Google’s informal corporate motto is “don’t be evil,” and according to President Shimon Peres, the company more than lives up to that ideal.
On a visit Monday to Google Israel’s main R&D center in Tel Aviv, the president said, “[Google] is good. This is a company that tries to help others, that asks itself what it can do to make the lives of people easier. And the results are great.”
Even more, Peres said, Google is launching a new paradigm for the corporate world, and for life in general. “Throughout history the opposite has been true. Companies and nations thought about what they could get out of others, and here we have a company that asks how it can help others.”
Google’s halo was recently tarnished with reports that it may have cooperated with the National Security Agency in gathering private data on Americans (the company denies any involvement), but that didn’t deter Peres from praising the company for the many programs it runs to help Israeli entrepreneurs turn their ideas into products and services.
Peres’ visit to Google Israel had two purposes: first, to check out what the world’s largest information company was up to in the holy land, and second, to kick off the new Android Code Game Lab, a Google Israel program for the development of new games for Android devices. Peres pressed a ceremonial button launching the program at Campus Tel Aviv, a hub for entrepreneurs and developers that offers facilities, advice, mentoring, and opportunities for meeting potential investors.
Not quite an incubator — Campus TLV does not take equity or give money to start-ups — the project has nevertheless proven very important in the lives of dozens of now-successful companies that have drawn on the community resources which the space provides. Since it opened last December, said Yossi Matias, Managing Director of Google Israel’s R&D facility, over 20,000 people had passed through Campus TLV’s doors, attending over 300 events.
Google Israel chief Meir Brand told Peres that Campus TLV runs projects for many entrepreneurs — both for the “classic” model of young (mostly male) Tel Avivians, and also for specific groups, such as ultra-orthodox entrepreneurs, women, and even mothers, who bring their small children to hang out at the site while they work on their start-up projects. Called “Campus for Moms,” that program’s participants had the opportunity to present their ideas and initiatives to venture capital fund reps. The first round of the program concluded in July, and several of the moms have moved on to more intensive Google entrepreneur programs.
During his visit, Peres looked at several of the projects being worked on at Campus TLV. He was taken by one in particular: Upsense, a system that enables the blind and vision-impaired to communicate by providing a virtual typing system that lets users create their own clicks and movements to refer to letters, essentially providing a “type by feel” platform that liberates users from the traditional keyboard. “This will be a tremendous help to millions of people who until now had no alternative,” said Peres. “It’s a brilliant idea.”
Peres also spoke to one entrepreneur who had developed a mini-robot, based on the same principles upon which the Segway was constructed: two wheels, maintaining their balance under almost all circumstances. Robots, Brand told Peres, appeal to children, and were a good way to get them interested in science.
Peres praised the many game apps that were being developed at Campus TLV. “Education begins with toys,” Peres said. “We see how toys have become more sophisticated, and they increase interest among kids for getting involved in science. When a kid plays it encourages their imagination. I think it would be a good idea for the Education Ministry to begin recommending toys that help in the development of children.”
After visiting Campus TLV, Peres met with hundreds of Google Israel’s employees, and reiterated his praise of the organization. “Google is a global company which affects change in a positive way, with good will, not by forcing people into anything. Geographical boundaries are being erased by science; technology crosses borders and nationalities. I am proud of you for what you are doing.”