Yossi Vardi: A Pioneer in Israeli Business, High-Tech Entrepreneurship, and Investment

Yossi Vardi, born on September 2, 1942, is a prominent Israeli businessman, visionary technology entrepreneur, and investor.


Born in Tel Aviv, Yossi Vardi's journey in life took a significant turn during his service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He served as an instructor at the Air Force Technical School, where he met his future wife, Talmah. Vardi is an alumnus of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. In 1969, he co-founded Tekem, an early Israeli software company (now part of Ness Group). In 1978, he completed his doctoral dissertation at the Technion on the topic of "A Model for Decision-Making in the Location of Power Stations in the Electric Utility Industry."

Government Career

In 1970, at the age of 27, Vardi was appointed as the Director-General of the Ministry of Development in Israel, where he was responsible for the country's natural resources. During his tenure, he oversaw various government-owned companies, including chemicals, mining, copper mines in Timna, phosphates in the Negev, Haifa Chemicals, and fertilizers. Additionally, the ministry was responsible for the electrical industry in Israel.

In 1974, Vardi was appointed as the Director of the Investment Authority in North America. Upon his return to Israel, he became the first Director-General of the Ministry of Energy and served as the Chairman of the National Oil Company. In November 1978, he resigned from his position after failing to merge all government-owned entities engaged in oil exploration into a single national entity, an idea he had championed.

In 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed Vardi as an economic advisor for cooperation with Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. He worked on developing long-term and peace-building projects in the infrastructure sector. In the subsequent years, during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tenure, he also served as an economic advisor for talks on the Wye River Memorandum with the Palestinian Authority.

Business Career

After leaving government service, Yossi Vardi became a founding member of several successful companies, including Granit HaCarmel, Alon Group, and Laser Industries, among others. He also served on the boards of major companies in the Israeli economy, such as Cellcom, M-Systems (SanDisk), Elbit Systems, Bezeq, and more. Additionally, he chaired numerous public committees, including the Electricity Market Reform Committee. He served as the Chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation and was a member of the Advisory Council of the Bank of Israel and others. Furthermore, he advised international corporations and notably served as an advisor to the CEOs of AOL and Amazon. He was a member of the World Economic Forum (Davos) and chaired various Israeli and international internet-related conferences.

Vardi holds a doctorate in performance research and played a significant role in the establishment of his son Erez's company, Mirabilis, which developed ICQ, the world's first instant messaging software. Within 19 months of its launch, AOL acquired the company for $407 million. Since then, Yossi Vardi has become one of the prominent investors in the Israeli internet sector, with investments in over 50 companies. Some notable exits include, Tucows, Gteko (acquired by Microsoft for $120 million), Starent (acquired by IAC for $20 million), FoxyTunes (acquired by Yahoo for $30 million), Taboola (merged with Outbrain), and Airlink (acquired by Sierra Wireless for $38 million), among others.

Yossi Vardi actively participates in various international forums and serves as the co-chair of several Israeli and international internet conferences.

Awards and Recognition

In 1979, Yossi Vardi was awarded the Kennedy-Lee Prize for his outstanding doctoral work. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Industry Award in Electronics (2007), the Romanesque Award from Tel Aviv University, and many more. In 2009, he was granted an honorary doctorate by the Technion. In April 2014, Wired magazine recognized him as one of the ten most influential figures in the European digital industry. In November 2014, he received an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. In 2019, he was honored with the title "Beloved of Tel Aviv-Yafo." In 2020, he was awarded the Chaim Herzog Prize for his exceptional contribution to the State of Israel by the Hebrew University, recognizing his significant role in promoting unity and coexistence among the people.

Yossi Vardi's remarkable career in business, technology entrepreneurship, and investment has left an indelible mark on the Israeli and international tech industry, making him a true pioneer and leader in his field.

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