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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 2012 PAGE 3B By Salvatore Caputo Jewish News of Greater Phoenix With the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks past us last month, Empowerment Financial, a Scottsdale, Ariz investment firm that introduced "terror- free investing" in 2009, has stepped up its game with the Patriot Fund. The firm had i eviously offered its terror-free con- cept through a separately managed account, available only through Empower- ment, that applied a screen to an existing fund. Now, by partnering with Houston- based Ascendant Advisors, the terror-free investing concept underlies all of the fund's investments. "This gives us a differ- ent platform to reach more people," said Mark Langer- man, CEO of Empowerment and managing director of the Patriot Fund. "You can buy the fund on most major brokerage platforms now, which is exciting." What terror-free means is that the fund does not invest in anY companies that do business with na- tions identified by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terror, such as Iran, Syria and North Korea. "Even today 11 percent of the S&P 500 does business with state sponsors of ter. ror that equals $1.4 trillion in market cap," Langerman said. "The significance of that fact to me is that de- spite sanctions and all the rhetoric, Iran's still getting what they need to build a nuclear program and spon- sor terrorism." Summing up the" fund's appeal. Langerma said, "OK, cdrporate America, you can choose to do business with America's enemies, but not with my money." However, he added, the fund's appeal is not simply emotional and patriotic. It's a mutual fund of large-cap U.S. equities that replaces companies doing business with state sponsors of terror with comparablecompanies thatdo not, he said. "We understood in creat- ing this that investors had to have the opportunity to do well while doing good," he said. "We don't believe investors have to compro- mise return to take a stand." For more information, visit patriotfund.com or email mlangerman@em- powermentfg.com. Salvatore Caputo is as- sistant managing editor of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. By Adam Nicky AMMAN--Mohammed Abu Hassan owns a small shoe factory in the Sahab Industrial Zone on the east- ern edge of Jordan's capital, Amman. He is struggling to keep his factory open and he is worried that the new Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could put him out of business. "We are already losing our traditional local market and we worry that this agreement will be the beginning of the end, unless the government takes measures to protect local industries," he told The Media Line. While the FTA allows Jor- dan to export goods tax-free to Canada, it also allows Canadian firms to export to Jordan, increasing competi- tion. The economy of Canada, with more than 34 million people, dwarfs that of Jordan's population of six million. Jordan imports more than it exports. In 2010, according to government statistics, it imported almost $15 billion worth of goods, and exported just $5.8 billion worldwide. When it comes to Canada, in 2012, Jordan exported $10 million dollars worthOf goods and imported $54 million. Jordanian officials say the FTA offers new opportunities for Jordanian businesses seek- ing to explore NorthAmerican markets or to partner with Canadian companies who want to enter the oil-rich Gulf States. "The agreement gives Jorda- nian industries an opportunity to expand, but they must step up their level and find a place in the cutthroat market," Hatem Halawani, the head of Jordan's Chamber of Commerce, told The Media Line, He said that textiles, chemicals, jewelry and lime- stone are poised to compete in the Canadian market. He dismissed concerns that the agreement could negatively affect local businesses like Abu Hassan's shoe factory, with the country being swamped with cheaper or better products from larger industrialized nations. But businessmen in Jordan are concerned that small firms could even go out of business. "Local products face a daunting task to compete with products from industri- alist nations," said Moham- mad Abu Fares, owner of a, Jordanian petrochemical factory. "We had hailed a "similar agreement with the European Union a few years ago, hut we ended up import- ing European products and we were not able to export to the EU because of their strict rules;" he told The Media Line. Jordan enjoys a similar FTAwith the U.S Turkey and Pakistan. Textile and pharma- ceutical companies say they have already benefited. Jordan's Minister of Trade Shabeeb Amari hailed the agreement as a landmark, saying it would inject life into the country's anemic economy. Tourism, which had previously been an important component, is struggling because of the Arab Spring. Although Jordan has been relatively quiet, many tour- ists are staying away from the Middle East entirely. "The [Canadian] agree- ment will herald a new era of cooperation and allow more investment between the two countries," he told The Media Line. "It will provide protec- tion to products from both sides and increase investment in various fields." The head of the Jordanian, Canadian Businessman's As- sociation, Nabeel Khouri, who is also the head of the Arab Petrochemical Company, said the agreement will open up new markets for Jordanian products. He said the total trade volume of $89 million annually will improve and pre- dicted that the FTAwill mean more cash pouring into the Jordanian economy as Arab investors seek to reach the CanadianmarketviaAmman. Canadian officials said the agreement will provide Canada with a gateway to the Middle East. "Jordan is the best oppor- tunity for Canada to estab- lish a hub or a gateway into the Middle East," Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast said during a news conference in Am- man to mark the launch of the FTA. "What set Jordan apart from other countries is that it is moderate and stable. Canada appreciates that," he said. Meanwhile, Jordanian of- ficials said they are working to upgrade the competitiveness of Jordanian manufacturers. "The FTAwfllbe the catalyst for our project to improve the level of Jordanian products through providing companies with the needed expertise to upgrade their quality in line with international standards," Nayef Esteiteh, head of. the Jordan Enterprise Develop- ment Corporation, told The Media Line. "We brought in a Canadian expert who is work- ing with three factories in the