episode 4 – creativity in art and business | Elon Ganor
In this episode, we speak with Elon Ganor, an Israeli entrepreneur and artist known mainly for his role as one of the world’s first VoIP pioneers. He served as Chairman and CEO of VocalTec Ltd (Nasdaq CALL), the company behind the creation of “Internet Phone,” the world’s first commercial software product that enabled voice communication over the internet. Ganor is an art photographer whose works have been exhibited in various places, including the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In this talk, we discuss entrepreneurship, art, and what each can learn from each other.
This episode was recorded in Google For Startups Creator Studios Tel-Aviv.
*The transcript was produced by an Ai, mistakes might appear.
Nir Hindi: Good afternoon listeners. And thank you for joining us at the Artian podcast.
And today we actually saying hello from Tel Aviv. And today I have with me Elon Ganor, serial entrepreneur. And in a second, you will hear what else is doing in his life, but before that, Elon, first of all, thank you for joining us at our podcast.
Elon Ganor: Thank you for having me here, pleasant, as usual.
Nir Hindi: So I want you to take a moment to introduce yourself to our listeners.
Elon Ganor: Well, by profession, I’m a medical doctor. I graduated from the Tel Aviv University, long time ago. I’m not going to say how long because people will know how old I am. After that, after my army service, as a physician, I, switched to become serial entrepreneur. Serial because I created a few companies or startups. Some of them were very successful in various areas, specifically in the medical field and internet-related companies.
Nir Hindi: So can you share with us some of your business ventures because you stands behind one of, I think I would say iconic companies, that means the nineties in Israel?
Elon Ganor: You know today, you and I were talking over WhatsApp and that is basically using a technology called VOIP which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. I have to admit proudly humbly, but proudly, my company, not just mine, I was one of a few called Vocal Tech was the first company ever inventing and developing voice over internet protocols. The initial product was called internet phone. It was back in, started in February of 1995.
We released the product at the time that was called internet phone and which enabled people to use their computers at the time to speak over the internet network with each other, through the sound cards that were in the VCs. What’s an interesting, maybe to mention that it was very early on because I’ve checked recently, how many subscribers were on the internet overall in February of 96. Can you guess how many today we have what? 4 billion or 5 billion or there were only 16 million people on the internet getting on the internet was very tough at that time. It wasn’t easy. Technically. I mean, if you wanted to get on the internet, you had to be quite technical yourself in order to know how to use anyway.
Nir Hindi: So this company, which named
Elon Ganor: Vocal Tech, Vocal Tech was the first company. Oh, it’s being accredited for being the first VOIP company ever.
Nir Hindi: And this is also your first company that you IPO that did not stop, correct?
Elon Ganor: That is correct.
Nir Hindi: And you had, you were involved in different ventures and some of them, If I can recall correctly is also in developing some of the first HIV test.
Elon Ganor: That is correct too. That is way before it’s earlier, that was a company called Viro Vall which was Swiss based by the way, with laboratories, the scientific laboratories in Gothenburg, Sweden, with a group of Swedish scientists, virologists. That company was the first company ever in 1987, by the way, which developed an HIV diagnostic markers and test for the detection of HIV. HIV. In 1987, it was the beginning of that plague.
And it started a bit earlier, but in 1987, it was really an outcry because many people got infected, people died and there was no way of testing if somebody had, gotten the disease. And this was the first company ever to use synthetic peptides. What does that mean? It meant that since in, the ability to develop, synthetic peptides was, developed. The scientist had, basically taken portions of the virus itself, and synthesized it in the lab to see if that portion that they did actually reacted and sure enough, they succeeded quite rapidly in within six to eight months to find a certain peptide named the GP lack of protein 41.
I can proudly say to you now, again, probably humbly, but proudly that every aid test today, 2019 used by any diagnostic company worldwide whether [NAME] all of them, they’re all using that GP 41 peptide that we were the first to develop. The reason they’re all using it is because number one, it’s good. And number two, they don’t need to pay anything cause the patents had already expired since then.
Nir Hindi: Okay. So you did that in the already for some of the biggest things
Elon Ganor: We sold it at the time successfully, also commercially to form a CIA, which later merged with Upjohn, a big pharmaceutical company in Sweden.
Nir Hindi: So the Vocal Tech was one of the first company you IPO, then you actually IPO the another one. Obviously you have a lot of experience in the world of entrepreneurship and part of being an entrepreneur is actually the ability to challenge the status quo like you did with HIV, trying to find a solution, like trying to create the first internet phone in 95. And I’m wondering what drove you to challenge the status quo in the different companies you have?
