Yosef Haber of Yissum On The Case For Optimism About The Next Ten & Twenty Years

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Maintaining optimism during challenging times is crucial, and I draw inspiration from various aspects of my work at Yissum, the tech transfer company. Firstly, the curiosity-driven research happening in academia fills me with optimism. Being at the forefront of the future, universities are hubs of innovation and discovery. They constantly strive to address the challenges of each generation, seeking solutions that can have a profound impact on society. This focus on an optimistic future, fueled by the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, helps me stay positive even in difficult circumstances.

Reading the news can be so demoralizing: climate change, war, fires, epidemics, rogue AI, mental health, authoritarianism, extreme partisanship. But humans need hope. In order for us to create a positive future, we need to be able to have hope that there can be a positive future. What is the “Case for Optimism” over the next decades? What can we look forward to and hope for to help us strive for a more positive future?

In this series, we aim to explore and highlight the positive aspects, potential breakthroughs, and reasons for optimism that lie ahead in the coming decade and beyond. We are talking to authors, researchers, entrepreneurs, scientists, futurists, and other experts who can shed light on the exciting advancements, innovations, and opportunities that await us. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Yosef Haber.

Yosef Haber is the Director of Alliances and Portfolio Companies at Yissum, the technology transfer of The Hebrew University. With expertise in operations management, strategic partnerships and passion for innovation, he manages the compliance and equity holdings of over 140 portfolio companies. Yosef’s commitment to driving innovation and fostering growth contributes to the success of Yissum’s ventures and their positive impact in the technology transfer landscape.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel during the 80s and 90s. Being a third culture child of American immigrants, I had the opportunity to spend most summers in the US, while growing up in a developing Israel. This period made it abundantly clear to me the stark disparities between the two countries.IAs a typical young boy, I reveled in playing sports, watching games, and tinkering with electronics. It was an exciting experience for me to witness the construction of my neighborhood and explore the constantly evolving environment around me.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My career inspiration stems from my father, an eternal optimist and small business entrepreneur turned hi tech inventor, founder and CEO of a publicly traded company. He instilled in me a passion for innovation and technology. Witnessing engineers working on cutting-edge technologies in my father’s office sparked my interest in intellectual property and bringing groundbreaking ideas to life. Discovering Yissum, the tech transfer company associated with Hebrew University, further fueled my fascination with disruptive innovation. Transitioning from banking to the startup world, I found my true calling. Yissum’s commitment to pushing boundaries and transforming research into real-world solutions resonated deeply with me. Guided by my father’s support, I am grateful to pursue a career at the intersection of business and technology.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My wife has played an instrumental role in shaping who I am today. We first met as young adults at an American summer camp, where she worked as an art counselor and I served as a lifeguard. Since then, we have been inseparable. Throughout our journey, we have supported and uplifted each other. From pursuing our academic degrees to navigating our professional paths, we have weathered life’s ups and downs side by side. Even during moments when I had seemingly outlandish ideas, like pursuing an Executive MBA while juggling full-time jobs and expecting our third child, she stood by me with unwavering support. Now, as a proud parent of four daughters, I am inspired to make a positive impact on our future. I am delighted to see their genuine interest in my work, just as I once admired my own father’s career pursuits. Their curiosity fuels my desire to contribute meaningfully to the world.

It brings me great joy to witness the connection between my daughters and their interest in what I do. Guiding and inspiring them, as my own father did for me, is a cherished opportunity that I embrace wholeheartedly.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Currently, at Yissum, we have the privilege of working on several exciting projects that have the potential to make a significant impact. One of these projects is with Hydro X, a company revolutionizing hydrogen storage technology. Hydrogen is an efficient and low-carbon energy source, but current storage methods come with challenges such as hazardous materials and extreme conditions. Hydro X offers a disruptive solution by utilizing the formate-bicarbonate cycle, which enables safe, non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-explosive liquid organic storage and transportation of hydrogen. This innovation operates at near-room temperature and pressure, using readily available materials, resulting in exceptional energy efficiency. The stored hydrogen solution can even be spilled on a table and wiped away with a towel, without any dangers or explosions. This advancement in hydrogen storage technology has the potential to pave the way for a hydrogen-powered future, providing a cleaner and more sustainable energy source.

Another fascinating project we are involved in is with Point6. They have developed a biomarker-based diagnostic for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) using a proprietary multi-omics platform. This solution combines biological expertise and machine learning to provide a comprehensive understanding of molecular processes related to ASD. The diagnostic test is simple and non-invasive, offering a singular view of nuanced molecular markers. This advancement has the potential to improve early detection and intervention for individuals with ASD, leading to better outcomes and quality of life.

