This May 1 will go down in history at

Saifun Technologies

, which is feeling so secure about its future that it's lending each of its workers half a million shekels, backed by their stock options.

Saifun's workers learned today noon that the company will be sharing $6 million with them all, has learned. That works out to about half a million shekels per employee.

Most companies are cutting back and those workers left on the job are watching their stock options turn into kitty litter. Saifun is putting its money where its mouth is.

Eligible workers at the company for more than two years will be getting the money as loans secured by their stock options. They will return the money when the company is sold or goes public, which would presumably be at a share price that would enable the workers to return the loan while still reaping handsome profits from realizing their options.

If the company is not taken public or sold, the workers will not have to return the money.

And it's growing

Saifun today has 60 workers. It plans to recruit 20 more by year-end, and another 40 by the end of 2002. The company's move is a response to the recent scorn for stock options as an incentive.

Saifun was established in early 1998 by Boaz Eitan. Its offices are in Netanya. The company develops technologies for the non-volatile memory market, mainly for EEPROM and flash products. Its memories can retain content even when disconnected from their power source.

Saifun's proprietary NROM technology enables the production of high-density memory components using simple, low-cost production processes.

In February the company announced an EEPROM family member, a 4 Mbit 2.7V parallel EEPROM, that set the record for the world's smallest available die size and the fastest read access time for EEPROM memory chips.

The company's business model is based on licensing semiconductors manufacturers to use its technology. But it also develops products based on its technology by itself.

Saifun raised its seed money, $10 million, from

Tower Semiconductors

(Nasdaq:TSEM). It later raised another $5 million from Israeli venture capital funds

Concord Ventures


Concord Ventures


Gemini Capital Fund Management

, according to a company value of $40 million.

In August 2000 the company completed a third round, securing $40 million financing according to a company value of $400 million. This time it attracted financial investments from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and strategic investments from companies such as

M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers

(Nasdaq:FLSH), the German chipmaker

Infineon Technologies

(formerly Siemens Semconductor Group). Recently Infineon kicked in another $7 million.