Elon Ganor: That is a tough question. I am not sure if I could say, or quote specifically a specific driver that, drove me to challenge a specific area. It’s not as if I came to the idea that I wish to challenge the world telephony system, the telecom environment in order to create telephony or global telephony, which will be cheaper than the others or the same applies to the idea in the HIV or AIDS area.
It’s not that I had the goal. Which I set for myself and went ahead to try to find. It was more of a coincidence that came out, as a consequence of, something that I probably have, which is a serious curiosity. An interest in the futuristic directions. I was always fascinated by the future by where are we going?
And, when you are, all the time on the edge and the reading and being interested in different items and fields, that are moving forward. Then suddenly you have a situation where two fields, which are seemingly not related to each other, they merge. And when that happens, then something new is happening.
Nir Hindi: So it’s kind of a creating connections between unconnected fields or seemingly connected field.
Elon Ganor: Right. I can give you one example. There are plenty of example. The good example is photography. If you look at the camera, as we know it, the analog camera, it’s a suppose, this is the former or the normal.
If you look Google or Wikipedia or anywhere, historical books, photography was invented in 1837. Basically it brought two disciplines from a science to a single box, chemistry and physics, the physics dealt with the optical part, the use of the camera Obscura that was known since the early days of Leonardo da Vinci.
And even earlier than that, where you took a box with a two with a hole in it and a, the ray light, I mean, light rays came into the box and were projected on the backside of the camera or that it’s not the camera yet. When the moment came and certain scientists realized that, in chemistry, you take a silver nitrite and it turns black when exposed to the sun, when exposed to light.
So if you take that when you put it on a glass plate and you will, portray, the image that is coming through the camera Obscura here, you have an image. If you have a photo, these are the first photos. This is 1837. What’s interesting is that chemists, you know, scientists that were in the chemistry area did not know the optical side and physicist.
But for hundreds of years knew about the physics of it. They didn’t know about the chemical side. Once these two things came together, bingo, these are two disciplines merging together to create something entirely new.
Nir Hindi: We’ll speak about this separation between disciplines say later. So, you know, it’s kind of obvious it’s not necessarily what drove you to, what drove you to challenge the status quo, but it’s rather more your interest in the future and connecting unconnected fields.
And obviously, you know, your experience entrepreneurial and you had different companies. And I always say that entrepreneurship is a way of living.
We are living in an era that everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, and we see companies that encouraging entrepreneurial mindset. And I often think that people see entrepreneurship as a job or is a title. And I claims that it’s a way of living, and as such, it’s obviously includes ups and downs. And since you were involved in so many kinds of companies and ventures, I’m interested to ask you what are the two or three beautiful memories that you have from your entrepreneurial ventures?
Elon Ganor: That’s a tough question. I have many. It’s hard to pinpoint their life of for an entrepreneur, a true entrepreneur is built out of ups and downs, of a very high points to some very low points. The distance between the high point and the low point, sometimes it’s 24 hours. It’s really, it’s a, it’s a rollercoaster trip.
It’s a travel, which is not an easy one. Because you’re emotionally bouncing between the highs and the downs. Obviously, if you want to pinpoint the, most people probably including myself will pinpoint the high points because,
Nir Hindi: You can, can you give us one or two points? I mean, if I were where you are with proudly pinpoint one of them, that IPO my company, and I don’t know if you rang the bell, but I would love to ring the bell If they do it today,
Elon Ganor: They do it. And, I jumped straight to the ringing, the bell. I was invited once to indeed to the NASDAQ, to ring the bell. It was the Israeli consulate because we took a company public, not at the IPO, but a few years later. And, for some reason I didn’t show up that morning and I did not ring the bell, which was a big, screw up on my part.
So this is a bit funny, but it’s the first time I shared this information. I never told anyone because I was quite ashamed of not showing up for such an important event.
Nir Hindi: It make you kind a very unique that you are invited, but you forgot to go.
Elon Ganor: Yeah, not exactly forgot to go, but I didn’t go. Never mind the point if I have to. We’ll try and pinpoint.
It’s obviously the, as I said, the high point, which we remember better, but they were also low points. So let me go into specifics. We tried with our developers at Vocal Tech to develop the product, which was an internet phone. Initially we developed it over local area networks. So initially we showed the first product on the Novell system where the two computers connected to each other, with cables really.
And, we showed how you speak from one computer to the other. This was in 1993 in May of 1993. In a trade show in Atlanta, in the U S in 95, we showed it over IP, which is a, basically a wide area network and not a local area network. Before that we did a lot of testing in the lab. We had the beta tester, which was a professor at Cambridge in England.
And a computer science department of Cambridge. The very first time our company was very small and poor. Money-wise so we didn’t even have our own connection to the internet, not even a 16 Meg connection. So, our friends at a very large company today checkpoint, they had more money. And they had their own 64 Meg connection to the internet because they were developing a product for the internet as well.