Lastly, we are collaborating with Prof Etgar and Solra on the development of next-generation solar cells. These solar cells, made from perovskite, have higher conversion efficiency and lower cost/watt compared to current commercial solar cells. They can be used for both indoor and outdoor IoT applications, offering adjustable tuning, semi-transparency, and the ability to absorb light from various sources. This flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the solar cells make them ideal for powering IoT devices, reducing reliance on traditional power sources and increasing energy efficiency.

Overall, these projects we are working on have the potential to bring about significant advancements and benefits. From revolutionizing hydrogen storage for a cleaner energy future to improving diagnostics for Autism Spectrum Disorder and developing cost-effective solar cells, we are striving to make a positive impact on people’s lives and contribute to a more sustainable and innovative world.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I believe there are three character traits that have been instrumental to my success: curiosity, hard work, and honesty. Let me share a story or example for each of these traits.

Firstly, curiosity has played a crucial role in my journey. I never settle for simple answers and always strive to understand how things fundamentally work. This innate curiosity has driven me to constantly learn and improve. For instance, when I started working at a startup, there was no guidebook or established path to follow. I had to learn on the job, adapt to changing circumstances, and seek knowledge from various sources. Through this continuous learning process, I honed my skills, avoided repeating mistakes, and gained insights from my colleagues’ experiences. Curiosity has been the fuel that has propelled me forward, enabling me to embrace new challenges and find innovative solutions.

Secondly, hard work has been a cornerstone of my success. I firmly believe in giving my all every day and putting in the necessary effort to achieve my goals. This work ethic has been particularly important in the fast-paced environment of startups. I recall a specific project where we faced tight deadlines and numerous obstacles. Through hard work, determination, and perseverance, my team and I were able to overcome these challenges and deliver a successful outcome. Hard work, coupled with a passion for what you do, can truly make a difference in achieving success.

Lastly, honesty has been an essential trait that has guided my leadership approach.

At Yissum, we work with companies that experience ups and downs along their journey. By being honest and transparent, I provide them with the flexibility and understanding needed to navigate the growing pains. I strive to be a listening ear, fully comprehending the challenges these companies face. Drawing from my own experiences in a high-growth startup, I empathize with their journey and offer support. This honesty, coupled with integrity and honoring agreements, forms the foundation of trust and collaboration, enabling companies to flourish and transition to the next stage.

Additionally, being involved with companies that have the potential to improve the world is immensely inspiring. For example, working with disruptive companies like Believer Meats, which is transforming the meat industry, is a testament to the power of innovation. Witnessing the impact these companies create and the ripple effects they have on the industry is awe-inspiring. The ability to contribute to positive change and tackle pressing environmental issues is both fulfilling and motivating. This broader perspective of making a difference in the world fuels my passion and drives my commitment to the work I do.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about the case for optimism. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. When we refer to being optimistic about the future, what exactly do we mean?

Being optimistic about the future means having a positive mindset and believing in the potential for positive change and progress. It involves maintaining hope, seeking opportunities, and having a constructive outlook toward what lies ahead.

Why is it important to have an optimistic outlook about the future?

Maintaining an optimistic outlook on the future is vital because it fuels motivation, resilience, and innovation. Optimism fosters a proactive mindset, enabling us to seek opportunities, overcome challenges, and find creative solutions. It inspires collaboration, fosters positive relationships, and encourages forward-thinking approaches. Ultimately, an optimistic outlook empowers us to navigate uncertainties, embrace change, and work towards creating a better future for ourselves and generations to come.

What are some reasons people might feel pessimistic about the future, and how do you suggest we address these concerns?

People may feel pessimistic about the future due to various reasons like global challenges, economic uncertainties, or societal issues. To address these concerns, fostering open dialogue, promoting transparency, and encouraging collective action are essential. By prioritizing education, innovation, sustainable practices, and social inclusivity, we can work together to create positive change, restore trust, and inspire hope for a brighter future.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 Reasons To Be Optimistic About The Next Ten and Twenty Years?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)

1. Looking ahead to ten and twenty years, it’s important to recognize the progress we’ve made in the past decade or two and the obstacles we’ve overcome. Globalization has brought advantages but also new challenges. However, we’ve shown resilience, especially during the recent pandemic. Technology has played a crucial role, enabling businesses, students, and healthcare workers to adapt. The rapid development of vaccines has been a remarkable achievement. Comparing this to previous pandemics, it fills me with optimism for the future decades ahead.

2 . Cloud computing has significantly advanced in the past decades, paving the way for the utilization of big data. This, in turn, propels the tech industry toward the next revolution. The nascent exploration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds immense potential to transform all sectors. One particularly promising aspect is its ability to expedite solutions for health issues, surpassing traditional time frames. Witnessing this development and its impact on reshaping the world is truly exciting.

