Have an invention? Meet an investor in Israel


Israelis love to invent things. Last year, the number of patents granted to Israeli companies in medical instrumentation put it first globally in relation to population size and fourth in terms of number of patents. In relation to its population, Israel consistently ranks tops in the world for bio-pharma and life sciences patents.

So it made sense to inventor Israel Solodoch to put together an Israeli Patents Exhibition, the first of its kind, to take place in September at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.

Solodoch has the ambitious goal of getting some 10,000 Israeli and foreign inventors, investors, patent attorneys, mechanical engineers and computer programmers in the same room to help get a whole lot of good ideas turned into actual products.

Solodoch, managing director of Nufar Natural Products, a Galilee-based company that creates alternative health products, said that the idea for the exhibition just struck him one day.

“It’s very important for inventors to meet investment people and not have to pursue them, because it’s very difficult to do that,” he said. “The purpose of this exhibition is to solve this difficulty through direct face-to-face contact with investors. They will be there together on equal footing.”

The Jewish Agency is a sponsor of the exhibition, and organizers are also inviting representatives of Israeli startup companies. “Perhaps with your new invention you can do business with a startup,” Solodoch suggested. “Sometimes startups already have investment money but get stuck developing their idea into a product, so they are looking for new ideas to get their product going.”

Inventor Israel Solodoch

From Drawing Board to Market

Solodoch will be displaying his own patent-pending water-saving tap, which can cut water consumption by up to 80 percent. He claims customers can expect to recoup the purchase price within a month.

This product is meant for a broader market than just drought-prone Israel. “The problem of water is global, because even if you have enough water, it takes a lot of energy to bring it to your home, and after it goes down the drain it causes environmental problems,” he pointed out.

Solodoch, 61, launched a Web site last year as a free publicity forum for inventors from Israel and other countries. In addition to the exposure, he hopes the site will lead to stronger commercial contacts between Israel and other countries.

Among the inventions featured on the site and expected to exhibit at the September event are TransBiodiesel’s method for producing natural fuel from crude oil and cooking oil; a product to prevent car tires from cracking or bursting; a 360-degree camera on top of a car to help drivers gain greater visibility; an Israeli iPhone app that helps users find a parking place in the city; and a hygienic, hands-free gadget for disposing of dog droppings.

Israel Patent Statistics

In 2009, when the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization recognized Israel as an international center for the search and testing of patents, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved more patents to Israeli inventors than to any other nation of the G-7 countries.

Since 2006, the Israeli Patent Office has handled an average 7,500 patent applications each year. In 2011, 57 percent of the applications were for mechanical inventions, 29 percent in chemistry and pharmaceuticals, and 14 percent in biotechnology.

Some 80 percent of these applications are typically filed by foreign entities, including hundreds by corporate giants Qualcomm and Hoffman-La Roche. The Weizmann Institute of Science accounts for the most applications per year of the Israeli filers, through its transfer tech company Yeda.

The bulk of Israeli inventors choose to file in other countries, especially the United States, Japan and Europe because of their huge customer market. Israelis filed 7,082 international patents from 2002 through 2007, or one annual patent for every 5,295 people.

What is patentable? According to the Israel Patent Office, “An invention, whether a product or a process in any field of technology, which is new and useful, can be used industrially and involves an inventive step, is a patentable invention.” Discoveries of natural substances, new species of plants or animals, and human medical treatments cannot be patented.

For more information about the Patents Exhibition, visit http://www.eng.nufar.co.il/PAGE60.asp.

SEC halts Ponzi scheme targeting Persian Jews in L.A.


A Ponzi scheme targeting the Persian-Jewish community in Los Angeles was shut down by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC obtained an emergency court order on April 13 to stop the scheme.

According to the SEC, Shervin Neman, also known as Shervin Davatgarzadeh, allegedly raised more than $7.5 million from investors in the Persian-Jewish community, of which he is a member, by posing as a hedge fund manager.

Neman, 30, of Los Angeles, told investors that he had a hedge fund called Neman Financial L.P., which invested in foreclosed residential properties that would be quickly flipped for profit, as well as in Facebook shares and other high-profile initial public offerings, according to the SEC.

Instead he allegedly used the investors’ money to pay off other investors and finance his extravagant lifestyle. Neman spent nearly $1.6 million of investor funds to buy jewelry and high-end cars, as well as to finance his wedding and honeymoon, other vacations and VIP tickets to sporting events, according to the SEC.

Judge Jacqueline Nguyen of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Neman.

“By exploiting investors’ trust in him, Neman was continually able to raise more money to pay back existing investors and finance an extravagant lifestyle,” Michele Wein Layne, associate regional director of the SEC’s Los Angeles office, said in an SEC statement.

Warren Buffett’s Jewish Connection


Warren Buffett is not a Jew; in fact, he describes himself as an agnostic.