And they, when the more or less they were finishing the day work at 7:00 PM, 7-8:00 PM or even later they allowed us to come and test our upcoming internet phone on their network and the one day
Nir Hindi: So they had more resources than you?
Elon Ganor: so, they had more resources and they were very nice with us. They were developers that were very friendly and good friends of our developers.
That’s how the connection was made. So they allowed us to use their laboratory. And I remember the first time we tried our internet phone to, in order to speak, we sent the, software to that professor in Cambridge. So one evening 8:00 PM to 8-9:00 PM. We’re sitting there and we are for the first time ever, trying to use the internet phone.
And, hello there. Can you hear me? And out from the speaker and the poor-quality voice comes the answer in a British accent by that professor, that was a real moving moment. It was exciting. It was like the, you know, the first telephone call, like a famous, a call from by Alexander Graham Bell between his office and Boston.
I mean, there’s a very famous story about that. So this was a moving moment. I remember that very well.
Nir Hindi: Did you have, like after 24 hours, like maybe down or. Can you remember?
Elon Ganor: I don’t remember a down after this one, we had plenty of downs along the way. And those were usually when we were getting close to, you know, using our resources nearly to the most and, having to raise additional capital or, moving with investor along the path of, an investment into the company.
And the negotiation goes very well. Forward. And in the very last moment, things explode in your face and the deal doesn’t go through. And those were,
Nir Hindi: what do you do in that case?
Elon Ganor: You nearly commit suicide? Of course not, of course not, but believe me, that’s a real low, it’s a real low. And what do you do?
First of all, you have to relax a day or two after this terrible downturn. And then you are, re-shuffling your own cards and the rethinking and you keep on, working hard in order to get to the next investor until you find the one that will invest obviously, or very close to the red line and to the red zone where your company might go bankrupt.
And you know, the, the bad thing about this entire entrepreneurship and the startup, high tech area, is that I am sure that there are very good companies with excellent products that indeed went down, did go bankrupt. Although they had a phenomenal product and, investors, which are obviously less, futuristic or less, brilliant.
Not all of course, there are some brilliant investors too, but there are some that didn’t understand and let them go, down. But they didn’t have the patience or didn’t have the patience or so forth. So, this is really, as I said, the term roller coaster of suits very well here.
Nir Hindi: Okay. So for the entrepreneurs that listening over here, if you have a bad day or bad situation, take one or two days to relax and recover, and you go again on this ride.
What connected us is not only that you are an entrepreneur. One other aspect of your profile is that you’re also an artist. And at the age of 56, you left what you’re doing, to study art. That’s a brave decision, and I’m very interested to hear, how did you come about that? Like leaving everything at the age of 56 and going to study art.
Elon Ganor: Well, it’s not exactly just like that. It starts earlier since I was a kid, I loved the movies. I loved always to read a lot and I loved the movies and, many, many times in my life, I said that my dream, my wish is that when I will get to the age of 50, I want to retire from everything I do and go make movies.
That was my dream. And, I fulfilled, maybe not a more or less what I said, because I didn’t leave everything I do at 50. Cause it wasn’t possible. I left everything I do more or less than 56, which was 2006. I happened to get involved through a friend of mine who invited me. To join him in a certain workshop with a very famous Israeli artist, photographer, Adi Nes who is a, whose work is a work of art, which is a very known internationally.
He’s one of the most successful artists in Israel. He does a photography, which is a stage photography. So I went, joined a certain workshop, 12 meetings. This is, these are stills photography, and I got hooked, I loved it. I just loved it. After these 12 meetings took three months or so, at that specific workshop with Adi Nes who later became a good friend and a mentor for me, I wanted more.
12 lessons basically were not enough. I was eager to learn more. So, with his recommendation, I found another mentor. Which is a famous and successful Israeli artist called Michal Heiman. She’s a known name here. And, I, took me time, but I convinced her to become like a private mentor, like in the middle ages where artists studied by a sitting by the side of a big, artist and learning from him.
So for one year I sat with her. Once a week on Thursdays at five o’clock her studio. And she was teaching me art and she asked me at the beginning, what do you want from me? I said, I want you to teach me art. She took it seriously. And we were sitting and I was, listening mostly. And she gave me of course, all kinds of projects and homework that I had to fulfill.
And she was, criticizing, give me critique on my work, whether good or bad and so forth, for one year I worked with her and after one year I came to the conclusion. No, it’s not enough. I have more, I need a deeper diving here and I, enlisted to, Israel, one of Israel, better art schools.
There are the famous one is Bezalel in Jerusalem. I still have a bit of a, would I say a bad feeling about them because they were not accepting students older than 35. They were limiting the age of the students, which
Nir Hindi: I have a word for it.
