May 3, 2018 | Alibaba founder and CEO Jack Ma told students and faculty at Tel Aviv University on Thursday that Israel is one of three “important countries” for the Chinese e-commerce giant. Ma, who is currently on his first trip to Israel, said that there was a lot of room to invest in the country and praised the local talent, admitting that his entourage of 40 Alibaba executives were staying up late at night during the trip, looking into opportunities. Ma listed a number of companies Alibaba is already invested in, including QR code startup Visualead, which he has acquired, augmented reality software startup Infinity, e-commerce search engine Twiggle, augmented reality company Lumus, and automotive computer vision startup Nexar — and said that 12 Alibaba employees are already working in Israel. Alibaba first announced plans to set up offices in Tel Aviv as part of a $15 billion global research and development plan in October 2017. Ma arrived in Israel on Monday, visiting the offices of Jerusalem-based venture capital fund Jerusalem Venture Partners where Alibaba became a limited partner in 2015, and meeting with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, investors and entrepreneurs. Ma also received an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University.