food processing sector to helpthem set up strategies to conquer the Canadian market and link up with Canadian partners." By Ben Sales TELAVIV(JTA)---The Face- book page of PlayArt Labs, an Israeli gaming startup, looks more like the homepage of an art museum than the profile of an emerging technology company. It features an article about JohannesVermeer's"Girlwith a Pearl Earring," an animation of Vincent van Gogh's "Starr Night" and a link to a Twitter feed, @Fresco Jesus, about a century-old Spanish fresco. The goal of the startup is to integrate art and cultural education into iPad games-- to create "some added value from playing," according to Adir Wanono, who launched PlayArt Labs 10 months ago. But now Wanono, 34, who successfully funded another startup two years ago, has encountered an unfamiliar obstacle. After eight months of working with barely any money, he has had trouble securing necessary funding from investors who like his idea but are hesitant to invest. He has secured $55,000 in investments from family and friends, but with four people working at the company, even that shoestring budget will run out in six months, Wanono estimates. Wanono says the market in Israel has become tougher since his last startup. "People say, 'Go to the market, gain traction and we'll invest,' but this lowers the chances of most startups to succeed," he said. "We need money now to maximize our chances to succeed. Without Ben Sales Dan Frumkin of the Israeli biomedical startup Nucleix works with DNA in the lab of Rad BioMed, a startup accelerator in Tel Aviv. money now, we won't be able to maximize the benefit from a good launch." PlayArt Labs is far from alone in encountering this problem. Recently, Israel's famously booming startup scene has seen funding from large venture capital firms de- cline. That means there's less money available than there used to be for startups--a key engine of the Israeli econ- omy-to get off the ground. This drop in funding has c6me as Israel's technology sector, which includes start- ups and larger established companies, has experienced dramatic layoffs. According to an August article in Haaretz, 16,000 of Israel's 80,000 tech workers have lost their jobs. Govern- ment funding of the tech sector also has dropped 40 percent over the past decade, to $400 million in 2011. While the number of new startups has not declined from previous years, industry investors and entrepreneurs say that venture capital firms have been less willing to take risks on those companies as they seek to expand. "The entire venture capital model is broken," said Yesha Sivan, president of the Israel Internet Association. "It used to be that a fund would get $100 million, itwouldinvest in 10 companies and itwould get two or three big winners that would make 10 times more on their money. Today the return on VCs is relatively lower, so people are looking for other avenues." Into that void have stepped individual "angel" investors, as well as several dozen companies called startup accele rators or incubators that provide funding, space, equipment and professional guidance to startups. One such accelerator is Tel Aviv-based Rad BioMed, which focuses on biomedical start- ups. At the end of its central hallway, above a smooth beige table surrounded by beakers, microscopes and computers, Dan Frumkin holds a test tube in his latex gloves. Frumkin, 40, hopes to improve diag-- noses of bladder cancer by analyzing DNA. He is the vice president for biochemistry of Nucleix, a startup focusing on DNA analysis that he co- founded four years ago. Nucleix rents space from Rad BioMed, though it does not receive funding from the lab. "It's cheaper and easier" to work at Rad BioMed's of- rices, Frumkin said. "Instead of creating a laboratory, we entered an existing one. It helps that we have a little in common with other com- panies." Incubators and accelerators have less money to invest than venture capital firms-- typically in the hundreds of thousands rather than the millions. But Yoav Chelouche, managing partner of Israel's Aviv Ventur Capital, says "the cost of building a new com- pany is dramatically lower than it's been" in the past. "You don't need to buy software and an operating system," he said. "You can use a lot of open source code," programs that are available for free on the Internet. According to Chelouche's research, venture capital firms in Israel provided about $3 billion of funding to start- ups in Israel from 2008 to 2012, versus $3.6 billion from 2004 to 2008 and $6.5 billion from 1999 to 2004. He also found, however, that Israel is on track to see about 600 new companies created in 2012, a similar number to 1999 and 2000. Chelouche says this could be a positive develop- ment for Israel's tech sector, as it will create "asituation where companies have to do more with less, which is not necessarily a bad thing--be- ing more frugal." But another investor, Roni Einav, the founder of New Di- mension Software, which he sold for a record $675 million in 1999, says that companies may hit a roadblock as they seek to expand overseas. "If the company is success- ful in developing and having the first three, four or five customers in Israel, they can try to go abroad, but then they need more money," he said. The drop in funding actu- ally could help people like Wanono, however, as theywill own a greater percentage of their own companies and thus make larger profits should they sell their companie or go public on the stock market, Einav said. "The question is how much time the founders are ready to sacrifice with minimal salaries, or whether they successfully convince the employees to work with rea- sonable salaries for a year or two," he said. "If you're an entrepreneur and you're not ready to sacrifice a part of your salary, it's like you have a dream but you want someone else to finance it." Einav also crated that the percentage of venture Capital funding of Israeli companies from the United States is growing, which he says is "good because the biggest challenge is to cross the ocean, so an American inves- tor will give credibilfty to the company." While some areas of the startup industry are hot targets for investment, like biomedical companies, Sivan says it's harder now than in previous years to get major investments as a startup. Still, he has confidence that no matter how the industry changes, startups will always be an attractive career option for enterprising Israelis. "This will always be some- thing people do," he said. "People like to create things, to take a chance."