Israel, and The Times of Israel, lost one of its best friends in Saturday night’s tragedy at the Furama restaurant in Tel Aviv when an out of control vehicle slammed into patrons. If there was a more enthusiastic booster of Israeli high-tech in America than Alan Weinkrantz, I have yet to meet him.
Alan was a charter member of our Start-up blog section, one of the first to agree to write on a regular basis about the start-ups and entrepreneurs that he met in his travels – first as an independent agent, seeking to develop deals between American angel investors and Israeli start-ups, then doing the same thing on behalf of US tech firm RackSpace. After concluding his work with RackSpace, Alan started working with James Brehm & Associates to find Israeli firms involved in the Internet of Things space and bring them to the US.
Not satisfied with mere writing, though, Alan took his blogging to another level – often doing audio and video interviews with entrepreneurs, in order, as he said often, to bring to readers the full experience of what great work these folks were doing.
As a resident of San Antonio, Alan was about as far off the beaten path for working with Israeli companies as you could get, The one event to attract Israelis to his town is the annual South by Southwest event (SxSW). Alan made the most of that event, highlighting the start-ups and special Israeli-oriented stories that emerged from the conference, making it attractive enough to encourage even more Israelis to attend (I personally know three who told me that they made it their business to attend SxSW because of Alan’s promotion of its Israeli connection).
As editor of the Start-Up section, I was perhaps closer than anyone on the TOI staff to Alan – and he and I worked in tandem on stories that, due to time and resource constraints, I just couldn’t get to. Alan made it his business to get the information on those promising start-ups and entrepreneurs, highlighting great ideas and projects that I, even with the flood of PR pitches in my overstuffed inbox, had never even heard of. If there is such a thing as investigative journalism in Israeli high-tech, Alan was its master.
And he did all this – helping me out, helping entrepreneurs out, and spreading the word on great projects – gratis. I even discussed the possibility of helping to defray his costs – after all, he was practically a staff member – but Alan refused, saying that it wouldn’t be right to take money when he was already getting compensated by RackSpace. I, of course, didn’t push the point (I’m not sure the bosses would have approved it), but for Alan it was never about the money anyway.
And that’s the kind of guy he was; if there’s one word that to describe him, it’s selfless. Never did I see him get angry (frustrated once, but never angry), and more often than not when I would mention the TOI Start-up blog to someone in the business, they would say “you mean where Alan Weinkrantz writes?” He was selfless not only in his love of the Israeli tech industry but also in his love of Israel – all of it – as well. I never asked him about his politics, but Alan was everywhere – covering the doings at a tech accelerator in the West Bank settlement the Kiryat Arba, working with folks in Nazareth to help develop a start-up incubator, and even journeying to Ramallah on occasion to see how he could build bridges between Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs. That, I can say confidently, is a story that will eventually come out (respecting his wishes, I will be reticent about what I know of his bridge-building activities).
Above all, Alan was a mensch – a person you would want to hang out with, and who would want to hang out with you, despite his very busy schedule. Rushing from meeting to meeting to tech event to airport for back-and-forth trips to the States, Alan was never impatient and never brushed off anyone. And if you were an entrepreneur, he would change his schedule to hear about your idea and to see how he could help you out.
Helping out start-ups and entrepreneurs is an incremental process – dropping the right word to the right person at the right time as word of a new innovation or idea filters through the investor community. It’s a process that requires finesse and skill – and if we see fewer deals between Israeli start-ups and angel investors in the coming months, it’s because one of the masters of that skill is no longer with us.