Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a swing through Silicon Valley to meet with high-tech leaders and sign a pro-business agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.
This is the first California visit from an Israeli prime minister since 2006, and Netanyahu is planning a stop at Apple Inc. in Cupertino, as well as a meeting with WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who sold his company for $19 billion last month.
Brown and Netanyahu planned to sign an agreement that follows on several decades of commitments from Californian and Israeli leaders to promote trade, research and economic development. There’s also promise that arid Israel might have consult with California about water conservation. California is in the midst of a severe drought.
The governor and prime minister’s offices released statements that the agreement enables Israeli companies to access the California Innovation Network, a system of 16 iHub business incubators located around the state. IHub directors, who receive no state funding, said Tuesday that companies from Israel and anywhere else already have access to their resources.
“When new technology and new innovation comes to commercialization, everyone benefits from that, so if a new technology comes out of Israel, we can support, we will support it,” said Matthew Jenusaitis, CEO of OCTANe, an Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based iHub. He said his organization has worked with about 10 Israeli firms in the past two years.
There are hundreds of Israeli firms working in partnership with California companies. In Silicon Valley ties are particularly tight, with more than 150 Israeli startups based there, according to the consulate general of Israel in Los Angeles. In addition, the California Israel Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Oracle, Microsoft, eBay Inc.’s PayPal and others.