Still, the billionaire investment guru, who made big news in May when his Berkshire Hathaway corporation bought an 80 percent share in the Israeli metalworks conglomerate, Iscar, for $4 billion, for years has been making his mark on the U.S. Jewish community back home — although sometimes in a roundabout way.

“Proportionally, if you look at the number of Jews in this country and in the world, I’m associated with a hugely disproportionate number,” said Buffett, the second-richest man in the world. His life, he added, “has been blessed by friendship with many Jews.”

The Israeli government stands to reap about $1 billion in taxes on Buffett’s purchase of Iscar. Shortly after announcing the deal, Buffett said he was surprised to learn that a Berkshire subsidiary, CTB International, was purchasing a controlling interest in another Israeli company, AgroLogic.

In Israel — which Buffett plans to visit in the fall — the hope is that the deals will have longer legs: Buffett himself has not ruled out future purchases there and, considering his status as a leading investor, observers say others also may take a look at Israeli companies now that Buffett has done so.

“You won’t find in the world a better-run operation than Iscar,” Buffett says. “I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s run by Israelis.”

Among the first companies Buffett acquired after launching Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha-based investment and insurance giant, was The Sun Newspapers of Omaha, then owned by Stan Lipsey, one-time chairman of The Jewish Press, Omaha’s Jewish newspaper.

“At the time, the Omaha Club did not take Jewish members, and the Highland Country Club, a golf club, didn’t have any [non-Jewish] members,” Lipsey recalled. “Warren volunteered to join the Highland” — rather than the Omaha — “to set an example of nondiscrimination.”

Buffett happily recalls the fallout from his application.

“It created this big rhubarb,” he said. “All of the rabbis appeared on my behalf, the [Anti-Defamation League] guy appeared on my behalf. Finally they voted to let me in.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story, Buffett said. The Highland had a rule requiring members to donate a certain amount of money to their synagogues. Buffett, of course, wasn’t a synagogue member, so the club changed its policy: Members now would be expected to give to their synagogues, temples or churches.

But that still didn’t quite work, Buffett recalls with a laugh, because of his agnosticism.

In the end, the rule was amended to ask simply that members make some sort of charitable donation, and the path to Buffet’s membership was clear.

“He’s an incredible guy,” said Lipsey, today the publisher of the Buffalo News. In 1973, The Sun won a Pulitzer Prize in local investigative specialized reporting for an expose on financial impropriety at Boys Town, Neb.

“Warren came up with the key source for us knowing what was going on out there,” Lipsey said.

Buffett himself researched Boys Town’s stocks to bolster the story, Lipsey added.

In the 1960s, Omaha Rabbi Myer Kripke decided to invest in his friend Buffett’s new business venture. Their wives had become friendly, he said, and the foursome enjoyed playing the occasional game of bridge together.

“My wife had no card sense and I was certainly no competition to Warren, who is a very good bridge player and a lover of the game,” said Kripke, rabbi emeritus of Omaha’s Conservative Beth El Synagogue. “He’s very bright and very personable and very decent. He is a rich man who is as clean as can be.”

Kripke, father of the noted philosopher Saul Kripke, bought a few shares in Berkshire Hathaway and quickly sold them, doubling his money, he said.

Recognizing a good thing when he saw it, he bought a bunch more shares in his friend’s company, shares that by the 1990s had made Kripke — who says he never earned more than $30,000 a year as a rabbi — a millionaire.

Asked if he credits Buffett with his financial success, he didn’t hesitate.

“Entirely, yes,” he said. “I never had much of an income.”

The Sun newspaper group was not Buffett’s only early purchase of a Jewish-owned company. In 1983, sealing the deal with a handshake, Buffett bought 90 percent of the Nebraska Furniture Mart from Rose Blumkin, a Russian-born Jew who moved to the United States in 1917.

In 1989, he purchased a majority of the stock in Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, a phenomenally successful jewelry store, from the Friedman family.

“He has many friends in the Jewish community,” said Forrest Krutter, secretary of Berkshire Hathaway and a former president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha.

Buffett’s former son-in-law, Allen Greenberg, is a Jew, and now runs the Buffett Foundation, much of whose work has dealt with reproductive rights and family-planning issues. Buffett’s personal assistant is Ian Jacobs, who goes by his Hebrew name, Shami.

Buffett himself counts the late Nebraska businessman Howard “Micky” Newman and philanthropist Jack Skirball as among his “very closest friends.”

Further, Buffett said his “hero and the man who made me an investment success” was Ben Graham. Graham, along with Newman’s father, Jerry, ran a New York fund called Graham-Newman Corp.

“After besieging Ben for the three years after I received my degree from Columbia, Ben and Jerry finally hired me,” Buffett said. “I was the first gentile ever employed by the firm — including secretaries — in its 18 years of existence. My first son bears the middle name Graham after Ben.”

Buffett “is very much honored in the Jewish community,” Kripke said.