By Mary Mullaj
In a bizarre mayoral race in Jerusalem two competitors, along with an ultra- orthodox rabbi, were a millionaire and a billionaire. The billionaire, Russian-Isreali national Arkady Gaydamak (wanted for international arms trafficking) had his political aspirations dashed when he received just 4% of the vote, while 49 year old software mogul, Nir Barkat, won the position with 52% of the vote.
Barkat made millions as one of the pioneers of anti-virus software. After attending university, he founded the BRM group in 1988, one of the first companies devoted to anti-virus software. Later he turned it into a technological incubater/ engine that invested in companies such as Checkpoint. He then served as chairman of Checkpoint for four years. At the beginning of 2000, he helped found the BRM Capital venture fund, which is worth $150 million and focuses on software and communication infrastracture. He quit the busines world in 2003 in lieu of devoting his time to politics. He was elected to city council, and will continue to serve the city as Mayor.
As mayor, Barkat forsees economic development. He promises to attract tech and bio-tech investment, and envisions 10 million tourists and 150,000 new jobs within the decade. Cleaning up the city and improving public tranportation are also part of his program. In addition to other innovative education and community focused projects he also supports a non-profit program called New Spirit, which is devoted to helping students in Jerusalem. As the new mayor, he has also pledged more housing for students. Additionally, he is the founder of StartUp Jerusalem, a non-profit helping to foster investment and job growth in Jerusalem to contribute to its revitalization.