Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure of spending some time at the Stream unconference in Athens, Greece with the legendary Israeli entrepreneur and investor Yossi Vardi. As the original investor in ICQ, Israel’s best known technology investor and a global networker par excellence , you’d think that Vardi would have regaled me with tales of his investment prowess. But no. Instead of stories about his ability to see the future before anyone else, he insisted that his only talent was the ability to “write checks very fast.”
That’s Yossi. Whereas most investors are a lot less intelligent than they appear, so Vardi is much smarter than he seems. Behind all the self-deprecating jokes about his wife, his robust physique and his sartorial inelegance (he was just voted one of the five worst dressed people in Israel, a badge he wears – to excuse the pun – with great honor), Vardi is one of the very few wise men of tech. And that wisdom is derived from his refusal to take himself or his manifold achievements too seriously.
Beyond his wisdom and humor, what strikes me most about Vardi is his generosity of spirit. Here’s a guy who makes bets on people rather than businesses. So if he likes you, he’ll invest in you. That’s Yossi – an unselfish man in a selfish world.