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Israel could be doing more business in France

דצמבר 8, 2007. Globes: Brett Kline

Nir Zamir has already had a follow-up meeting after the IT security forum in Paris and is speaking to two other corporate giants in France who were present there. The marketing VP at Yoggie Security Systems, maker of corporate and consumer gatekeeper PC products, says that their I-Pod sized products are barely used in France, compared with the UK and Germany. “The potential for both French groups and Israeli start-ups is tremendous,” he said. “It’s about time we moved into the French market.”

Michael Wasserstein, president of Visonic Technologies, a maker of radio frequency identification (RFID) products, said his forum meetings with leading French telecom players were important and exciting. “They literally told us they need RFID systems,” he said, “and we have those products to sell them.”

He spoke at a round table about the company’s RTLS, real time location system. “We went to hospitals here in Paris and officials there had never seen a product like ours,” he added. “We do not do even half a million dollars in business in France. You think there is room to grow?” He smiled wryly.

Organized by Dominique Bourra, head of NanoJV business consultants and developers, in conjunction with the France Israel Chamber of Commerce, the forum brought together 23 small and mid-sized Israeli start-ups with 20 French companies, including CAC-40 Paris Bourse leaders. Companies present included BNP Paribas, Alcatel, Hub Telecom, Accenture and Cap Gemini. BNP CEO Michel Pebereau was the lunch-time guest speaker.

“The French have the know-how in security, but the Israelis bring a complimentary angle,” Bourra said. “They excel at transfer from academic research to industry, and from military to civilian applications, with strong backing from private venture capitalists. And they have a strategic vision that is linked to being constantly on the front line of international cyber warfare.”

This year’s forum was bigger than last year’s. “We had one quarter of the CAC-40 companies, the leaders at the Bourse, here,” said Henri Cukierman , the president of the France Israel Chamber of Commerce. “We put together 120 pre-arranged face to face meetings, more than last year. We are creating momentum.”

“I saw contracts being finalized at the forum, but while the independent Israeli companies are quick to talk, the French groups, for business and cultural reasons, are much more discrete,” said Mauro Israel, an active consultant who has led major French groups on missions to Israel, but will not say which ones.

“Many French groups work with Arab countries, and are worried about pressure from them or even from their own associates about working with Israel,” he noted. “In some cases, the Arab countries themselves work with Israel, but do not want anyone to know about it. At the same time, the French know how good the Israelis are with security products, and they want them.”

France remains a distant third among European countries doing overall business with Israel, far behind Germany and the United Kingdom. French leaders in Israel include Veolia, L’Oréal, Alcatel, Danone, Alstom, BNP Paribas, Renault, and Accor. “Some people in France see Israel as a difficult competitor in the security field,” said forum organizer Bourra. “But I believe that

Bourra noted that there is a market-related issue as well. “Don’t forget that Paris is the headquarters for the Euronext stock market, linking Paris, Brussels, Lisbon and Amsterdam, where Israeli presence is minimal,” he said. “That could be essential for Israeli expansion.”

Yoggie’s Nir Zamir pointed out that in the 1950s and early 60s, France was a very close partner with Israel. “From my vantage point, with our 40 or so employees on Moshav Beit Halevy up here off highway 4,” he said with a smile, “Paris is once again looking closer and closer.”

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