Sunday, September 29, 2019

Start-Ups and Venture Capital in Israel

Day two of Innovation Journey 2019 started with an impressive meeting with the Chief Operating Officer of Terra Venture Partners. Terra is an innovative venture capital firm that invests in technologies that are focused on making a positive impact in the world; while making a positive return for their investors. Their core belief is that it is possible to do well and do good, at the same time. Terra focuses on three sectors: energy and resource efficiency, healthcare and wellness, and digitalizing the real economy.

One of their main competitive advantages is that they won a special license from the Israel Innovation Authority to operate their Terra Lab incubator. Through the highly competitive selection process, the Israeli government provides a 6:1 capital investment match to approved startups. For every $100,000 that Terra Labs invests in an approved startup, the Israel Innovation Authority invests $600,000. This provides unprecedented leverage to help new businesses thrive.

We then took a tour through their incubator office to meet with some of their companies. A few standout examples are FieldIn, who provide farm management technology for optimizing pesticide and fertilizer use, Neurorelief who have created an electromagnetic headset that treats migraines and depression, and SixGill, a cyber-threat intelligence platform that monitors the dark web. It was amazing to see the collaborative spirit at work in an environment with such diverse companies all working to make the world a better place.

The program continued with a meeting at Nemesysco headquarters where we were greeted by the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). We learned about their layered voice analysis technology that detects genuine emotions by measuring a variety of factors in our speaking voice within 20 milliseconds. This is below the perceptible range we can hear with the "naked" ear and is impossible for us to consciously control. Thus, their revolutionary software prevents fraud or attempts to deceive it. A big takeaway from this visit was learning about the wide variety of applications this core innovation can have; from integrity and personality assessments, to customer service, fraud detection, and more.

Later on, we met with the Founder and CEO of Healthier Globe, a strategy consulting firm that helps medical device companies expand internationally. He shared an overview of the medical technologies industry in Israel, as well as a broader perspective of his experience growing companies overseas. One unique aspect of the Israeli healthcare system is that patient data is shared across all different providers, both private and public. This allows companies to create targeted solutions that get closer to individualized healthcare, where each person is able to get the proper treatment that is unique to their experiences and even DNA.

Next up, we had a meeting with the CEO of iArgento, an alternative investment growth-tech fund. We learned about their investment strategy and how they evaluate startups, and also learned about a few promising companies in their portfolio. Ayyeka offers a robust hardware, software, and service solution that allows for data collection and analysis with any sensor, server, and platform. Their technology has been used to help cities manage sewer and wastewater overflow, as a safety monitoring system in coal mines to detect air quality, ground pressure, and water levels, and to fight land degradation by monitoring soil erosion levels. WiseSight is an intelligent parking technology software that allows for real-time monitoring of street parking. It uses machine learning for identification and tracking across multiple cameras. They are able to integrate with municipal infrastructure as part of a smart city layout to share parking and payment statistics, or partner with private parking services to better utilize their assets. SciRoot is an irrigation management technology to help farmers use less water and grow healthier crops. Their sensor embeds into the soil and around the plant roots to know exactly how much to water crops and when. The save 50% amount of water and produce a 40% higher crop yield.

We then met with a Vice President of Chakratec, a company that patented flywheel technology for charging stations. Their kinetic energy storage system uses no chemicals, has unlimited charging cycles, and a 20-year lifespan; significant improvements on existing alternatives. Following that was our meeting with the Co-Founder and CEO of Tuqqi, who shared with us their unique AI knowledge management platform. What's unique about this system is that it "pushes" relevant information to users at the right time, rather than relying on people searching for information. On average, 1.8 hours are wasted every day by knowledge workers worldwide, according to a McKinsey report. Tuqqi aims to make individuals and organizations more productive by giving back lost time.

This day ended with a very special intimate fireside chat with the founder of Iron Dome, Israel's missile defense system. This acts as an invisible shield over the entire country that detects incoming missiles, analyzes those that will land in populated areas, and intercepts them, destroying the threat mid-air. This innovation is responsible for countless lives saved, as well as money saved due to protected physical assets, buildings, and infrastructure. It was really impactful to hear first hand how this technology is deployed in the field and to personally hear stories from the frontlines. It was absolutely a one-of-a-kind experience!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

An Introduction to the Start-Up Nation's Innovation Ecosystem

Innovation Journey kicked off to a great start in Tel Aviv on September 10, 2019. We started the day with Assaf Luxembourg who gave an energetic introduction to Israel, the Start-Up Nation. We learned about the many facets of the country and its culture, going beyond popular media portrayals. It is such a diverse country--in terms of demographics, geography, industries, and more--that there is plenty to learn anywhere you look. For the purposes of our trip, we are focusing on the business sector, specifically as it relates to innovation.

Kelby Kupersmid led an Innovation Leadership workshop to dig deeper into why innovation is so important, what it means in today's business environment, and what the different types of innovation are. This gave us a new perspective through which to analyze and understand innovation throughout our program. We followed with a visit to the beautiful ToHa building, designed by renowned architect Ron Arad. It is WeWork's largest building in Israel and a striking addition to the Tel Aviv skyline, resembling an iceberg.

We then met with Blue White Robotics, a firm dedicated to creating an autonomous future. A group of former Israeli Air Force pilots established this company with their focus on testing and experimentation solutions for autonomous vehicles and drones. They are a leading organization in Israel, despite being only two and a half years old, and we learned about the many applications of their software. A big takeaway here is how a company can grow as a value-add solution to other providers' drone hardware.

We then went to lunch at the Sarona Market, a marketplace that brings together a wide variety of international culinary offerings. After lunch, we met with IDB, a business conglomerate that holds leading companies across a variety of industries such as retail, telecom, insurance, real estate, and more. They are also responsible for the ToHa building mentioned earlier. We got an inside look at the design and development of the building. The executive we met with also went more in-depth into Israeli culture and what aspects contribute to the innovation ecosystem. Overall an outstanding first day of the program!