This article aimed at telling briefly about my 3-months experience in Eilat, Israel, to take part in an acceleration programme together with 6 other Italian startups, from January to March 2020.
It was an exceptional opportunity for growth that allowed BionIT Labs® to come into contact with one of the most advanced innovation ecosystems in the world, to appreciate its logics and to know its actors for an ongoing improvement and expansion of our horizons.
The call for proposals of the programme, organized by the Italian embassy supported by the Innovation Center of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, comes from an Italian-Israeli industrial, scientific and technological cooperation agreement, with the aim of connecting Italian startups with the Israeli ecosystem, one of the most prolific in the world in this particular sector.
Among the 40 applications submitted in response to the call for proposals launched in summer 2019, the Evaluation Committee selected the top 10 companies active in different sectors – health tech, food tech, smart mobility – and BionIT Labs® was selected with the maximum score. In particular, the Committee was composed of the Chief Scientist of the Embassy of Italy in Israel, Stefano Ventura and Dani Schaumann of Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center, Danny Biran, former Vice president of the Israel Innovation Authority, Jeremie Kletzkine of Startup Nation Central and Dan Fishel of OurCrowd.
Together with us, 6 other startups took part in the same programme, with their representatives:
- Marta Bonaconsa, Co-Founder & CEO @ Nanomnia
- Anna Impedovo, Co-Founder & Business Developer @ ISAAC
- Rosilari Bellacosa, Co-Founder & R&D Manager @ SynDiag
- Francesco Biasibetti: Co-Founder & Business Developer @ Elysium
- Giovanni Caponetto, Business Developer @ Djungle
- Fabrizio Errichiello: R&D Engineer @ Materias.
At the end of the winter holidays, we were catapulted into a completely new environment, certainly full of expectations for the new opportunities which were waiting for our startup.
Eilat Tech Center and Arieli Capital Group
Eilat Tech Center/Hub is a part of the Arieli Capital group, a US holding company with offices in Israel and New York.
Arieli Capital invests in academic, innovation and capital platforms including the exclusive AI accelerator with the New York University, the Israel’s leading TTO platform and ShareNett – global network of over 420 family offices and professional investors.
Eilat Tech Center focuses on networking between various key ecosystem organizations, aggregating and distributing targeted and local ecosystem key information, initiating, orchestrating and facilitating ecosystem development activities and building connections within and between ecosystems nationally and globally.
There are several acceleration programmes, including the Italian-Israeli one in which I took part: a team composed of professionals in the sector – Eric, Or, Sharon, Shahaf, Olga, Ortal and Ariel – was at our disposal with the task of supporting us throughout the acceleration experience.
The welcome to the Startup Nation
As soon as we arrived in the villa that would host us for the following three months, the Eilat Tech Center team introduced itself with a welcome drink, immediately making us feel confident and relaxed, and telling us briefly how the programme would take place in the following months.
A good connection was created immediately with the Eilat team and with the other startuppers, and the continuous opportunities for discussion throughout the duration of the programme were an exceptional reason for human and professional growth. Although belonging to different verticals, in fact, each of us had advice, suggestions or feedback for others, in a spirit of continuous growth that must necessarily characterize those who want to work with innovation today.
Israel is known worldwide as the Startup Nation.
This Country is first in terms of startups per capita and patent applications, with 4.1% of GDP being invested in research and development. Moreover, the Country is renowned for its outstanding ability to attract foreign capital (around 47% compared to the European average of 9%).
The acceleration classes
But let’s get to the fundamental reason of our trip: the acceleration experience.
During the first week we were welcomed with an intervention by the mayor of Eilat, Mr. Eli Lankri, and the honorary consul of Italy in Eilat, Mr. Fred Mandelli, followed by an online connection with the Italian ambassador in Israel, Gianluigi Benedetti.
During my stay, the programme was structured alternating days with lessons of Eilat Tech Center’s mentors and several other experts in the sector – always followed by one-to-one interactions with each startup – and “free” days dedicated to the ordinary administration of the company.
