The news in the chip and hardware business lately hasn’t been very good, at least for workers. A number of large companies in Israel have been laying off workers, as lower prices erodes profits and sales fall, with the move to virtualized systems instead of localized server hardware. Companies like Freescale and ECI have already announced layoffs, and a report this week said that chip maker Micron may close down its Israeli operations altogether, putting as many as 1,300 people out of work.
The layoffs here are part of a worldwide trend among hardware companies worldwide. Just last week, it was reported that AMD, which has already sloughed off over 1,700 people in previous rounds of layoffs, is set to get rid of hundreds more, as its business continues to contract.
The hardware business has certainly taken a hit, and that’s worrying for many in the Israeli tech industry, which counts among its ranks a healthy sprinkling of hardware technology companies. But at least one multinational with a major presence here is bucking the trend. At its annual review on technology and activities in Israel, officials of Broadcom said that they had dozens of open positions, and were ready to hire people “tomorrow.”
And although many companies claim that they are hiring, Broadcom really means it, according to vice president Shlomo Markel, an Israeli who has been with the company since 2001. A lot of multinationals are interested in expanding in Israel — by acquiring Israeli companies, growing their staff by acquisition.
Broadcom, of course, is no slouch when it comes to shopping around for Israeli start-ups — seven of the last 10 companies Broadcom bought were Israeli — but the company has a commitment “to organic growth of its staff in Israel,” Markel told reporters at the session in Herzliya. “In 2009, we had 100 workers in Israel, and now we have over 800. Much of that has been through organic growth, in which we hire new people, not just retain the workers in the companies we acquire.”
Discussing a statistic that might take many by surprise, Markel said that Broadcom’s staff in Israel was the company’s second-largest anywhere in the world, and that there were more Broadcom employees in Israel than in all of Europe.
The type of work done in Israel is central to the core activities of Broadcom. “We have a hand in almost everything the company does, and in many cases the Israeli units are leaders of the technologies Broadcom is involved in,” said Markel. “We are not just ‘water drawers and carriers,’ providing support for the ‘real teams’ elsewhere.”
While Intel is generally identified as “the most Israeli” of the tech multi-nationals in terms of numbers — there are more Intel workers in Israel than in California — it must be remembered that Intel is a lot bigger than Broadcom. But the breadth of work being done by Israeli units of Broadcom, most of which were start-ups not long ago, is truly breathtaking. Israel is central to numerous Broadcom businesses: Passive Optical Network processors (developed by Broadlight, a recent Broadcom acquisition); mixed signal semiconductors for microwave backhaul systems (Broadcom acquisition Provigent); system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions for femtocells for better Internet connections (Percello); switch fabric solutions for data center networking equipment (Dune Networks); and much more. Many of the former CEOs (and now division heads) of these and other start-ups were at the event, describing their work and how they have fit into Broadcom.
And Broadcom intends to continue growing and hiring in Israel, Markel said. One of the reasons the company has thrived is because of its start-up like nimbleness in adapting to market needs, along with its focusing on the ABC’s of technology — namely engineering. “Over 95% of our Israeli staff are engineers, as are over 80% of Broadcom staff around the world.”
Broadcom is a technology company, after all, and Israelis are great at technology, which is why Broadcom has found a home here, said Markel. “We don’t have a public relations department,” Markel said, “because we don’t need one. The PR is in the people, and for those people who believe in technology and want to join a world-class company, this is the place to be. We have room to grow — as a company and as an employer.”