Elon Ganor: Age, ageism. Yeah, it’s ageism. It’s just like gender. I mean, we are living in times where it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be totally illegal, but that’s what Bezalel, I think it’s still doing by the way.
The second best school was the Minshar In Bet Barrel and they are on Tel Aviv, which is also easier for me cause I live in the Tel Aviv area. So I enlisted there and I graduated 2008 and
Nir Hindi: three years.
Elon Ganor: I started for three years, uh, basically in art or by my main was photography. I know. Yes. And I became an artist photographer. So, that’s something I have great passion for.
Nir Hindi: So you mentioned that you have this, you had, or have had this passion for, for movies since you were a very young age, at a young age, where did it come from? This passion for movies? I mean, did you see it at home? Did you, I mean, this passion for art.
Elon Ganor: That is a question, which is very hard to answer. I can try to answer at least part of this. And my late mother was a painter and, the house I grew up in with my parents, had a passion for art and a lot of respects for culture in general. My father was a pediatrician, but he, his side thing, his hobby was history and he wrote a book about history, a very serious and deep book called “Who Were the Physicians”.
So my parents were visiting museums and our house was full of books, art books, and history, books, and literature. And,
Nir Hindi: so you all surrounded…
Elon Ganor: and you had surrounded by a culture. I may say I was lucky enough to be surrounded by such parents. So that is maybe part of, I’m not sure that this is the only one, the attraction.
I don’t remember my parents going to the movies so much, nearly not at all. If at all, I would remember them. Or I do remember that my father usually totally in a book, he is always with a book at that time, there was no TV yet. And, at a later point, TV came already into our lives, but there were not really sitting, later on when my parents got older, they were also hung on TV.
But, before now they were always with a book or my mother painting or doing something. My attraction to the movies, I don’t know through the, the whole environment, our, my friends, kids at school, we were going to the movies together. The movies were a big deal. It was a big thing. And we were going to the movie theater quite a lot.
Nir Hindi: Do you have a favorite movie?
Elon Ganor: If I have one,
Nir Hindi: if you needed to choose one.
Elon Ganor: No, I wouldn’t do that. It’s not right to do because there’s not a, I have many favorite movies and there are really superb movies. And I still go to the movies by the way. And I enjoy it. And I even write sometimes critique on a, on a specific movie.
I saw on my Facebook, I post a critic on Facebook and recently I saw some very good movies, the name is always a problem because I tend to forget the names, but a long history, of course there were, you know, the, the,
Nir Hindi: so it’s not, it’s not a wonder that you’re also married to an artist. I saw the jewelry that your wife creates a beautiful model of a statue in just the jewelry.
Elon Ganor: I don’t know. I really don’t know. You know, what creates attraction between a couple to a, to fall in love and get married. Each other is a complicated subject. And I don’t know the answer.
Nir Hindi: I definitely don’t know.
Elon Ganor: So, you know, we are together already for since 1971. So it’s a lot, quite some time.
It’s quite some time at that time she was not really doing, but apparently she was attracted to it. She’s a sculpturer and she’s a jewelry designer and there’s no difference between the jewels and the sculptures, which are big. The sculpture can be a few meters in size. I mean, very big. And, her jewelry are small sculptures, very small the one, the type that you wear on a finger around your neck. So she appreciates, I’m very lucky with that because when we are traveling, we go and enjoy museums and galleries together. She, again, I’m extremely lucky also that she fell in love as well with photography. And she’s an excellent photographer.
We travel quite a lot worldwide, and we usually both carry serious cameras with us and we both take pictures.
Nir Hindi: So, I have a question over here. Why did you choose photography? All the other mediums in art?
Elon Ganor: I always enjoyed photography. I cannot answer the question. I don’t know the answer, partially, maybe I do.
I have two left hands. I’m not good at painting and I never tried or never been good. Sculpturing didn’t attract me so much, although I appreciate immensely good sculpturing. I can appreciate a good work of art, whether sculpturing or painting and so forth. Maybe it’s the combination that the camera brings together, both the ability to use, to create images and the technology advancement in a camera. I’m always attracted to technology and technical advancements.
I can say one thing about photography, which I, keep repeating and maybe boring my wife by saying it, but a photography to me is a miracle is a total miracle.
I’m always again and again and again, although I’m been doing this for so many years already, I used to take pictures since I was Bar mitzvah since I was 13. So, it’s only in the, after 56 that I started doing it more professionally and more into the art direction. But taking pictures, I started as a child.
Yes, still today. I look at taking a picture as a miracle. I mean, there are two big miracles, which I’m always astounded by, one is flying, you know, getting on an airplane. I feel seeing this, this huge bird with hundreds of people. Taking, I mean, it’s so heavy and I understand the physics of it, I understand the mechanics and I understand the, the wind and I completely understand the avionics of how an airplane is flying and I’m still astounded and, blown away by, by the fact that such a big bird with tons of metal is flying up in the air.
