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Governor’s Trade Mission Trades in Diplomacy (Investing in the "Silicon Valley of the Middle East")

The Jewish Voice
Vol. 31 No. 41
Published by The Jewish Federation of Delaware
July 16, 1999
by Lynn Edelman

David Freschman, founder of the Delaware Innovation Fund, had a very eventful first-time visit to the Jewish State. As a participant on Governor Tom Carper's recent Economic and Trade Mission to Israel, he became "the very first American venture capitalist ever to visit the Palestinian Authority."

If peace is realized in the region, many more American investors will follow suit. The Palestinian trade and economic leaders that he met during a reception hosted by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat were "very receptive" to the prospect of partnerships between American and Palestinian businesses.

Following the reception, he toured Ramallah and was impressed by the stark contrasts between this depressed city and its Israeli counterparts. Yet the potential for economic growth is "staggering" in a nation like the Palestinian Authority where, according to Freschman, people have among the highest levels of post-high school education in the world.

Freschman learned why Israel is being referred to as the "Silicon Valley of the Middle East." "It is a nation with some 3000 start-up companies-500 of which are backed by venture capital funds," he said. Freschman and Delaware's Secretary of Commerce, Darrell Minott, visited five of these companies. Both men were impressed by what Freschman describes as a "level of technology so sophisticated that there is no existing market for their services."

He is confident that he can help them find investors and markets in the yet untapped Mid-Atlantic region. "Israelis come to the Silicon Valley, they come to Boston, why not here," he queried.

The answer lies in building relationships "one meeting at a time." He currently is planning a follow-up trip in September to cement the ties established during his whirlwind four-day visit.

Maybe next time he'll get to visit some of the museums and historic sites that his wife, Robin, raved about.

Or maybe not. The prospects for economic development in the region are enticing and Freschman wants Delaware to "get in on the action."

He maintains that American investment in the region can help spur economic growth. "If you have economic prosperity in the region, then a lasting peace is possible," he concluded.

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