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By Reza Akhlaghi, Foreign Policy Association (September 7, 2013)
Steve Rhodes sat down with Reza Akhlaghi of the Foreign Policy Association to discuss Trendlines investment philosophy, the spirit of entrepreneurialism in Israel and the Middle East, and the prospects of doing business in the region.
As the Middle East continues to plunge in a multi-faceted and what appears to be an increasingly regional crisis, there are debates and even hope about the future of entrepreneurship in the region in the face of the Arab Spring. Corruption, the status of women, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Iran’s nuclear program, and now the specter of a military conflict with Syria have cast a dark shadow over the region’s economic dynamism and business growth. But despite the regional turmoil, there are companies that move against the tide of pessimism. The Trendlines Group of Israel is one such company. It invests in very young companies known to be in seed stage. Trendlines’s key focus is on innovation-based companies in the life sciences, cleantech, and agritech. Steve Rhodes is the company’s Chairman and CEO. He sat down with Reza Akhlaghi of the Foreign Policy Association to discuss Trendlines investment philosophy, the spirit of entrepreneurialism in Israel and the Middle East, and the prospects of doing business in the region.
As one of the leading incubator and seed-stage investing companies in the Middle East, one of the key themes of the Trendlines Group and its subsidiary, Trendlines Agtech, is ‘improving the human condition’. Can you elaborate on this dominant corporate theme at Trendlines and name the key regions and countries you are active in?
When considering in which areas to focus our investment activity, we thought long and hard at Trendlines about our values. Like any other investment company, our goal is to make a profit for our shareholders, but that was not enough. It was important for us that our investments would also have the potential to do some good in the world. And when we look at the most pressing needs of the world, none is more pressing than feeding a growing population.
Our investment activity itself is focused exclusively on Israel; all of the companies that we establish are established and operate in Israel. Having said that, the technologies themselves are applicable to countries around the world and, in some cases, particularly to developing countries.