Nir Hindi: What is the second miracle?
Elon Ganor: The first one is the camera taking a picture where you are basically putting in a print mode a moment. It’s not a moment. It’s a milli second, a fraction of a life that you are, you know, pushing a button and you are basically freezing a moment in life for eternity.
Probably for eternity and not truly, but probably that’s an amazing, that’s a miracle.
Nir Hindi: I want to ask you. I want to ask you about these. Exactly. A, one of the same miracles that you created and kind of shooting this, a moment because in your art in at least some of your series in a second, we’ll talk about the others, but one of the series of photography that you actually created, kind of relate to your business background.
You created a series call wall street, and for someone that they IPO two companies, you know, wall street ins and outs and its way of operating, but you chose kind of a critical point of view of wall street. I’m interested to kind of hear about the series of wall street and why, why creating this?
Elon Ganor: The series is made of seven photos, done with a large format camera and they are staged photographs. And, yes, they express a major, criticism I had over the wall street practice or practices, which I encountered while being there. And, there were many things. During my interaction with wall street, that I didn’t like, which I didn’t appreciate.
I really didn’t like being a CEO, for example, you know, every investment banker at the time, large firms, they had, two major sections, the analyst and the investment bankers themselves. Now there is an inherent conflict between these two portions of the investment banking Institute. Why? Because if the investment bankers, so taking a company, your company, and other company public, they want people to buy the stock, right?
And they want the analyst to write good things about the stock and about the company, because if they will, the analyst will say, this is a bad company. Don’t buy their stock. It’s an against the interest of the investment banker that wants to sell the stock. So the common saying that time in wall street was that we have, so-called a Chinese wall between the two departments.
We are not allowed legally to talk with each other. Among the fence or the Chinese wall and, as such. But I found that it’s bias. It’s not really true. I mean, I believed not that I found any proof, but I sense that they are talking to each other and, their relationship is problematic. And later on, when I did my photography series, I, I researched the term Chinese wall while I using, so obviously the I of the.
You know, the layman Chinese wall is something extremely solid, very thick, very big, right. That’s also bias. I mean, it’s not really such a solid wall as the image of, or the imagination of people. So even the investment banking definition of Chinese wall is based on something which is, based on, on the wall full of holes.
It’s not a real thing. And by the way, one of my pictures was the Chinese wall and trying to show in, in, in my Chinese wall, you have a few people sitting in a movie theater, looking on a screen and they are, what do they see? They see the world trade center, as Metaphor of the Chinese wall. Why? Because I found out that, you know, in history, on the recent history as well, big governments, rulers, Kings, and, and so forth, dictators and so forth, always try to build something bigger and bigger and bigger. And, it goes in history and it goes now as well.
Even in our times you have, so the Chinese wall was something huge, but also the trade center was something to be proud of as the highest and the tallest building on earth, as solid as it was, the twin tower fell down, unfortunately, terrible tragedy.
And we’re not going to go into this. But so the Chinese wall was,
Nir Hindi: So we can, we can, probably show some of those work in our website after our conversation will be, one of the photos that I also like is the black Knight and a white Knight, but I’m interested. Okay. You chose the topic because you knew that the world street and you had your critical aspects, but I wonder how do you choose your subjects?
How do you choose?
Elon Ganor: Well, in that case, In that case, maybe I should really finish. I’m sorry. I am talking maybe too long, but you ask, why did I do this series? At the beginning, I had a lot of criticism on wall street and I was pretty upset with some of the things which I thought were immoral practice by wall street.
And then I was thinking like many CEOs and so forth to write a book and tell about my experiences, and some of the bad experiences too. And then I said, I’m going to write the book. I have quite a few friends, which were CEO’s of successful company, more successful, less successful. We wrote books who the hell is reading these books.
I mean, their friends are buying it. It’s not, I mean, it’s not common that a good such a book is being, becoming a best seller. And I thought I’m going to write the book a few hundreds, maybe a few thousands will read it. People will not know. I want to point my view and raise my view in a different way, not by a book, but maybe by something that will raise or get more attention, by the way I was wrong.
It didn’t get more attention. It got some attention. Mostly in Israel, not so much in the U S and not so much elsewhere. So I was not right. So writing a book is not good enough, but also, so that’s why I decided to create a stage photography series on wall street.
Nir Hindi: Okay. I mean, some of those photos, we will publish on our website so people can see personally, I like a lot a white Knight and black Knight, which also terms coming from wall street. So I want to go back to this question because you obviously have different, series of photography. And now I wonder how do you choose to start the series?
