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AlmaLinks: The Russian immigrant engineering success

Of the vast Russian migration to Israel, it would be difficult to find a more telling success story than that of Michael Pechatnikov, The St. Petersburg native who arrived in Israel at the age of nine, with poor Hebrew and a thick accent
Russian immigrants attend an event marking the 25th anniversary of the great Russian Aliyah, immigration, from the former Soviet Union to Israel, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, on December 24, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Russian immigrants attend an event marking the 25th anniversary of the great Russian Aliyah, immigration, from the former Soviet Union to Israel, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, on December 24, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the late 1980s, as the Soviet Union’s power began to wane, a wave of Jewish immigrants from its former states flocked to Israel, seeking better economic opportunities and an escape from the oppressive anti-Semitism, which had characterized Russia for the last half century. The new arrivals would bring skills and a fierce determination to survive forged by years of adversity under communist rule, but they would also present cultural problems to the state now striving to absorb them. By the year 2006, 1.6 Million immigrants from former Soviet states had reached Israel’s shores, a demographic change that would alter the face of Israeli society and economy forever.

Of this vast migration, it would be difficult to find a more telling success story than that of Michael Pechatnikov. The St. Petersburg native arrived in Israel in 1992 at the age of nine, with poor Hebrew, a thick accent and a limited grasp of how to cope in his new surroundings. Yet like the stereotypical immigrant success story, work ethic, natural skill, and determination to succeed would propel him along an illustrious career as an entrepreneur. Remarkably, Pechatnikov established himself in the programing world at the age of twelve. Guided by his father who was also an engineer, he developed Payload simulator that would be used to direct a AMOS-1 satellite’s functions for several years.

‘My father told me: don’t design games, program something useful’ he says, as though writing programs for satellites is something all fathers and sons do in their spare time. Pechatnikov’s knowledge in programming came partially from his father’s explanations and partially from his curiosity, a trait that would carry him far as he went on to found three start-ups by age thirty-three.

More remarkable, Michael Pechatnikov has no fancy degree in engineering from Technion or MIT- not even a bachelor’s, though he studied a year of mathematics at Tel Aviv university while also enrolled in high school. Talking to him, one has the feeling that he sees the projects he has undertaken as intellectual challenges above all else.

But it was at age seventeen- too young to buy a beer or vote, that Pechatnikov founded his first start-up, Telmap, a GPS navigation system for use by cellphone companies. Though in the Smart-phone age, the existence of many GPS programs are commonplace, in 1999 they represented the cutting edge of mobile technology. In 2011, Pechatnikov would sell the company to American technology giant Intel for a price he refused to disclose, but which Israeli finance magazine Globes cited at approximately 120 million dollars.

In 2004, following his military service, Pechatnikov struck again. His second project, VisionMap, allowed for the high resolution photography, the sort used by Militaries, Rescue operations and civilian surveyors. His technology allowed for extremely high resolution photographs to be taken in an extremely short time frame which every point of the map identifiable by GPS point. VisionMap would go on to win the Israeli Defense Prize of 2009, and was sold to Israeli arms giant Rafael in 2013.

So what does the future hold for Michael Pechatnikov? Two years ago, Michael started working on his third brain child – a hedge fund called Sharpe Alpha Capital. Michael has developed an algorithm that continuously analyzes over 10,000 funds all over the world, in a unique way, which again, reflects Michael’s out-of-the-box way of thinking. Michael’s model aims to distinguish between money- managers whose success comes from LUCK and those whose success comes from SKILL. Many money-managers get lucky for short stretches. Pechatnikov wants to identify those who can yield results consistently over long time spans. Investors place their faith in the algorithms developed by Pechatnikov and his team. When all is said and done, it would seem that Michael Pechatnikov’s Mathematical prowess is a safe bet.

Michael Pechatnikov is CEO & Managing Partner in Sharpe Alpha Capital and an AlmaLinks Tel Aviv member.

About the Author
Avichai Korn is a technology writer. Born in Philadelphia, he moved to Israel in 2012 where he has since resided. He is Media Officer with AlmaLinks, working to bring new stories of the Start-up Nation to the world.
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