Israeli CEO named ‘Entrepreneur of Year’ by Forbes

Amnon Landan was named president of Mercury in 1995, and took over as its CEO in 1999. Since 1997, sales have risen 36 percent annually, jumping from $76 million six years ago to an expected $500m. this year.The cover of …

Amnon Landan was named president of Mercury in 1995, and took over as its CEO in 1999. Since 1997, sales have risen 36 percent annually, jumping from $76 million six years ago to an expected $500m. this year.The cover of the current issue of the prestigious financial publication Forbes Magazine features the face of Mercury Interactive CEO Amnon Landan.

Each year, Forbes selects one executive that sets the standard for excellence and innovation in business leadership as “Entrepreneur of the Year,” and this year, the honor went to Landan, an Israeli.

The international financial magazine also calls Landan’s business technology optimization company “one of the hottest software firms in the world.” The company’s tools catch glitches in software projects, make crucial Web and business programs run smoothly and help automate the job of running information technology departments. Mercury’s 7,500 customers include Cisco Systems, GE Medical, Dow Chemical and Charles Schwab.

Landan was named president of Mercury in 1995, and took over as its CEO in 1999. Since 1997, sales have risen 36 percent annually, jumping from $76 million six years ago to an expected $500m. this year. By year’s end, Mercury should also show a net profit of some $85m, and has more than $1 billion in the bank. The company now has 7,500 customers and offices in 30 countries around the world.

Landan himself has sold some $50 million in shares over the years and has vested options worth another $25 million.
“On behalf of all the people at Mercury, I’m honored to receive this recognition from Forbes,” said Landan. “The entire Mercury team deserves the credit for driving our success over the past 14 years. I am privileged to lead a team that is dedicated to customer success and building a great company.”


It has been a long journey for Landan since his first encounter with Silicon Valley, as recounted in the Forbes story. “Then – it was 1981 – he was rattling across North America with his girlfriend (and now wife of 20 years) Yael in a rusted-out Chevy Vega. The two slept on a mattress where the backseats used to be. Not that Landan cared. The 22-year-old had just spent four years hunting terrorists in Lebanon with the Israel Defense Forces. The night he pulled into the Bay Area he found that the closest campground to the city was in Redwood Shores.”

After his trip, he returned home to study computer science at the Technion. In 1985, after completing his studies, he met entrepreneur Aryeh Finegold while working in a local, now defunct, hi-tech firm, Daisy Systems.

The two men met up again in 1989, when Finegold had just started raising money to get his new software idea off the ground; automating a tedious process called regression testing for software engineers. That idea became Mercury Interactive, and the company took of quickly: it was valued at $12b.in September 2000.

“Landan made the rare decision to take profits and reinvest them in a new growth engine: software to measure performance of applications after they’re up and running,” Forbes wrote. The company has seized a respectable size of that market: currently, it holds half of the world market for tools that automate the testing of new applications before they’re ready to run.

It has also branched into tools to keep applications in tune after they’re in place.
Last May it paid $225 million in stock and cash for Kintana, a California-based developer of information technology governance software. The company’s headquarters are in Sunnyvale, California, although it maintains a base for research and development and other corporate activities in Yehud, Israel.