In 1992, Billy Hrvoye left war-torn Sarajevo on the last Jewish Agency flight to Israel. With his life on-hold, the young refugee convinced the dean of the Technion Faculty of Electrical Engineering to let him resume his studies despite the language barrier. “The Technion was my family and my first home,” he says. “I came like a refugee and the Technion helped me dream big.”
While at Technion, Billy befriended fellow student Nafea Bshara, a Christian Arab from the northern town of Tarshiha, who, because his father was a Technion student, was born into a Technion dorm. Impressions of infancy ran deep, as Nafea ended up enrolled within the Technion Excellence Program. “I don’t think I would get the fundamentals and breadth and exposure that I received at Technion at an Ivy League school,” he says.
After working at IBM and the Israeli StartUp Galileo, the two Technion alumni decided to start up alone. “We co-founded Annapurna with Ronen Boneh and a group of exceptionally talented leaders,” recalls Billy. The product accelerates cloud servers – claiming superior performance, security and efficiency. “Many companies weren’t willing to take risks, but Amazon is forward-thinking with a long-term vision,” explains Nafea. “Our cultural DNAs matched. We both wanted to change the world.”
Soon Annapurna had 70 people doing R&D in Yokneam and 19 more around the world in sales and marketing. In early 2015, Amazon bought Annapurna Labs reportedly for over $300 million. After the acquisition, Amazon announced the opening of two new centers in Tel Aviv and Haifa, which will provide work for hundreds of Israelis.
“Our biggest problem is deciding what NOT to do,” says Billy: “On a human level, it’s important that the people with us fulfill their dreams. We believe that if you can dream it, you can do it.”