3 . In recent years, there has been a surge of youth activism that surpasses any previous era. Today’s young generation is actively engaged in addressing social and environmental challenges, raising awareness, and even providing solutions. Witnessing this sense of responsibility among the youth is truly encouraging, as they are poised to lead the way in driving positive global changes.

4 . Our world today is characterized by unprecedented levels of interconnectedness and education. As a result, there has been a noticeable increase in tolerance and inclusivity across genders, cultures, religions, people with disabilities, and minority groups. These shifts have contributed to the dismantling of rigid and outdated social norms. While we acknowledge that progress is ongoing, there is a clear trend moving in the right direction. We still have a long way to go, but embracing diversity in all its forms strengthens our collective impact on society. As we continue to integrate and celebrate diversity, our ability to create positive change grows stronger. I firmly believe that the trajectory is set for further improvement, and the future holds even greater promise.

5. ​​The rapid global population growth raises concerns about our ability to meet the increasing demand for food efficiently and sustainably. Having immersed myself in Israel’s start-up nation scene for over a decade, I am continually amazed by the innovative researchers and companies tackling this challenge head-on. From advancements in fruit and vegetable breeding to the emergence of farming robotics and the integration of agricultural solar fields that serve both as crop protectors and energy sources, the range of solutions is vast. Additionally, the development of cultured meat and fish, along with drone-based harvesting, exemplifies the ongoing pursuit of progress. It feels like living in an immense research and development laboratory where Israel’s collective mission is to contribute to solving global crises. Truly, it is a remarkable time to be part of this dynamic ecosystem. The dedication and ingenuity exhibited in addressing these critical issues inspire a sense of optimism and pride. There are few things more fulfilling than actively participating in a movement that strives to create a better future for all. Does it get better than this?!

In what specific areas do you see technology having the most positive impact over the next 10 to 20 years?

Looking ahead, technology holds immense potential for positive impact in several areas. Advancements in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, can drive sustainability. Healthcare can benefit from precision medicine, telemedicine, and AI-driven diagnostics. The fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation have transformative potential, while connectivity and digital inclusion can bridge the digital divide and empower underserved communities.

While technology holds immense potential, it can also present challenges. How can we ensure that the progress we make in technology contributes to a more optimistic future and doesn’t exacerbate societal problems?

To ensure technological progress contributes to an optimistic future, we need ethical considerations, responsible development, and inclusivity. Collaborative efforts among stakeholders, including governments, academia, and industry, can foster innovation that addresses societal needs while mitigating potential negative impacts and ensuring equitable access for all.

How do you maintain your optimism during challenging times?

Maintaining optimism during challenging times is crucial, and I draw inspiration from various aspects of my work at Yissum, the tech transfer company. Firstly, the curiosity-driven research happening in academia fills me with optimism. Being at the forefront of the future, universities are hubs of innovation and discovery. They constantly strive to address the challenges of each generation, seeking solutions that can have a profound impact on society. This focus on an optimistic future, fueled by the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, helps me stay positive even in difficult circumstances.

Furthermore, the diverse set of tools available within the university ecosystem provides a constant source of inspiration. The range of innovation happening across sectors is remarkable. At Yissum, we facilitate cross-pollination between different departments, fostering collaboration and creating synergies. This collaborative spirit often leads to magical outcomes. For instance, projects like Savor Eat, which combines 3D printing and food technology, exemplify the transformative power of interdisciplinary innovation. Seeing such groundbreaking ideas and the potential they hold for the future fills me with hope and optimism.

Moreover, witnessing the strength of these innovations in the marketplace reinforces my optimism. As tech transfer professionals, we have a front-row seat to the translation of academic research into real-world applications. Seeing the impact of these innovations and the positive change they bring to various industries and people’s lives reinforces the belief that we are making a difference. These success stories serve as beacons of hope during challenging times, reminding me that even in the face of adversity, innovation and progress continue to thrive.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Empathy-driven innovation — a movement where individuals prioritize understanding and addressing the needs of others. By fostering compassion and actively seeking solutions, we can create a ripple effect of positive change, benefiting countless lives.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 😊

As someone who appreciates art and creative expression, I would very much enjoy a private breakfast with American songwriter, actor, director, and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda who I, and many others, would consider to be a creative genius who has demonstrated relentless dedication, perseverance and hard work throughout his career. Miranda’s work highlights the importance of representation, diversity, and equality in the arts and society. I would enjoy hearing insights into his creative process and being inspired by his life’s journey.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Linkedin; Twitter; Facebook; Website

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

Yosef Haber of Yissum On The Case For Optimism About The Next Ten & Twenty Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.