Israeli startup GuardKnox wants to put fighter jet technology into German cars

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It was close to 9:35 when they came in and secured their spots at a high-top table pressed against the brick wall in a corner of the Factory Berlin event center.

Sitting across from one another, CEO Moshe Shlisel, who was wearing a deep-blue knit sweater and glasses, and CTO Dionis Teshler, in a black zip-up sweater with stripes, each had one ear tuned to the TLV Conference speakers, but their eyes were focused on their laptops.

Teshler, 29, worked on a powerpoint presentation for their company GuardKnox Cyber Technologies.

IMG_1969During Sunrise Financial Group’s Nathan Low’s presentation on “The Secret of Startup Nation Israel,” the 53-year-old Shlisel could be heard muttering under his breath.

In his speech, Low boasted that the success of Israel’s tech environment is largely thanks to Talpiot, an elite military school of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Not all of Israeli’s entrepreneurs come from Talpiot, Shlisel explained.

Shlisel retired as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) special forces; Teshler also served in the IAF special forces.

“I contest the fact that he mentioned these kind of programs because they are geared to the geeks and the nerds,” Teshler chimed in. “A lot of the entrepreneurs are actually people who fought.”

GuardKnox is Shlisel’s third startup. They launched in 2015 and their team of 10 is made up of engineers, who wear several different hats. They all come from the IAF.

With the Mediterranean Sea to the West and a “tough neighborhood” to the East, Israel’s startups, including GuardKnox, tend to export internationally to reach interested markets.

And it costs Israeli startups less to export knowledge products, software and tech, rather than heavy machinery.

“We are pretty much like every other country, but innovation is something we almost inherit,” Shlisel said.

Shlisel and Teshler work with automotive manufacturers, providing “comprehensive cyber security hardware solutions.” The methodology was adapted from use in Israeli fighter jets and missile defense systems to cars and other vehicles.

They describe it as a revved-up immune system that keeps cars from being hacked.

A 21st century car can have upwards of 100 computers in them, even more if it is a luxury vehicle, according to Shlisel. For some, it may come as a surprise to hear that it is possible to hack the brakes, horn, locks, windows and navigation of a car.

While these threats have existed in military aviation for a while, securing cars to prevent hacking is set to grow more important as autonomous cars take to the streets, Teshler explained.

“What would you like protecting your safety, something that somebody invented for your PC or something from a fighter jet?” Teshler asked.

Safety and reliability are their top concern, they jointly emphasized.

They are happy to hint they are working with Germany’s biggest auto manufacturers but did not mention any companies explicitly, or how much their solutions sell for.

Confidentiality and security are either very important for GuardKnox or part of their overall marketing-strategy to build interest in their young company; It could be both. When asked to share the powerpoint, Teshler said he could only provide a redacted version.

The duo met while Teshler was working towards his MBA program at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. Shlisel was a lecturer there at the time.

“He didn’t know then, but I was waiting for him for eight months,” Shlisel said.

Slack for iOS Upload-3The two of them then broke off into a back and forth about how the time Shlisel waited keeps growing longer.

“First it was six months, now it is eight…” Teshler said.

“I was waiting for him for forty years…” Shlisel said jokingly.

“Well, he was walking in the desert…” Teshler said laughing. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Shlisel’s voice carries and the two of them, even though they are tucked in a corner, can be heard speaking Hebrew as they focus intently on their respective screens.

Looking at them from the outside, it seems as though they genuinely enjoy working together.

This likely stems from Shlisel’s philosophy on startups: “You want to create something, change the culture, to change humanity, to bring something new, to push people to the limit, to ride on this roller coaster…”

This philosophy includes embracing failure. As long as you are learning from your mistakes, you try it again, Shlisel said.

“You fall and get up, you fall and get up,” comparing entrepreneurship to how a child learns to walk.

Something the perfectionists in Germany could learn from.

Photos via Factory Berlin and blueforce4116 via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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