A new Israeli-American Initiative-
American company executives will visit Israel virtually through an online trade mission, enabling them to see, negotiate for, and purchase Israeli security products and services

Ran Dagoni, Washington
April 15, 2002

The fears of American corporate executives about traveling to Israel on business has brought a new phenomenon in the commercial relationship between the two countries-virtual visits.

The use of the Internet to keep these commercial contacts going between Israel and the US is a jump up onto the next stair-step in the continuous efforts of Israeli commercial representatives to bridge the problem of getting American corporate decision-makers to visit Israel now.

Conference calls between potential investors from New England and Israeli companies are already a regular phenomenon. Every few weeks, the commercial attaché in Boston, Benjamin Soffer, holds these conference calls.

Lately, there also have been video conferences between Israeli and American company representatives in the Midwest, at the initiative of the commercial attaché in Chicago, Limor Nakar.

Now the Internet is providing the next step up, with the initiative of the commercial attaché in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, a lawyer named Edny Raz, and the American company TradeBuilders. The firm is an expert in organizing online trade missions. This one is for American companies that want to "go to Israel" for a one-month virtual visit to learn about the offerings of Israeli security companies.

The airplane to Israel in this case will be an Internet platform, which will be in operation from 22 April to 22 May. The Chairman of TradeBuilders, Virginia Littlejohn, told Globes that this will enable American and Israeli participants to see the offerings of specific technologies and products, identify needs and partnerships, and have online negotiations.

In addition, company executives will be able to gain guidance and advice from tax experts and lawyers, see an online library of valuable resources, and access facilitators and business experts who can assist with business deals. Participants can do almost everything online, except for a handshake between companies. The last day will feature a transatlantic video conference.

This mission is for companies that offer security in one of the following three areas:

Littlejohn mentioned that there is a good potential match-up between Israeli security offerings and US governmental and private-sector organizations needing security solutions. She emphasized that the US side of this mission is centered on companies in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, a major high technology hub in the United States. "Half of the Internet traffic in the world flows through the region," she said. "Also, some of the largest Internet companies are located there," including AOL in Virginia.

Of special interest to Israeli companies is the enormous concentration of federal government offices in Washington. September 11 created a heightened awareness in the executive branch of the need for security. One indication of this new awareness was the creation of an Office of Homeland Security. The office helps coordinate the activities of numerous federal agencies, which will be signing contracts and spending billions of dollars for security services with a lot of American companies.

According to Raz, "The best way for an Israeli company to supply security services to the American government is to become a subcontractor to an American prime contractor that already has contracts with government agencies."

Among the companies registered for the virtual visit are the communications giant, Verizon, which is looking for secure communications, including cellular; EDS, which is focused on data security; and Global Security International, a provider of comprehensive security solutions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is a governmental body for quick response to natural disasters or massive terrorist attacks, will also have an expert participant.

Other participants include WILL Interactive, which provides training for security and military personnel via simulations of interactive video, and Seenex, a Maryland-based company that provides architectural security product design and construction.

The CEO of WILL Interactive from Potomac, Maryland, Sharon Sloane, said that her company had signed a contract with the military Joint Chiefs of Staff to produce a library of war games. These simulations enable users to play different roles, gain expertise with different technical skills, and experience the emotions of making different decisions that lead to various consequences. "We're experts in the production of interactive training, not in security. So we are looking for Israeli security experts that we can partner with through this online trade mission."

Official Israeli organizers of the mission are the Export Institute and SIBAT, which are recruiting appropriate Israeli companies. The cost to participate is $250.

Littlejohn said that she hoped that this online trade mission would be the first in a series with different sectors of the Israeli economy. In the coming months, TradeBuilders has online missions of American high tech executives planned with Germany, the United Kingdom, and China.

Have events in the territories and other recent actions raised fears about participating in this online business trip to Israel? Littlejohn noted that while some companies were worried, only one company had pulled out so far. However, there are other American companies that really want to participate, especially virtually.

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