When you ask the international community what they know about Israeli tech, you’ll usually hear the words “cyber security” thrown around, but not much else. While it’s true that Israel is home to the full gamut of technology industries, not all global companies know it. So how does a farming corporation in, say, rural Oklahoma discover and tap into Israeli agritech?
Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) specializes in making just these kinds of connections. The nonprofit NGO focuses on promoting, nurturing, and creating value for the Israeli innovation ecosystem from Mindspace’s 2nd floor, where they’ve sat for the past year while they wait for their new headquarters to be built.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can for the ecosystem,” says Guy Hilton, CMO of the nonprofit. “Some of it is on the business level, dealing with delegations and awareness of the Israeli Startup Nation throughout the world. Some of it is actually for the ecosystem directly – for example, with the focus on elevating certain sectors and helping them grow and evolve. And some of it is very macro-level: policy-based, regulatory, etc.”
Hilton explains that on the business level, SNC creates connections between Israeli tech innovators and leading governments, corporates, NGOs, etc., based on the latter’s particular needs. One of the ways SNC does this is by inviting C-level executives of global organizations to Israel for a short trip. “Let’s say, we show them 10 startups, 5 are really cool, and they may end the trip wanting to invest in two them. Or the CEO says, ‘look, I saw 2 companies that really impressed me, I want them to pilot that in my backyard.’”
An example? SNC recently brought AXA (the largest global insurance company) to Israel to show them the best startups in insurtech. AXA then decided to partner with JVP in Jerusalem to produce an insurtech competition, in which the winner claimed a prize of half a million dollars.
In the past, companies have even decided to open R&D centers in Israel after the connections they made through SNC were successful. “We create the sparks of opportunity,” says Hilton.
But let’s go back to that corporation in rural Oklahoma. How does their CEO catch wind of Israeli agritech in the first place, when her only idea of Israel was a desert full of camels?
The key is SNC’s Start-Up Nation Finder. “We’ve mapped out the entire Israeli innovation ecosystem – startups, accelerators, hubs – and put it all online, for free. So if you’re looking for, say, options for early detection of disease in your crops, you can do a quick search for ‘agritech’ on Finder and realize immediately that Israel is the perfect place to look for solutions,” says Hilton, noting that the platform receives millions of views.
Hilton urges all startups to get listed on Finder. “We often bring delegations of C-level executives to Israel. But if you’re not in Finder, the chance that we’ll find you and match you is slim-to-none!” He says if you were listed 3 or 4 years ago, it’s paramount that you enter the website and update your profile.
Business level aside, SNC also operates within the Israeli ecosystem itself. “We’ve identified sectors that could be the next cyber in Israel, and we help develop them.” That includes creating a community where there wasn’t one before, or bringing more potential Round B investors into the discussion.
Finally, SNC aims to develop and maintain the entire ecosystem by working at the macro-level. “We work with government organizations on regulation, policy, and human capital.”
For the human capital example, this is to insure that the workforce stays ample. “For instance, we help make sure developers stay in Israel by helping sectors of society like minorities, women, and students to become developers,” Hilton explains. “Because if you’re a founder, and you can’t find any developers in Israel, you’re going to move to Berlin!”
Few organizations in the world aim to lift the entire spectrum of their respective innovation ecosystems from the ground up quite like SNC does. “There are efforts in the world, but actually these companies have asked us to teach them how to do it.”
On his final note, Hilton urges all Mindspace members to get involved with SNC. “If you haven’t heard about us before, go to our website, go check out Finder, and come talk to us on the 2nd floor. We are here to help the entire ecosystem, and you’re part of it. So let’s figure out together how you can benefit!”