Elon Ganor: It’s a lot of experimenting and curiosity and a coincidence. These are the three terms I would use in how it starts, for example, the box.
I’m not going to go into the details of how it came into being, but I, by coincidence was at the point where there was something similar to the box, but it wasn’t a box. And I liked what the result was. And then I decided to create by carpentering myself, a wooden box, which I started carrying with me, different location,
Nir Hindi: different boxes, different materials,
Elon Ganor: different boxes, different materials, whether wood or glass or metal and the different locations, different weather conditions, and so forth.
A lot of experimentation and trial and error, basically,
Nir Hindi: and those photos, we can also put on their website,
Elon Ganor: Sure, sure
Nir Hindi: So, you know, you mentioned kind of a one characteristic, you mentioned curiosity. And before we go deep into curiosity, I wonder, are there different characteristics that are essential for both, the artist and the entrepreneur?
Elon Ganor: Some for sure. I’m not sure that everything is similar. Maybe I start with, some differences, not the similarities. I wanted to say that entrepreneurs usually are, we’ll discuss why entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs, and why a real entrepreneur is doing what he’s doing.
But definitely part of it is, economical, based success. Being an entrepreneur is by say, taking a company, that has a successful product, futuristic product, it is successful with the public, it goes public, and there’s a lot of financial returns to the entrepreneur. Himself. Artists usually are less motivated by economy.
Again, some artists which are very successful, they will have tremendous return by a successful art. We know that, and we know names, I think within the art community, you’ll see less drive, that is motivated by money. The entrepreneurs are more motivated by money, although it is also true to say that real good entrepreneurs.
This is not the number one driver. This is not the number one driver. This is a side effect for them. This is something they want to, either change the world for reasons that are sort a big subject to solve some problems they want to prove to themselves or to their fathers, how good they are, no, I’m not joking.
Many entrepreneurs are frustrated kids have, very, there were some studies about that on the fathers that were, always critical of them and always feel that they need to prove something to their father, even if he’s not existent anymore, but they want to show, look how successful I am. You always said that I’m not good enough and I will not succeed in this and that.
And so many entrepreneurs have this, this drive, the openers, want to, they like to lead. They like to change the very curious people that are interested in things.
Nir Hindi: So what are the similarities because you start to speak and I see some similarities.
Elon Ganor: The similarities are the ability of trial and error going into the direction of trial and error.
Curiosity, I think is also similar. The artist is always trying. I mean, both of them are starting with a clean slate with a, basically a white canvas and they need to decide. What am I going to do now? I mean, you sit in front of this white canvas with your paint and your about, usually you will also see that most famous artists always also work by series.
Artists, photographers usually they have series. So a painter, for example, always sculpture, or you will always see a certain series of works, not just the single one. And then later something entirely different. So something intrigued them. Something intrigued them, to start a certain direction, a certain, you know, a way of thinking.
If you look at Van Gogh, if you look at the impressionist and, they made the change compared to the ones that were before the impressionist and gradually you see the development. Well, if you look at modernism and postmodernism is always something that is, coming into mind after a lot of trial and error, and a lot of thinking entrepreneurs are similar in that respect.
You’re looking around you, you’re looking at, different directions and, taking, making two plus two, trying to see how you can, make it into a five, not just the four. So as I mentioned, photography, it was chemistry and physics. Or if you look at, Viro Vall with the HIV, it was the ability of seeing the creation of the machines for synthetic peptides, which is something entirely new.
And on the other hand, the virologist that succeeded in, sequencing, the structure of the HIV virus. Those were two very famous virologists, one from France, [NAME] and Bob Gallo in the United States. So bringing these two totally different ones suddenly enabled you to create, uh, a new product for diagnostics of AIDs.
If you look at Vocal Tech, then suddenly the emergence of IP enabled the emergence of an ability of digitizing voice and using algorithms to basically compress, that voice into small amounts of data that can be shaped or sent over a large area networks, why they’re in it works.
And suddenly it has the IP, which is a common everywhere. And now you can take a sent voice, from one continent to the other. And now you can speak over WhatsApp or messenger by Facebook.
Nir Hindi: So I want to say, I mean, you mentioned trial and error and you mentioned curiosity and I’m wondering, I’m often being asked, can someone develop actually curiosity? And is it even possible to develop curiosity?
Elon Ganor: I don’t know. I have five grandchildren and I’m trying always to raise their curiosity.
Nir Hindi: How do you do it?
Elon Ganor: By taking books for kids, which, has interesting subjects, obviously interesting for me. So I’m taking biology, zoology, and robotics, all kinds of, and you’ll see them on my grandchildren, which are the oldest 16 and the youngest 3.
