By Lauren Prager
Ask most Israelis what they know about Tampa, and they’ll respond, “Where?” But once the hand-selected Israeli entrepreneurs have spent time engaging with the Florida Israel Business Accelerator and the welcoming community here, they see all Tampa Bay has to offer. What sets FIBA – and Tampa – apart from other business accelerators is the community’s involvement and support.
Since its inception in December 2017, dozens of Tampa Bay community leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and experts have volunteered their expertise – and sometimes their rolodex – to enable these start-ups to find a path from the “Start-Up Nation” to “Tech Bay.” From the “Meeting of the Minds” monthly gathering of young professionals, to the robust mentor network of established industry leaders, to the individual and corporate sponsors supporting FIBA in ways large and small, FIBA’s success is a reflection of our community’s strength.
The latest cohort of four companies engaged with the community even before arriving in Florida. Others have lent their support by sponsoring luncheons, taking the entrepreneurs out to experience life in Tampa, or even hosting them for Shabbat dinner in their home.
“I joined the welcome committee because I believe Israeli entrepreneurs have a lot to offer Tampa, and Tampa has a lot to offer them. I want to show them what a wonderful, thriving, and friendly community we have here in Tampa so that hopefully they will decide to build their businesses and families here with us.” Ella Shenhav, Esq.
FIBA’s Executive Director Rachel Marks Feinman is pleased – and not at all surprised – by how the Tampa Bay community has embraced these hopeful business leaders. “We are not selling FIBA to these Israeli entrepreneurs,” Feinman says. “We are selling all of Tampa Bay. The business community sees the value of attracting these companies to our region and embrace the effort wholeheartedly. This includes everyone from corporate partners to universities to other advisors such as accountants, attorneys and bankers.”
As FIBA welcomed it’s newest cohort this month, even more community members have stepped up. Top faculty from USF’s Muma School of Business and experts from local business accelerator, Tampa Bay Wave, will help these Israeli business leaders figure out how to learn about the unique needs of American customers and how to refine their pitch for audiences of investors, supporters and friends.
“FIBA and the Wave are united in helping accelerate and transform the Tampa Bay area into one of the top tech hubs in the US.” says Rich Heruska, Accelerator Director at Tampa Bay Wave. “We believe in partnering as much as possible to leverage the joint power of our collective companies, mentors, investors, and customers. The Tech Community in Tampa has never been more united and we couldn’t be more excited for our continued partnership with FIBA.”
On June 13th, the entire community is invited to hear directly from FIBA’s leadership and current cohort of companies at the Innovation Fusion event, from 8am-1pm at the Brian Glazer Family JCC. This year’s keynote speakers highlight the nexus between Israeli and American entreneurship: the head of Global Business Development and Partnerships at Waze, a Google company, and the Director of Customer Solutions at Wix, both Israeli-based companies that have transformed the global markets in their respective fields. Last year’s Innovation Fusion event sold out; visit www.fiba.io to register.
Opportunities to engage with the Israeli cohorts and FIBA exist throughout the year. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lauren Prager