The topics covered during the course ranged from legal, financial, business and managerial training aspects. Shown below some of the topics discussed with the professionals:
- Or Haviv, CEO di Eilat Tech Hub – Why startup fail, How to Pitch;
- Sharon Gindi, Head of Business Development of Eilat Tech Center – Go-to-market strategy, Global Business Development Strategy, Linkedin Masterclass;
- Roei Karniel, Engineering department of the Municipality of Eilat – The development of Eilat city;
- Michal Seror, Startup Nation Central community development manager – The Startup Nation;
- Nathan Renov, Intellectual Property Attorney and Partner di Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz LLP – IP protection strategy;
- Dani Schaumann, Global Country Advisor di Intesa Sanpaolo – Israeli etiquette;
- Ariel, Eilat Tech Center mentor e Serial Entrepreneur – Sales 2.0: lead generation, inbound/outbound marketing and sales;
- Itay Glick, Head of Business Development di Dell Technologies;
- Gaby Kaminsky, Managing Director di CityZone – Business Model Canvas, Negotiation 1.0;
- Omri Raisman, Managing Director di Rosetta IP – Product-market fit;
- Rafi Dalla Torre e Natalie Soussan, Head of Advanced Research Group eExecutive Coach and Management Consulting per Samsung Research Israel – Dealing with Multinational Companies;
- Eric Bentov, founder of Eilat Tech Center and Chairman di Arieli Capital – Evaluating Startups Potential;
- Hadas Fuhrer, Senior Manager of PwC Israel – International Taxation;
- Lirone Glikman, founder of The Human Factor – How your image affects your startups’ growth, How to create your success network;
- Hilla Ovil Brenner, Managing Director di Techstars Tel Aviv Accelerator – How to Navigate Entrepreneurial;
- Dekel Ron, Global Incentives Advisory and consultant di Ernst&Young – Funding opportunities;
- Liron Levi-Gabay, Partner di Spero Levi & Co. – Preparing for your A-Round;
- Roee Weinberger, Founder di Weinberger & Co. – Getting prepared for financing;
- Moshe Sarfaty, Fund Manager di Krypton Venture Capital – Fundraising;
- Ran Regev, Founder & Managing Partner di Fusion Partners – Investments development and innovation.
Together with Marta and Or, we were also interviewed by a local radio, and we had the chance to explain our projects to an audience of interested listeners.
The beauties of Eilat
Between one lesson and another there were moments of leisure, which gave us the opportunity to get to know at least part of Israel’s magnificent landscapes.
Eilat is a city with 50,000 inhabitants which stands on the shores of the Red Sea in the southern Negev desert. Thanks to its magnificent coral reef, the area is recognized as one of the main scuba diving sites in the world.
The city has an airport, which facilitated our travels – the alternative was to land in Tel Aviv and then make a 4-hour trip South through the desert – and it has a truly remarkable expansion rate.
In particular, our mentors guided us through two experiences that I am sure will remain in my memories: the visit to the Red Canyon and the submerged marine observatory.
The Red Canyon is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the whole area: an expanse of red sand that stretches between the mountains of Eilat, which offers wonderful landscape views. Although it’s an experience not to be missed, don’t visit it during the summer, when temperatures can exceed 50 ° C.
The desert’s visit, finished by preparing a delicious Turkish coffee on the spot, certainly left its mark on our journey.
The submerged marine observatory is a window on the coral reef that runs along the Red Sea and has thousands of tourists every year. It offers a privileged point of view on a wonderful ecosystem, which welcomes hundreds of different marine species. The structure also has the pool with the biggest sharks in the Middle East, which covers an area of over 1000 m². There every day you can watch a show of these wonderful animals while they are fed a few meters by the spectators.
In March we planned to visit Jerusalem and Jordan, journeys unfortunately canceled due to the ever-increasing restrictions for the Covid-19 situation, imposed since the beginning of March.
With the worsening of the situation globally, even the lessons at Eilat Tech Center were unfortunately interrupted, so, together with the other startups and after the consultation of the Italian Embassy, we made the difficult decision to return as soon as possible in Italy, to avoid that the blocking of flights could keep us in Israel even beyond the expected return date.
During this phase, when the anxiety related to the news from Italy was becoming more pressing, the support of Eilat Tech Center was fundamental for us, and also for this reason we will never stop thanking Eric, Or, Sharon, Olga and Ortal.
While Israel illuminated its main monuments with the colors of the Italian flag, we faced 3 days of travel between Israel, Switzerland and finally back home in Italy.
The end of our experience: a new start for BionIT Labs®
The return to Italy didn’t stop the desire to learn, to be updated and to grow professionally, so the acceleration programme was concluded in smart-working mode.
The final event of startups’ presentation and the matchmaking with Israeli and American ecosystem investors scheduled for April in Tel Aviv, has unfortunately been canceled, but probably it will be held at the beginning of the new year. This represents a great opportunity to return to Israel and spend a few more days in an ecosystem that has a lot to offer to those who, like us, try every day to grow, improve and change the world in which we live a little at a time.
This experience for BionIT Labs® represented a real test chance in the international panorama, which confirmed the keen interest already found in Italy for our company and for the technology we are developing. It also motivates us even more to give our best and to establish ourselves as one of the most interesting medtech companies at an international level.
It’s a new beginning that gives us even more important challenges, which we can’t wait to take on.
I like the idea of ending this story as our experience began, with our first dinner in Israel. We didn’t yet know each other and we had no precise idea of what awaited us, but today I am happy to say that our high expectations have certainly been met in the best way.
Toda Raba Israel, see you soon!