And they’re five altogether. They have their own natural interest in specific areas. I have one that she’s 9. And she has tremendous, she loves dogs since they want she’s the whisperer to the dogs. She’s amazing with dogs, more than, I mean, among the other five, you have others that are in an infatuated or like dogs, but not like her.
She, since she was a baby, she was with the dogs all the time and it seems she speaks with them and they speak with her. And now a week ago, I visited them are basically meeting every week. And she showed me a book about zoology and biology, and she showed me a book about cockroaches and the belt, all kinds of, of, insects.
And, she had tremendous interest in those insects. And I started expec, I was in the biology class in high school, and I always was attracted to biology and she shows the same pattern. It seems natural. It doesn’t seem that anybody in a family, her parents or anybody pushed her that direction. I have another grandson.
So he’s into robotics. He’s very much into robotics and, you know, the space and the,
Nir Hindi: It’s natural curiosity.
Elon Ganor: It’s natural curiosity. Yes. Now you probably can enhance that to some extent, but I’m not sure that it’s not natural.
Nir Hindi: Okay. You know, because we’ll say that every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up and part of it is curiosity. And in previous conversation you actually said that, you know, it’s that education system that gives it this natural curiosity. And that’s why I’m kind of interested to understand how, if it, even if it’s possible to develop it, but maybe you try to do something else because you taught a course on entrepreneurship and solely creativity in business and art for business school students.
So you actually try to merge the disciplines. And just like you said, at the beginning, often innovation or creation happens when we actually connect the unconnected. Can you tell us more about these course, why you actually taught these course and what you are trying to transmit in this course?
Elon Ganor: Sure. I remember the natural evolution of how this happened. I was invited by different business schools in the past, quite a few times, maybe many times to discuss things about the companies, I was involved, mainly Vocal Tech, which was a business case in the, in the Harvard business school and elsewhere other places too.
And, at some point, after years that I was doing that here in Israel. I was once asked by a professor in one of the business schools, if I could, if I would agree again, to come and discuss, things about Vocal Tech. And I said, no, I’m a, it’s boring. I’m a guy who get bored quite easily. And, enough is enough.
But if you wish this was in, towards the end of 2006, which means I was already one year in art school. So I said to her, if you wish I am willing to do something, as I am willing to give a workshop. 10, 12, 14 meetings to business school, students about creativity in art and business. Now, why did I mention that?
And that came to me kind of instantly. I met her in a social event and she asked me if I would come and speak. And that was my answer. And, to my, I was totally terrified when she came back and she said that the Dean accepted and they will give me the time for a workshop a whole semester for students.
Now I have to think really seriously, what am I going to do? How I’m going to do that. No, but there was a base idea there in art school, they were teaching you how to deal with the white canvas, which I was talking about earlier. So, and there are even books, Julia Cameron, the artist way, there’s, it’s a famous book.
And that she also is trying to, provide artists or artists to be, ways of how to enhance your creativity. So for example, one thing she said there is keep a little notebook next to your bed. And, first thing you wake up in the morning, write down your dreams. Your dreams are an interesting source of subjects for your next art project.
Okay. So simply write it down. They teach you, you know art has been there for hundreds, maybe thousands, not maybe, thousands of years. And artists had developed over these ways of enhancing their own creativity. Of course, we said that earlier. That creativity is something which is also characteristic you were born with or not, but you can enhance it.
Everyone can enhance it. So if you’re a very talented and you will enhance it, you will become even better. But even if you’re not very talented with your creative abilities, you can still enhance it by going through some exercises. So for example, this thing of writing your own dreams in the morning, because everybody knows you forget the dreams half an hour later, you wake up at the, initially you say, Whoa, what a dream?
What a nightmare. I, what this and that. And, but, if I’ll ask you an hour later, you forgot it. So writing it down right there, way before you, even getting out of bed is an important thing to do because then those ideas, which are usually quite, strange or crazy or whatever. So I decided that I’m going to take some of those exercises expressed by Julia Cameron or by the, my teachers in art school.
And I will bring them into, into the business side and see, now there were a few notions in the base of that idea. One notion was that everyone has some level of creativity. Okay. Some people less. So I wanted first to select my students by interviewing them before accepting them into class, to see that they have a minimal creativity capability, if they’re totally, you know, square minded.
I don’t want them in my class, to be honest,
Nir Hindi: It’s unusual to actually interview your students and not allow everyone to register.
Elon Ganor: That’s what I did. And that’s exactly what the Dean said to me the time, the first so-called teacher at school there that did that cause other, they want as many students as possible in class.
I limited it to 25 because I had exercises to do, and I need to check those exercise. I kind of have, hundreds of people in my class registration was fantastic, but I did interview every one of the students. And I asked them, you know, it was a 5 to 10 minutes interview with each one. Not more.
