In October 2009, at an Israeli sports training facility called the Wingate Institute, Eden Shochat walked the floor of GeekCon admiring the projects. Each year at Shochat's long-running, invite-only creative gathering, attendees are tasked with making things that are both amazing and useless. One team created a robotic suitcase that responds to heat signatures, following its owner wherever they go. Another team generated a password based on your silhouette when you jumped on a trampoline, which you then had to re-create every time you logged in to your computer. But most striking of all was Alice — an artificially intelligent inflatable sex doll who talked, and talked back, to her owner. She was the brainchild of a team led by 25-year-old hacker Omer Perchik.

Shochat, an investor and entrepreneur who would go on to sell his facial-recognition software company to Facebook, had found a kindred spirit in Perchik. "I really liked how he thought," Shochat says. "I appreciated the engineering. He was able to build a rock star team for a bullshit project." The two stayed in touch, and several months later Perchik told him about his next project.

This one wasn't quite as sexy. Perchik told Shochat he planned to build a next-generation set of productivity tools for mobile devices, starting with the humble to-do list. A beta version of his software had already attracted hundreds of thousands of users on Android, and he planned to take the lessons he had learned to write a brand-new version from scratch. Any.do, the app he eventually built, would go on to attract millions of downloads and, amazingly, help inspire the look and feel of iOS 7.

But to do it, he told Shochat, he would need some money. Because to create the perfect to-do list, and reinvent productivity for the mobile world, he would first need to recruit a military intelligence squad from the Israeli Defense Force.