On Sunday, I had an opportunity to talk to about 150 students aged 16 and 17. I was the opening speaker for the summer program by a remarkable organization called MEET. They work with teens in what they call “The Region,” which is really Israel and the West Bank. Half of the students are Jews living in Israel, half Arabs living in Israel proper, and some are in the West Bank. Half are boys, and half are girls. They form integrated teams. English is the only language allowed. The teaching is divided into 40% technology (mostly coding), 40% entrepreneurship and 20% improving understanding between the Jewish and Arab students. The summer is the most active time, and there are opportunities for the students to be physically together. It was started by two Israelis at MIT, and MIT is a big supporter of MEET.
I invite you to learn more about MEET here.
I also had a lot of questions. As there was not enough time to answer them, I asked for additional questions to be sent to me by email. Below you will find the questions and answers.
Meet Presentation by Avram Miller
- How do you decide whether or not to invest in a certain company?
First, I must believe that there is an unmet opportunity in the near future. You can not create an opportunity, but you can recognize one. Recognizing it early but not too early is critical. Next, I want to be comfortable that leaders are capable of strategic thinking. Then, I need to understand if they can execute the strategy effectively. Finally, I want to make sure that there will be a great reward for all those that will make the company successful including me as an investor. I call these four qualities, OyStER, Opportunity, Strategy, Execution, and Reward. I always drives my investment decisions.
- What kind of stuff are you doing now?
I am mostly retired, but I like to call it rewired. Actually, I still advise a number of early stage companies, invest a bit and continue to learn and learn. I also have many friends that have successful companies or venture funds that ask for my advice from time to time. I have gone back to my roots in health care. I advise two of the worlds leading medical institutions, The Cleveland Clinic and Sheba Hospital (Israel). My current interest in longevity and precision medicine.
- What keeps\kept you going?
I am driven by a combination of curiosity and a need to have an impact. I was blessed with a pretty good mind, and I like to use it to make a difference. Financial gain plays a very limited role, but then again, I am fortunate to financially comfortable.
- How did you manage to get into business?
The first eight years of my career were in academic settings in medical schools in the USA and then the Netherlands. Then I went to live in Israel for the first time. At that time, in 1974, Israel needed to develop industries, and I decided to start a business that would commercialize the work I had done earlier in medical science. I was also an adjunct professor at the Tel Aviv Medical School. It was not so surprising that I took to business. After all, I came from a family shop keepers.
- If you didn’t enjoy school and studying, how did you get into the habit of learning and even teaching?
I have always wanted to learn. Curiosity drove me then and still drives me now. But it was a bit strange as my parents had no interest in education. So I did not end up going to University. Instead, I became a Merchant Seaman and sailed on a ship to Asia.
- What books and podcasts does he recommend?
I think this question really depends on your interest and direction. Rather than suggest books specifically, I am going to suggest a process. Pick a few companies you admire and read several books about their history. Don’t read just one because every author has a bias. Find videos on youtube about the company. Look for the oral histories of the founders. Ask yourself what was the company’s opportunity and what was its strategy. What did they do well, and what did they do poorly.
- What are some of the ventures you regret investing in, and what did you change about your approach to analyzing businesses from those failures?
Most early-stage investments do not work out. Which means most early stage companies do not work out. As an investor, you must have a portfolio (diversification). As an entrepreneur, you usefully only have one investment: you and your effort. Looking back over my investments for Intel and later for myself, I can see that I was often too early. This is the plight of a “visionary”, I guess.
- Why didn’t you become an entrepreneur?
I am a bit risk-averse. I almost did it in 1983 when I left Digital Equipment Corp., But I was a father when I was 25. I had three children and my wife to support. The strongest feeling I had was to provide for my family. I also enjoyed having the resources of a large company and the opportunity to do many different things simultaneously. I enjoyed strategy more than execution. Once a start-up identifies an opportunity and develops a strategy, it is all executed from then on. There is little flexibility.
- How do you find good mentors?
Why you meet people that you feel can help you and you relate to, ask them. Don’t be shy.
- Do you think that partnerships should be only between brothers or like really close family members?
No, a partnership can be with anyone. Not even sure if it is a good idea to be partners with family members.
- What was your motivation to start?
Not sure about what you mean. My motivation for my first professional job was to get a salary. I was running out of money. Later, my motivation was to have an impact. To know the world would be different because I had lived. I like to say, “to leave my tracks on the fabric of time.”
- What is your opinion on crypto marketing and its improvement?
