.


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