FIBA Israel Trip 2019: An Immersion Into the Startup Nation

Last week FIBA led a group of business leaders, investors and community members on an unforgettable trip to explore the startup nation firsthand. The dual purpose of the trip was to immerse the participants in the Israeli eco-system to learn best practices to nurture entrepreneurship and to show FIBA’s Israeli partners what Tampa Bay has to offer to strengthen and broaden our collective network.

The trip started at Tel-Aviv University where the group was greeted by Prof. Raanan Rein, Vice President for International Affairs, and then enjoyed fascinating presentations by top faculty and researchers in the fields of cyber security, medicine and drug discovery. ( Prof. Dan Peer, Managing Director, SPARK Tel Aviv, Center for Translational Medicine, Major Gen. (Ret.) Prof. Isaac Ben Israel, Director of the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC), Prof. Daniel Segal, the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and Prof. Ronit Satchi –Fainaro, member of the Academic Board of the Blavatnic Center for Drug Discovery (BCDD).) The visit at TAU concluded with a visit to TAU Ventures, the university’s accelerator and investment vehicle, where the group got a special preview to the new startup founded by Aviv Shapira, who also happens to be the keynote speaker at the upcoming FIBA Innovation Fusion event in Tampa on May 22nd.

The afternoon was packed with more fun experiences. We had lunch at L28, an innovative and delicious culinary platform run by Startup Nation Central, which serves as an accelerator for emerging Israeli chefs. We followed up lunch with a visit to Start-Up Nation Central, an NGO and the gateway hub to the Startup nation, where we learned about the overwhelming scope of innovation, capital investment and international interest in Israel. Next stop was a reception hosted by FIBA’s partner, Barnea Law, at their offices where the group networked with FIBA cohort companies, Israeli partners and new companies interested in the FIBA program. We all enjoyed great conversation, good food and beautiful views of the sunset over the Tel Aviv skyline.

On Tuesday, Israel celebrated democracy. The business world of Israel took the day off for the parliamentary elections. The group took advantage of the holiday to tour the ancient port city of Jaffa, explore Israeli food at the Carmel Market and learn about the establishment of the state of Israel with a walk through the center of Tel-Aviv.

The third day of the trip started at Sheba Medical Center, recently ranked #10 best hospital in the world by Newsweek magazine. The hospital nurtures innovation from within with a focus on data, telemedicine, and innovation in simulation. We left the Tel-Aviv area on our way south to visit SodaStream in the Negev. SodaStream is an Israel-based company that makes consumer home carbonation products to make sparkling water. What SodaStream is best known for in Israel is serving as an example of coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis working side by side in a world-class global company. In 2018, PepsiCo. acquired SodaStream in a momentous deal amounting to $3.2 billion. The group enjoyed a tour of the factory and lunch in the cafeteria alongside Palestinian, Bedouin and Jewish employees.

Last stop for the day was the Center for Digital Innovation (CDI) in the Negev desert, a program focused on digital health, healthy aging and smart city technologies. The group received a presentation about aging, a tour of the aging lab and some demonstrations of startups that collaborate with the city of Beer Sheva on new technologies to enhance the life of the elderly population. The day ended in Jerusalem where the group had dinner overlooking the old city in the company of Econcrete co-founder and CEO, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, who shared updates about recent projects and awards. Econcrete is a FIBA 2018 company.

On the last day of the trip, the group explored Jerusalem. The day started at Jerusalem Venture Partners, one of Israel’s largest and most successful VC funds. We spoke with Julia Kagan for a enlightening briefing on the venture capital industry in Israel, and JVP’s role in particular. JVP is unique because it is headquartered in Jerusalem- as opposed to the tech and investment capital, Tel Aviv. From JVP the group traveled to Hadassah Medical Center, known worldwide for its trauma care and number of medical studies and unique discoveries. The hospital’s Director greeted the group and answered questions about the healthcare system in Israel. Two leading researchers in the fields of immunotherapy for cancer and stem cell research for eye diseases mesmerized the group with their research (Prof. Banin, Director of Degenerative Diseases of the Retina and Macula Unit, Dept. of Ophthalmology and Prof. Michal Lotem, Senior Dermatologist and Oncologist and head of the Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy). The visit ended with a tour of the cardiology department led by Prof. Refat Jabara, Senior Physician in the Dept. of Cardiology.

Before a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City, the group had one last stop at the Israeli HQ of the MassChallenge acceleration program. MassChallenge, a global nonprofit accelerator, has already had tremendous impact on the fabric of Jerusalem’s vibrant innovation ecosystem, by creating over 1,300 jobs in Jerusalem from its startups.

Loaded with photos, new friends and many memorable experiences, the group returned to Tampa to continue to nurture and grow the entrepreneurial eco-system locally.

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