I have no interest in cryptocurrency if that is what you mean. I think it is mostly a speculative bubble at the moment. Ultimately, the currency will be digital but driven by governments. Blockchain is an important technology.
- What are the most important qualities that your partner needs to have
Honesty, empathy, openness, and being able to communicate are key. But they need to be complimentary. If you are technical, your partner should marketing and business oriented. If you are an introvert, you should be an extrovert.
- How do you manage to do so much work and your personal life and family?
I never managed that well. I regret not being there for my family, especially as my children were growing up. I had children young, so they were already out of the house when I was most active in my career.
- What is your biggest insight from all the things you’ve done?
Think more and do less. I think people are to prone to want to get started without thinking things out.
- What you’re most proud of?
I played a leadership role in creating residential broadband starting in 1992. That really changed the world. It would have eventually happened without me, but I am convinced that my work made it happen fast.
- How do you know what amount to invest in something?
When I invested for Intel, it would depend on so many factors, particularly the stage of the business. Now that I invest for myself, it mostly has to do with diversification. I only have a small number of my assets in early-stage companies, and I like to have at least ten investments at a time so which limits the amount I can invest in any one company.
- What was a “Day in the life of a young Avram Miller”?
I have to pick a time because I was young for twenty years. So let’s take the 16-year-old Avram. I had a job at a jewelry store for 25 hours a week. I was still in high school but mostly only showed up for one class which was choir. I played piano and started composing music. I read probably a book a day. My best friend and I would talk about everything from science to history to philosophy to mud
- Have you had any investments that didn’t work out? If so what do you think was the problem in those cases?
So many because it is so hard and easy to fail. Everything has to go right for the former, and anything wrong can cause a failure.
- Which one of your failures surprised you most?
There was a whole group. When the internet took off, I thought entertainment would play a big role. So I worked with people in the media industry and made investment in early stage entertainment companies. They mostly failed, although there were some successes.
- Avram talked about the future areas to invest in, but he didn’t mention his opinion about nft and crypto, so do you think it might have a future, especially with the last drop in the market.
I am not positive about cyber currency as a long-term investment opportunity. I do believe that NFT has an important role. I am an investor in www.niio.com, which does this for digital art.
- So he talked about how ai is advancing and how it would break into the car and drone industry, does he think humanity can trust ai enough to (up to a certain point) run itself?
I am not sure if humanity can trust AI but I am pretty sure we can not trust politicians.
- what is the most valuable thing u have learned throughout the years
Human beings can do amazing things if given the opportunity.
- I want to ask if i build a program that work on its own on stock market based in how thee graph working< what red lines should i do so the program stops when it happen
I don’t have the skills to answer this. Sorry.
- Do you recommend using programming books?
I learned to program the hard way. There were no classes and no books. I had to create my own programming methods. That was more than fifty years ago. I am sure there are great tools now to learn to program but I do not know what they are.
- Why does he live in Tel Aviv?
I live in Tel Aviv because I find it one of the most exciting cities in the world and close to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is also a secular and liberal city which fits my personal views.
- What things are you looking forward to doing next?
Not really sure. I want to do something that does not involve influencing people. I want to do something creative and artistic, I think.
- Who helped you in the most difficult moment?
I think it was my boss, Les Vadasz at Intel. He helped me through many difficult moments, particularly when dealing with cancer.
- Do you have any previous experience working in the stock market and what do you think about someone developing a program that can generate money from the stock market on its own.
I only know the stock market as an investor. I think many smart people are always trying to do it. Sounds risky to me.
- What do you think about the metaverse?
I think that VR and AR will create new platforms and will be very important.
- Looking back at your journey, what is one thing you would change if you could?
When I first moved to Israel in 1974, I should have left the medical field and started a computer business. I would have been more successful and had more impact. I was reluctant to leave medicine and start over again but then five years later, I did that.
- What daily habits would you recommend to an entrepreneur that’s starting out, and what habits to avoid
Learn to listen to others. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Treat the people that work for you with respect and kindness. And always learn.
- When you first started in hi-tech, did you think you will be this successful?
No, I had no idea. I am still surprised and very grateful.
- When Avram said he exercised his brain every day, what he mean and how he does it?
I use an application called BrainHQ from Posit Science, as well as an application called Elevate.
- What was your typical daily routine when you were starting out
I got up early, worked during the day, and studied at night (on my own).
- He talked about how easy it is to manufacture chips these days. Doesn’t he think it can be rather dangerous in, let’s say, military use?
Perhaps. But governments already have the ability to do so much. I think in general, it is a good thing.