The social technologist: Yossi Vardi, Israeli entrepreneur, thinks tech industry should do more to address social problems

Yossi Vardi, an Israeli entrepreneur, thinks the technology industry should do more to address social problems“If you print this, I will kill you.” Yossi Vardi, a veteran Israeli entrepreneur and venture investor, says it politely, but this is clearly not one of his many jokes. Nor is he trying to protect the top-secret business model of one of the dozens of start-ups he is advising or has financed. He simply hates to appear boastful about a social project to which he donates time and money. “This is more important than any of my start-ups,” he explains. “Making it public would devalue what I’m doing here.” To prevent loss of life — and to protect a deserving project — the secret will not be revealed. But the anecdote is telling. Mr Vardi has long been Israel’s most famous technologist. He is known for having helped build the country’s high-tech industry, and for selling ICQ, an instant-messaging service, to America Online in 1998 for more than $400m. Now his aim is to become the industry’s conscience. His message: only a happy few are benefiting from Israel’s amazing high-tech boom. “We have become two countries: a high-tech one with few children and very high incomes, and a poor one with lots of kids,” he says.

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