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Ofer Shapiro and Vidyo: Bringing New Jobs and Innovations to America

January 9, 2012 | Hogan Keyser
ofer_shapiro.pngJanuary 8, 2012 by Stuart Anderson via Forbes.com -- Immigrants are increasingly important in driving growth and innovation in America, as evidenced by the role played by foreign-born founders and key personnel in the nation's breakthrough companies. New research from the National Foundation for American Policy found immigrants have started nearly half of America's 50 top venture-funded companies (as rated by VentureSource) and are key members of management or product development teams in more than 75 percent of our country's leading cutting-edge companies. A great example of the jobs and innovations brought to America by immigrant entrepreneurs is Vidyo, based in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Ofer Shapiro believes the place he was born shaped the way he views obstacles.  Ofer was born in Nahalal, a type of Plymouth Rock for Israel. According to Ofer, the settlers of Nahalal, founded in 1921, needed to make a livable place and build a community out of virtually nothing: "My grandfather's generation said, 'We have to live there, so let's figure out how to drain the swamp.'" Ofer notes the first building the settlers constructed was a library.

Around 2005, after working for an Israeli company in the United States and taking some time off, Ofer Shapiro decided to tackle the problem of delivering high quality video conferencing over the Internet. He saw it as the wave of the future but also admitted to potential investors that everyone said it couldn't be done. "Constraints make you think outside the box," said Ofer. And he believed the only way to make high quality video available over the Internet was to think about the problem in a new way.

To help think outside the box Ofer worked with Israeli-born Avery More to secure an initial round of venture capital and later added to the mix Alex Eleftheriadis, a Greek-born professor, along with other experts. Alex and Ofer assembled a small team and literally got in a room and thought about how to solve the problem. That was in June 2005. By October 2005, less than four months later, the company had a prototype.

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