I wanted to know if they read books, what kind of books, if they see movies, if they have any hobbies, what kind of hobbies they have, what is their interest? And I asked them, for example, one question, which was always interesting. I asked my students, in the interview level before accepting them, you just got an, a phone call.
And apparently, or letter, you had an unknown uncle who died, passed away and left only you and inheritance of a hundred million dollars. What do you do? Are you, you are now in a business school second year, third year, obviously I asked you, why are you in business school? And most of them answered to make money, but now I just gave you the answer.
You just got a hundred million dollars. So that means you have enough money for you, for your kids and for your grandkids. So you’re not, are you staying in business school? Cause you said you want to make money and then now you have money. So why would you stay? What would you do? The answers were amazing.
Absolutely amazing. Why? Because 9 out of 10 said, no, no, I am not going to stay. And I’m not going to stay so what are you going to do? I’m going to study art. I’m going to, play the piano. I’m going, you know, every one of them you might have had something and wanted to do things which had to do with the right side of the brain, not the left side of the brain, something in the spiritual side of things and not on the material side of things.
So of the material that has been, you know, settled, I got a hundred million. It was amazing to see how each one of them had other motives in them. This was a good answer for me. I mean, those that want to make money as a part of, and then at class I was, you know, the final test or exercise for them was you will bring me towards the end of the semester one work done, in any form, you want a photograph, a poet, a piece of music, something prose you wrote. I mean, anyway, painting, paint sculpt, you do whatever you want. And bring me something that will express an emotion, just expressing emotion.
Nir Hindi: They needed it. They needed to explain why they did what they did.
Elon Ganor: Yes. But only after the the work they’ve done, which was, basically displayed in class and discussed by the whole students before they explained what they did. And, and we, me, the professor and then, the other students had to see, look at the photograph and understand why sadness is what is being expressed. Now, if you take emotions like sadness, like happiness, like jealousy, like, anger, anyone have the emotions and try to think how you would express it, not in a most obvious way.
This is easy. You know, if you always show me a photograph of somebody trying to stop someone else, obviously you’re showing hatred and, and, I don’t know, jealousy may be a little bit, so now show me more subtle ways, the work that the students brought back were amazing. I showed that in the school to other professors in the school and the school deans decided they were going to make an exhibition out of this works.
The works were amazing. So they made an exhibition and then someone from the school invited art critiques from the press, you know, the general press and they came and they were critics in the general press in Israel about this art exhibition by students of business. It was amazing to see. It was really, to me it was a huge satisfaction.
I was really enjoying great. But, it was fun.
Nir Hindi: So unfortunately we are running out of time and I want to kind of ask you maybe one last thought comment, maybe tip recommendation. Many of the things that I do actually relate to the world of entrepreneurship and business. I want to hear from your perspective, why would you recommend, business professionals, to actually get to know artists, get to know art, get to know the way they think in the world?
Elon Ganor: I think it’s really very important for business people. I’m not saying entrepreneurs, I’m saying business people, which, has in the term business people, there are some that are entrepreneurs and some that are more professional business people that are good operators.
So things like that. I think for them to understand the humanistic, sciences, including art. It’s not just art, but basically it’s all kinds of arts. It can be literature, it can be music, but understanding what motivates, artists and understanding how art is being expressed and develop is something that will develop their own creativity.
I think it’s very important because you know, some of the exercises I did with my students in a class for creativity in art and business, it was showing a specific, I brought into this class also, important entrepreneurs and ask them to give examples of problems they had during the business life, which they solved in a creative manner, not in a natural manner.
So for example, I was asking my students, tell me, you’re running a startup. And you ran out of money and you have to raise additional capital. How would you do that in a creative manner? Meaning creative is not going to the venture capitalists. This is an in the, you know, setting them. That’s a normal way.
That’s not creative. I want you to bring me an idea, which is totally out of the box, how you can raise additional capital by, this is one example. So they saw things which you will learn. But understanding other way of thoughts and art is very good at teaching you other ways of thought.
Nir Hindi: Yeah. I always say that doubt is an open ended and not beautiful as it did show you reality of life is that there is for every problem, there are multiple solutions.
Elon, I wanted to say a big thanks for taking the time in coming over here and sharing all your thoughts and experiences. And with that. Thank you very much to our listeners for joining us in hearing this intersection of art, entrepreneurship, photography, science, and creation. Thank you very much.
Elon Ganor: Thank you. Thank you, Nir. I always enjoy the interaction with you. You are a unique person and your understanding of things that not too many people unfortunately understand and promoting it and art and creativity into the business world is something I am very much in favor of, as you obviously understand.
And I think you’re doing a phenomenal job. So thank you so much for inviting me.
Nir Hindi: Thank you.
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