Eric Benhamou is motivated by many passions, among them entrepreneurship, innovation, Israel, and giving back. He wants to help build a better world, which he pursues primarily through his work at Benhamou Global Ventures and Israel Venture Network. Eric founded both organizations to connect with and support the most promising entrepreneurs he could find.
Eric’s journey started in an Algerian village on the Moroccan border where he was born. He moved to France in the early 1960s, when many in the North African Sephardic Jewish community were leaving Algeria. Eric remains grateful for the top-notch education and other opportunities he received in France.
As in many families of diaspora, Eric’s relatives scattered throughout the world, with family members landing in France, Israel, Canada, and America. Eric came to the U.S. as a young adult, attending graduate school at Stanford at the start of the Silicon Valley era. He believes that starting his life over from scratch was a cleansing process that gave him a mindset built for taking risks — a perfect fit for the early days of Silicon Valley.
Eric eventually became CEO of 3Com, acquiring global companies such as Palm Computing (makers of the Palm Pilot) and learning how to build businesses from the ground up. He founded Benhamou Global Ventures (BGV) in 2004 to create a venture capital fund committed to providing meaningful, value-added partnership to the tech startups it backs. This includes both financial support and ongoing mentorship.
Eric always had strong ties to Israel, and he played a leading role in shining a light on Israel as a land of innovation. He founded Israel Venture Network (IVN) twenty years ago to support the next generation of Israeli social entrepreneurs who are working to improve the structure of Israeli society. IVN invests in social impact ventures, helping marginalized populations start businesses and creating job opportunities for people with disabilities, the ultra-orthodox, Arab citizens, and others.
“By supporting Jewish entrepreneurs in Northern California, Hebrew Free Loan does locally what I do internationally. The Business Circle allows me to contribute to my local Jewish community in a way that’s aligned with my business values and my philanthropic goals.”
Eric joined the Hebrew Free Loan Business Circle in part because he was impressed with the integrity of its stakeholders and the dedication to providing ongoing mentorship to loan recipients. He appreciates that Hebrew Free Loan’s Business Loan Program doesn’t just cut a check to an entrepreneur and call it done, but remains committed to providing professional advice at the various stages of business start-up and development.
“Hebrew Free Loan adds value to the start-up process by rallying mentors on a volunteer basis to help businesses grow. When loans are repaid, everyone wins. Loan recipients can stand on their own two feet and sustain themselves, and the capital can be recycled to help the next person.”
Eric is an optimist by nature, as he believes most venture capitalists are. While the Covid-19 pandemic’s global cost in human and financial loss is still being reckoned, he sees us coming out of the pandemic wiser in important ways. When the pandemic made it essential to do almost everything online, tech innovation became a necessity. Society as a whole has become willing to implement new technologies much more quickly than before, with a recognition that being nimble and willing to pivot is a key to success.
All of the companies in BGV’s portfolio have made it through the pandemic, with plenty of guidance from the BGV network of partners and mentors. IVN supported its portfolio of social impact businesses with the same intensity, using an all-hands-on-deck approach to help organizations navigate extraordinarily difficult economic times. Eric hopes these lessons will be incorporated into society as a whole as the pandemic wanes. The biotech innovations and global collaboration that gave us the Covid-19 vaccine will be essential to creating a better, more sustainable society for many years to come.