Ben Gurion University in the Negev— May 13-15, 2000
Sponsored by the Hubert Burda Center for Innovative Communication


[click on photos for larger images]
In June 1999, the German media entrepreneur and New Media visonary, Hubert Burda initiated the "Center for Innovative Communication" at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel. The Center's mandate was to enable and enhance a European-Israeli as well as an international New Media and High Tech, dialogue and exchange.

The Cool People in the Hot Desert conference was the first major event of the "Hubert Burda Center". The conference was designed by Burda to create a context and a bridge ("Israeli-German Start Up Forum") whereby the leaders of German and Israeli Internet startup companies could meet, and begin to work together, present themselves to the conference's international audience, obtain new contacts and exchange ideas. Co-hosting the conference with Burda was Avishay Braverman, President of the Ben Gurion University and Joseph ("Yossi") Vardi, Founder of Mirabilis/ICQ and international Investor. Forty young German Internet executives arrived in Jerusalem to be greeted by their Israeli counterparts and hear the opening address by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres before departing the next morning for the Negev.

Click here for Hubert Burda's Edge Bio Page

Hubert Burda
Chairman, Hubert Burda Media
Co-Chair & Sponsor

Local Transportation,
Joseph (Yossi) Vardi
Chairman, International Technologies

What brings a Bavarian billionaire to the Israeli desert? A number of years ago, the German newspaper publisher Axel Springer suggested to Burda that the time had come to stop the interminable writing about Germany and its relationship to the Jewish people, and to get on a plane for Israel, and begin working with the Israelis on projects.. For Burda this meant an initial participation in the Jerusalem Foundation. More recently, at the behest of his friend George (Lord) Weidenfeld, he began a relationship with Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, miles from nowhere, where the dynamic University president, Avishay Braverman, is building a world-class university and hopes to turn Beer Sheeva into a major metropolis. The Cool People in the Hot Desert Conference was a major step to putting Ben Gurion on the map as a hi-tech center.

I have never had a great urge to spend time hanging around in the Negev, in fact, I had never been to Israel. But an invitation from Hubert Burda, a man of style, intelligence, and a highly evolved aesthetic sensibility, is reason to drop everything and go. I wasn't dissapointed. It was a wonderful week.


Avishay Braverman, President
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Jean Paul Schmetz
CEO, Cyberlab

YOSSI VARDI: Against the background of the glorious colored sandstone hills and wadis of the ancient Negev, where the prophet Abraham walked thousands of years ago and where later the Nabateans built their cities welcoming the fragrant caravans that plied the spice trade from Arabia to Europe, cool people from around the world convened for two exciting days to discuss the crescive issues concerning the future development of the most advanced technologies.

Israel's hi-tech sector is one of the most advanced in the world. Israel has become a major player in this field, taking on a world leadership position in this industry. This was all made possible by Israel's dedication to developing its human capital and brainpower. the creativity and the extraordinary motivation found here has helped to bring these plans into action.

A major element of this conference were the start up was the start-up forums which provided a unique opportunity for young Israeli and European start-ups to present themselves to the conference's international audience, to create new contacts and expand their networks for fostering future cooperation and exchange of resources and ideas.

This conference allowed the participants to get to know the coming markets where the new fields of applied technologies create the basis for prosperous cooperation and achievements between individuals and countries. Thanks to Hubert Burda, current-day true renaissance man, and Avishay Braverman, a fountain of adrenalin, for making this event happen.

Joseph (Yossi) Vardi

SANDY CLIMAN: The week in the desert was priceless. We touched on much more than the state of technology and the (sorry) state of the financial markets. It was a time of reflection in a distant land which allowed the soul to couple with the mind in trying to grasp clarity of the future. To the credit of the conference, social ramifications of technology and very human issues were balanced against the world of technology-driven business opportunities. We talked about all the good that technology could bring to building infrastructure and a better life for those striving to succeed in developing nations. And we talked about peace... Dancing Dr. Burda and the others in the moonlight of a barren Negev desert to the beautiful voices of young Ethiopian immigrants is a nurturing evening never to be forgotten. These are rare moments.
Sandy Climan, EMV Ventures

