Leib Bolel is the president and CEO of the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance, where he oversees the facilitation of growth in bilateral trade between the communities of Arizona and Israel across the spectrum of the technology sector.
Arizona Israel Technology Alliance’s mission is to promote and strengthen business, investment, entrepreneurship, technology and trade relations between the technology communities of Arizona and Israel. AITA’s purpose is to increase and support bilateral trade and investment between Arizona and Israel, with each offering resources and opportunities across the technology industry.
In November 2019, Governor Doug Ducey announced the opening of Arizona’s first trade and investment office in Israel. This new office in Tel Aviv creates a platform for business in both the United States and Israel to increase international trade and foreign investment opportunities. There are currently 20 Israeli-owned companies operating in Arizona in fields that vary from aerospace and defense to financial services.
With more than a decade of experience in the area of new business development, startups, marketing, funding acquisition and general operations management, Leib has been instrumental in building organizations from the ground up. He holds an MBA from Walden University in Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree from Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum College in Israel and he is fluent in both English and Hebrew.
Leib is also a venture partner at Grayhawk Capital. Grayhawk Capital provides venture capital to companies located in the Southwest United States and Israel. The sectors for investment include mobile computing, cloud/SaaS, security, enterprise and application software, business intelligence, healthcare IT and financial.
Honored with The Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award in May 2019, Arizona Jewish Life posed some questions to this young entrepreneur.
LEIB: I first got the entrepreneurial bug when I began selling candy and soda in school. Even at that young age, I always looked for opportunities from a supply and demand mindset. The hustle was rewarding and filling gaps in the “market,” and being of value to consumers is what drove me to think bigger and better.
AZJL: You served as a rabbi of Beth El Jacob Synagogue in Des Moines for six years and doubled the membership. You also co-founded a software company there. How did you transition from rabbi to entrepreneur?
LEIB: It wasn’t so much a transition. One of the things that attracted me to becoming a rabbi was the opportunity to maximize what I could contribute to the community. The synagogue I was at was declining prior to our arrival, but I was able to grow the congregation through dedication, personalization and marketing.
For the software company, it was about finding value and filling a need. The solution was focused on customer relationship management for nonprofits. It allowed the end user to find nonprofits in real time through geolocations on an interactive globe.
AZJL: Were you raised in a religious home in England?
LEIB: I was raised in a traditional and observant Jewish home.
AZJL: What made you want to study in Israel?
LEIB: I am the eighth of nine children. All of my siblings had been to Israel, and I’ve always loved the country as well, so I had a strong desire to study there. I got my undergraduate degree in Judaic studies at OS/Tanenbaum College.
AZJL: What is your favorite city/place in Israel?
LEIB: From a historical perspective, Jerusalem; for technology and innovation, Tel Aviv.
AZJL: Tell me your first impression of Arizona when you came to compete in an Ironman triathlon.
LEIB: The Ironman Arizona takes place in November, so of course, the weather was fantastic, and the unique desert landscape was immediately appealing. It was also evident that Arizona was a very welcoming place. People were immediately warm, receptive and wanted to help where they could.
AZJL: What have you learned about yourself training for such a grueling race, and does it translate to your work?
LEIB: Everything is about incremental goals, about taking one step at a time. The finish line will always be there – it’s about being disciplined and taking calculated steps in the right direction. I always apply the same type of focus in my career. Set goals, be consistent, and take the lessons you learn with you to the next opportunity.
AZJL: What made you choose Arizona over other states offering you leadership opportunities?
LEIB: Arizona had a growing ecosystem that I wanted to be a part of. There is a high quality of life here that is also affordable and friendly – a pleasant environment that offers a good Jewish education for my children. It’s also a very open environment for business.
AZJL: What made you decide to start Arizona Israel Technology Alliance?
LEIB: There were opportunities that were low-hanging and not being capitalized on, and where such an entity could provide tremendous value. This spurred me to organize a one-off event to educate the government, corporations and investors, which ultimately led to the founding of the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance. Since its founding, it has served as a great resource to a cross-section of industries and entities and continues to grow.
AZJL: Tell me about some of the Israeli companies that have opened in Arizona with the help of AITA.
LEIB: Eviation is a prime example. This electric airplane company founded in Israel will be the first in the world to be cleared by the FAA. They are the Tesla of airplanes with an impressive range of 600 miles at one-third the cost of anything else in the market. Eviation entered a joint venture with world-renowned Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. The city of Prescott engaged the AITA with initiatives that assisted in Eviation’s opening of its U.S. headquarters in 2018.
IMNA Solutions is another great example. It is also founded and based in Israel. IMNA has a focus on patient engagement, specifically for chronic illness patients. AITA helped them discover the vast opportunities in Arizona through introductions and guiding them on infrastructure setup.
AZJL: How does the establishment of an Arizona trade office in Israel change the dynamics of business relations?
LEIB: This was a monumental step for Arizona. Through state legislators and Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey we saw opportunities and worked to expand them. Having an Arizona trade office in Israel provides Israeli companies with a government resource that’s able to potentially assist them with incentives and introduce them to networks with the AITA and state of Arizona working hand-in-hand.
AZJL: You also volunteer your time, what are some of the organizations you work with and why?
LEIB: I have volunteered for Smile Train, a nonprofit focused on underserved countries to help provide surgeries for kids with cleft lips and palates. World Vision, a charity that helps build wells in underdeveloped countries to communities that did not have sanitized water, is another nonprofit that changes thousands of lives. Volunteering for Chai Lifeline, a nonprofit that works with children diagnosed with cancer, and with Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces are other organizations that I have dedicated time to. My mission is to help the community altruistically, but are never-the-less rewarding.
AZJL: You’ve been on The Business Journals’ Influencers: Rising Stars and 40 Under 40 lists, how does being so successful so young influence your goals for the future.
LEIB: Awards and accolades are nice, but the significance of developing and creating change and value is what motivates me. My goal is to continue to make a difference. My focus is on the AITA continuing to grow and prosper and overseeing the Israeli market for Grayhawk Capital (an Arizona-based venture capital).
AZJL: Tell me about how you met your wife, do you have any children?
LEIB: My wife is Israeli, and she was studying in the UK close to where I lived. I lived in Israel but came back to the UK for Passover. We met, dated and got married in 2007.
We have four children together: Eitan is 9, Yair is 6, Eli is 4 and Zohara is 2.
AZJL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
LEIB: Best: There’s always a way around challenges, learn to delegate and surround yourself with good and valuable people.
Worst: Being encouraged not to pursue something that I really believed in.
AZJL: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
LEIB: Sukkot. I enjoy the change of environment and reflection of the High Holidays, the family and community aspects, which are the nucleus of the Jewish people.
AZJL: Do you have a favorite quote?
LEIB: “Better to do a little substantively than a lot without substance.” -Shulchan Aruch
AZJL: Other than triathlons, what do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
LEIB: Spending time with family, playing piano, guitar and other sports.