Max Brockman, Upoc
Yossi Vardi, International Technologies

JEAN-PAUL SCHMETZ: It was probably the most enjoyable conference I have ever been to. What struck me most is the fact that we were discussing about building a new economy from scratch (all start-ups are starting from nothing) in a place where someone (Avishay Braverman) is talking about building a huge city/economy in the desert. Somehow, the scope of what we are doing became more tangible if you look at an empty desert and imagine that sometimes in the future this will be a huge metropolis.
Jean Paul Schmetz, Cyberlab
Derrick de Kerckhove
McLuhan Program, University of Toronto
Steffy Czerny, Burda Media

AVISHAY BRAVERMAN: The Cool People in the Hot Desert was very-well named as it stated very clearly what we want to accomplish here. Our vision is to create, in this desert, a center for hi-tech, bio-tech, nano-rech and future-tech that will lead the poorer people who live in this reagion into opportunities for advancement, that will lead the nation of Israel into a more wide-spread development of the vast natural resource of the Negev, which makes up 60% of the land mass, and of course to enable a true Middle-Eastern center for the most advanced in high-tech and communications technologies.

The Cool People Conference was the opening gun in what will surely be more prestigious and important gatherings of world leaders in these fields. This conference was a way of meeting many significant people in the field of New Communications, and beside the important interaction of business and academia, we had a lot of fun !
Avishay Braverman, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

View from Ben Gurion's Gravesite
The Negev
The Ethiopian Sheeba Choir
The Negev

Gregory Blatt, Director
World Economic Foum
Jean Paul Schmetz, Cyberlab

ROB FIXMER: In this ancient city of Abraham in the heart of the Negev desert, Avishay Braverman lives in a perpetual state of urgency. On a recent evening, 20 miles from here, the 52-year-old scholar donned Bedouin garb and led 250 visitors from around the globe in dancing to the seductive rhythms of an Ethiopian children's choir amid an open-air festival of food, wine and hookahs in the shadow of Byzantine castle ruins.

"I joke that Tel Aviv is too sexy, Jerusalem too holy for expansion," Braverman says. "Here is the future of Israel, in the Negev, which has 60 percent of the land, but only 7 percent of the people."

He cites demographic projections that Israel will reach a population density equal to Japan's in the next 40 years. Jerusalem's growth is constricted by politics, and Tel Aviv is experiencing dangerously rapid sprawl. Little wonder that Braverman's vision has been a relatively easy sell by Israeli political standards.

But he is equally adept at marketing the dream to business leaders and philanthropists, including German media magnate Hubert Burda, who financed the university's Burda Center for Innovative Communication. Last week, Burda helped burn the center into the consciousness of the world's business and media leaders by hosting an international conference on new-media issues.
— Rob Fixmer, "Building a Hi-Tech Oasis" in Interactive Week

John Brockman
View from 'En Gedi Reserve
The Dead Sea

Louis Lewitan & Michael Puettmann: "Hi-tech" and "hi-touch" are the key-words to our future. And that is exactly what our experience in Israel was all about. Young and at young at-heart experts mostly from Israel, Germany and the U.S. got together at the oasis of science, Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, to share ideas, experiences and feelings. The state-of-the-art technology presented in Beer-Sheva creates outstanding opportunities for society and business, and the more Germans and Israelis will work hand-in-hand, the more everybody will benefit from it. But what all of us who had the great joy of participating will never forget are all the cool people we met, the new friends we found, the moving Beduine dinner under the stary Negev sky, the most impressing sightseeing and atmospheric evening gatherings - all made possible by the visionary and generous Dr. Hubert Burda and his great staff.

Lewitan & Puettmann Gesellschaft fuer Managemententwicklung dBR
Munich, Germany

Near King David's Waterfall
'En Gedi Reserve
The Dead Sea
Saint George's Monastery

Anna-Patricia Kahn
Focus Magazine

Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Wailing Wall

The Dome of the Rock

Gregory Blatt
World Economic Foum

Artur Meinzolt
Burda Media

Tel Aviv

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher