Archive For The “Israeli Tech” Category
This year’s Forbes Under 30 Global Women’s Summit, saw participation from thirty-nine countries , in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The following excerpts were originally reported by NoCamels.com
Hundreds of young, inspiring and influential entrepreneurs, disruptors, visionaries, change-makers and investors from 39 countries are in Israel this week to take part in the inaugural Forbes Under 30 Global Women’s Summit. The summit is taking place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
It brings together some of the most powerful female leaders from around the world, comprised of honorees from Forbes’ Under 30 lists and mentors who will provide leadership, guidance
“We’re bringing together 500 visionaries from around the world- US, Europe
“Our signature Under 30 Summit brings together the most inspired minds around the world, whose actions create change throughout all levels of society,” said Randall Lane, Chief Content Officer at Forbes. “Because we bring together the most impressive minds in entrepreneurism today, we are in a unique position to activate a worldwide community of leaders who can raise our collective consciousness and bring about meaningful social change that benefits women everywhere.”
On Monday, delegates congregated at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa to hear talks by their counterparts on women making a difference the world over. Navigating from failure to success, being authentic, the importance of philanthropy, changing government laws, and innovating in the tech space were just a handful of the topics on the agenda at this international gathering.
One of the panels to draw interest was the Israeli alumni group of elite IDF intelligence Unit 8200, which included Galit Zuckerman Stark, CEO and founder of Medasense, Mor Chen, 8200 EISP Managing Director and Noa Shafir, Co-founder; Chief Product Officer at Odo Security.
It was noted that Unit 8200 has a 55 percent majority of women in the army but after age 30, the ratio of men to women changes drastically.
“It starts in education. We need to spread the word about women’s achievements and successes in tech and science. Young women need a role model and someone to be like,” said Chen. “We need to ensure that we have the right mentoring. When you have the right mentor and see she has done it. We need to encourage equality at home, too. This is one of the things that will increase the numbers.”
After the panel, Zuckerman Stark told NoCamels that she doesn’t usually label herself according to her gender: she’s a CEO, not a woman CEO. But she also takes her role as a mentor for younger women entrepreneurs seriously.
“Statistically, in my career I was the minority. The minority in my class, in my army service, in the job titles I held. And it didn’t necessarily have to be like that. When I was in my army course we were less than a third women. Today, I am a mentor and I want the statistic to just be about men and women, no difference,” she said, noting she’s a mentor with the Woman2Woman(https://www.w2w8200.com/our-mentors) initiative.
The Forbes Under 30 Global Women’s Summit is presented in partnership with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Paul Singer Foundation, Startup Nation Central, the Pratt Foundation and the One8 Foundation. The Presenting Sponsor of the summit is J.P. Morgan.
American philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, the co-founder and chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and founder of several other philanthropic initiatives, was the special keynote speaker for Monday’s event. She spoke about the need for belief in one’s self.
“The future belongs to each and every one of you today. You have the technology and access to education that you need to succeed,” Schusterman told the audience. She also said that when she first began, she “had to bring men to the table with me at first. No one took me seriously.”
Lane, Chief Content Officer at Forbes, told NoCamels that the summit currently underway is a “big idea event” meant to show women that when they work together, they can take the lead, bring change, build bridges, discuss challenges and set goals of establishing new standards for women.
“The idea of bringing young women entrepreneurs to one place, from around the world, across industries to create bonds and partnerships… can they find solutions? We all know that the world will be a better place if we had more women leaders,” he said.
Amanda Nguyen, the founder and CEO of Rise, an American non-governmental organization aimed to protect the civil rights of sexual assault and rape survivors, drew a standing ovation from the crowd for her talk on reforming thelawsfor survivors of sexual assault in the US.
Nguyen, who has been nominated for a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, told NoCamels that the Israel-sponsored UN resolution preventing and eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace – and which was co-sponsored by other countries – is an inspiration for her NGO in their bid for a UN Resolution for Sexual Assault Survivors.
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“One of the things that inspired us was Israel’s leadership on this resolution to tell the world that sexual harassment is not something that will be taken lightly,” Nguyen told NoCamels during the lunch break. “No matter where you are from, no matter who you are and no matter where you come from, equality should not depend on geography.”
Indeed, Maggie McGrath, Editor of ForbesWomen, opened the Monday sessions in calling for the need to break through barriers across all facets of society around the world and repair the pay gap, the funding gap. “Sitting in this room are aspiring prime ministers, unicorn founders and everyone here is doing something to lift up the generation behind us,” this is just the start of our movement to move forward,” said McGrath.
The international group of women and men taking part in the summit were also given a taste of Israeli culture – tours of food markets, a visit to the beach, and samples of the vibrant nightlife.
“Israel is also a wonderful place to eat and celebrate food and that is core to our lives and our business. It’s been really inspiring to explore the cooking scene,” Sierra Tishgart, co-founder of Great Jones, told NoCamels, adding that she and her co-founder Maddy Moelis, were taking home, “spices, halva, tahini, and all kinds of things.”
Over a thousand visitors from forty-five countries converged on Tel Aviv for CannaTech, the medical Cannabis (marijuana) conference. Participants from the biotech, pharmaceutical, and medicine were all ears (and eyes) at what appears to be the world’s largest medical cannabis conference, giving Israel yet another designation of Cannabis Nation.
The following content has been exported from NoCamels.com where this story was originally reported.
According to Kaye, the Israeli government’s inhibition of cannabis business in the past, which he says was due to fear of the negative image associated with exporting “guns, cannabis, and other drugs,” made medical cannabis a “heavily illegitimate market.” Despite earlier government backlash, however, continuous pressure and a greater number of resources devoted to medical cannabis research have allowed for CannaTech’s consistent growth since its inception in 2015.
As perhaps the chief representative of the Israeli medical cannabis market, CannaTech’s development signifies Israel’s quick emergence as a global industry leader.
“We’re uniquely placed in innovation, ag-tech, water tech, and now canna-tech in order to propel us into what is the next massive industry […] When you add in the culture of funding startups, and the ability to both black market test and sell your product to an audience, that creates an environment that’s fantastic for a growing ecosystem,” Kaye states.
He also cites Israel’s advanced hospitals, universities and claim to the highest number of PHDs per capita as additional contributors to the country’s potential for sustained success in the industry and the world’s primary innovator and producer of medical cannabis.
“Patients who need medicine now have to get it from somewhere – they can get it from Canada or they can get it from Israel. Those are your options in the world. Canada’s leading and Israel will catch up.”
In January, Israel’s Ministry of Health gave its long-awaited approval for the medical cannabis export law, paving the way for the country to become a leading medical cannabis exporter, and participant in the global cannabis sector. Although law enforcement officials have not yet established a framework through which new international cannabis trade will be executed, the market has already begun to feel the law’s effects. “We are talking about a $2 billion industry next year that, last year, was also a $2 billion industry, it just wasn’t legal,” Kaye says.
By 2029, the global cannabis industry is expected to soar to $33 billion, which Kaye believes is necessarily an underestimate: “It’s the fastest growing industry in the world with more consumers than we know about because they have all been in the closet. So, we don’t really know the size, but it’s way bigger than whatever we think it’s going to be.”
Despite the growing support for medical cannabis within Israel and beyond, there are those who still doubt the plant’s positive potential, arguing that it may decrease societal productivity. Kaye urges doubters to reject “uneducated stigma that they’ve been taught for 60 years” and to instead, turn to cannabis research.
As Climate Changes becomes more difficult to deny with each passing day — 95+ percent of scientists are already convinced — severe weather is becoming commonplace. Even in areas where it is common, it’s becoming more extreme and costly, both in terms of lives lost as well as the negative impact on the economy. In response to the growing urgency of the problem, Google Tel Avis has just rolled out an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered flood forecasting for flood stricken areas of India.
The remainder of this text was originally published by NoCamels.com
Google is harnessing artificial intelligence tech to create forecasting models that can better predict when and where floods will occur, and it has partnered with India’s Central Water Commission (CWC) to roll out early warnings in Google Search in the subcontinent, Google VP of engineering and the managing director of Google’s R&D Center in Tel Aviv, Yossi Matias, announced this week.
Deadly floods are common in some parts of India, especially during monsoon season, which runs from July to September every year. In August, India’s southern state of Kerala experienced the worst flood in the region in nearly 100 years, with over 400 killed and more than a million people displaced. A number of other areas in India have seen more devastating floods over the past decade, with death tolls running into the thousands. The 2004 tsunami is still the worst water-related natural disaster to have occurred in the country, with over 10,000 lives claimed in India alone.
“Floods are devastating natural disasters worldwide — it’s estimated that every year, 250 million people around the world are affected by floods, also costing billions of dollars in damages,” Matias wrote in a blog post. Existing warning systems can be inaccurate and uninformative while being wholly unavailable in some areas, “resulting in far too many people being underprepared and unaware before a flood happens,” he added
Google is now “using AI and significant computational power to create better forecasting models that predict when and where floods will occur, and incorporating that information into Google Public Alerts,” to help improve preparedness for impending floods, he wrote.
The tech giant feeds a number of elements – past events, river readings, elevation calculations – into its models to generate maps and “run up to hundreds of thousands of simulations in each location,” Matias explained.
“With this information, we’ve created river flood forecasting models that can more accurately predict not only when and where a flood might occur, but the severity of the event as well,” he said.
The partnership with India’s CWC was first announced in June by the agency. Under the terms of the agreement, the CWC would use “state-of-the-art advances made by Google in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and geospatial mapping for effective management of water resources particularly in the field of flood forecasting and dissemination of flood-related information to the masses widely using the dissemination platforms developed by Google.”
The CWC said in a statement that until recently, it was disseminating flood levels with maximum lead time of one day, but the cooperation with Google would allow for a lead time of up to three days.
The collaborative arrangement, the CWC said, is likely to save millions of rupees “which otherwise would have to be spent by the government on acquiring high-resolution DEM [digital elevation models], high-end computational resources and developing dissemination platforms widely used by the masses.”
First. A little background from our good friends at Wikipedia: Renewable electricity can
The remainder of this article was originally published by NoCamels.com
Water could be the source for hydrogen-fueled cars one day in the near future, thanks to continued scientific breakthroughs such as a recent one by Israeli scientists.
Researchers led by Dr. Arik Yochelis and Dr. Iris Visoly-Fisher of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Prof. Avner Rothschild of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, say they have identified a missing mechanism for an environmentally friendly way to split water molecules in order to produce energy without the need for an outside catalyst.
“It is a conceptual change in research and this can provide a new perspective in how technology in the future can be approached,” Yochelis, of the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and the Alexandre Yersin Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics at Ben-Gurion, tells NoCamels.
Although it’s been well-known for decades that production of hydrogen that does not emit greenhouse gases requires the splitting of water molecules (H2O) into the elements from which they are composed (two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom), that process has always demanded more energy than was gained back at the end of the process. As such, it has never been commercially viable.
Yochelis tells NoCamels that he and his fellow researchers believed there was “something missing” in how to go about splitting the water molecules in an energetically favorable way.
“In water splitting literature, people assumed they sufficiently well understood chemical reactions and mechanisms,” explains Yochelis. Much is indeed known but the knowledge is incomplete and sometimes the “devil is in the details,” he says.
From left: Dr. Arik Yochelis, Dr. Iris Visoly-Fisher, both of
After years of separate experiments, the research teams in BGU and Technion joined forces, hoping that three research teams were better than one. It proved a winning move.
The researchers were the first team to successfully reveal the fundamental chemical reaction present in solar power that could form the missing link to generate the electricity necessary to accomplish this process. That would allow the process to unfold naturally instead of relying on large amounts of man-made energy sources or precious metals to catalyze the reaction.
“Beyond the scientific breakthrough, we have shown that the photo-electrochemical reaction mechanism belongs to a family of chemical reactions for which Prof. Gerhard Ertl was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, about a decade ago. Our discovery opens new strategies for photochemical processes,” says Yochelis.
But Yochelis won’t say whether this finding is a watershed moment for energy just yet. For one, he wants the science community to test and retest their mechanism to ascertain that their finding is correct.
“It is still too early to know the science community’s reaction” to the new finding, says Yochelis. “We need to give it a year to allow people to learn.”
Yet, the discovery could have a significant impact on efforts to replace carbon-based fuels with more environmentally friendly hydrogen fuels.
As more states move to legalize recreational use of marijuana — there are nine now, plus the District of Columbia — and dozens more who now allow medical use (with a doctor’s prescription), tech innovators are not waiting for the law to catch up with public sentiment. One of the more notables is the launching of CIF (Can Innovation Finder), a new Canadian-Israeli-American initiative that aspires to be the virtual R&D hub for all-things pot. If it’s better quality, higher yield, and packaging you’re looking for, CIF hopes to be the dominant source in filling those needs.
Right now, the United States is playing a secondary role as it continues to lag behind Canada in market maturity, including industry standards, the emergence of trade associations and other institutions commonplace in any industry’s ecosystem. So essentially, the partnership’s muscle is between Canada and Israel with Canada supplying the product and an already viable market, and Israel focused on R&D like most any other industry for which it is a global force.
“There are incredible partnership opportunities for companies on both sides, and Canadian Licensed Producers can gain a huge market advantage by tapping into Israel’s tech ecosystem,” says CIF CEO Sarah Tahor. “Our role is to highlight opportunities that the market may not know about and provide the platform to enable new partnerships and business ventures. With contracts in place with the LPs to introduce them to multiple Israeli companies, we save them time and ensure they have access to top Israeli cannatech (cannabis tech), agri-tech and biotech innovation.”
Indeed, Israel is a sought-after partner in the cannabis industry thanks to its renowned scientific innovation and tech expertise to grow consistent, high-quality, and varied strains of cannabis.
“There are tons of companies that deal specifically with technologies focused on growing and agriculture; some are focused on soil quality and climate control of greenhouses while others are focused on humidity and lighting,” Oren Todoros, CEO of CannaImpact branding firm, tells NoCamels. He says there are between 70-100 cannabis-related ventures in Israel. “Despite the fact that there is no external export, there’s a lot of growing technologies being produced here for the global cannabis market.”
On the US front, agreements have been inked with Massachusetts-based holding company MariMed, to cultivate, manufacture and sell the Israeli company’s MMJ products in seven US states.
As for the rest, the partnerships are almost exclusively between Canada and Israel. But despite its slowness to market, driven by a host of statewide legal hurdles, don’t expect this mainly bilateral arrangement to stay that way for long.
Israel may be the Startup Nation, with the highest number of startups per capita in the world, first among 141 economies in entrepreneurial risk, companies’ innovative growth and R&D expenditure, but the red tape in this country is notoriously convoluted. From trying to get simple things done, like changing your address at the bank, to opening a business, Israeli bureaucracy can be a trip down a rabbit hole.
But a new World Bank report ranking 190 economies on how they have tackled burdensome regulation showed that Israel has markedly improved since last year, jumping 14 spots from 49th to 35th in the “Ease of Doing Business” ranking as part of the latest “Doing Business 2020” report. Israel’s ranking rests below Azerbaijan but above Switzerland.
The annual report looks at regulation in 12 areas of business activity including the processes for incorporating a business, getting a building permit, obtaining an electricity connection, transferring property, getting access to credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, engaging in international trade, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, employing workers, and contracting with the government.
According to the report, Israel improved in four key areas: starting a business, access to credit, paying taxes, and easing export requirements. Israel made starting a business easier “by allowing joint registration of corporate tax and value-added tax, reads the report”; it “improved access to credit information by reporting both positive and negative data on individual borrowers”; it made paying taxes easier by “implementing an electronic system for filing and paying value-added tax and social security contributions” and less costly by “reducing the corporate income tax rate”; and it made exporting easier by “eliminating the certificate of origin requirement, thereby decreasing the time and cost of export documentary compliance.”
This summer, Netanyahu presented his cabinet with an internal report detailing ministry-wide efforts to lower Israel’s regulatory burden. The report is an annual update on the Israeli government’s five-year regulation reduction initiative and detailed 58 different plans enacted by various government ministries to reduce procedures in the market and that have saved the economy approximately NIS 1.5 billion (approximately $42 million) since last year, the Prime Minister said in a July statement.
The report included plans formulated by 12 government ministries and three authorities (the Tax Authority, the Consumer Protection Authority and the Competitiveness Authority) to cancel or reduce over 50 requirements that would prohibit employment and work, such as the cancellation of the demand for a license and test to become a real estate broker, the cancellation of the requirement for a minimum number of vehicles to receive a license to operate a vehicle leasing company, and the cancellation of structural requirements for small pastry bakeries. The plan also detailed over 50 government processes that have been digitized (such as the transition to online licensing examinations, tax payment receipts, etc.)
Netanyahu said the improvement was seen in the latest OECD Product Market Regulation index, published every five years, which saw Israel jump 16 spots from the next-to-last place between Turkey and Mexico in the 2013 index to 18th place in the 2018 index.
The 2013 index essentially prompted Netanyahu to establish a ministerial committee to cut regulation and bureaucracy. “Five years have passed and the OECD issued a new report …. We were almost last and now we have jumped 16 places. This is unheard of,” he said.
But, he went on, “I want another jump forward. I want to be above the average; in the middle is not a good place. I want to be one of the least bureaucratic countries, least regulated countries, in the world, because this means money in consumers’ pockets.”
The AstroRad, an Israeli antiradiation vest for outer space developed by the US-Israeli startup StemRad, is set to be launched onto the International Space Station (ISS) along with an assortment of science-related supplies this weekend.
The Tel Aviv-based company in collaboration with the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) at the Ministry of Science and Technology said that a prototype of the vest would be launched on Saturday, November 2nd at 9:59 am EST time (3:59 am Israeli time.)The International Space Station photographed in 2010 by an STS-132 crew member on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation.
This article was originally posted by NoCamels.com.
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The International Space Station photographed in 2010 by an STS-132 crew member on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation. The AstroRad vest, a suit designed to help protect astronauts from radiation and mitigate its damaging effects, is made out of high-density polyethylene, a thermoplastic polymer, which is thicker around the more sensitive organs.
Three American astronauts will wear the suit during routine activities and under the space station’s gravity conditions for varying periods of time. The vest will be used to gather feedback from astronauts on ergonomics, range of motion, experience, and overall comfort level in the environment.
The vest protects the bone marrow, lungs, chest, stomach, colon, and the ovaries among women, organs that are particularly sensitive to the formation of malignant tumors as a result of exposure to radiation.
This will be the first time in history that the Israeli flag, mounted on the AstroRad vest, will be displayed at the International Space Station, a low-orbit space station that serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
NASA joined forces with ISA in April 2018 to tap into StemRad’s cutting-edge technology. The ISA, along with the company that developed the wearable radiation protection solution, announced in July 2018 that the vest was ready for launch.
At the time, the ISA, which was sponsoring StemRad’s space activity, signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to launch the vest for advanced ergonomic studies in microgravity.
Dr. Oren Milstein, CEO of StemRad, said in a statement that the success of the AstroRad trial is “a critical contribution by the State of Israel to NASA’s most ambitious research program since landing on the moon.”
“The Israeli Space Agency and StemRad are proud to work with NASA, Lockheed Martin, and our other partners in developing critical safety equipment to protect space astronauts’ lives, thus advancing a new era of deep space research,” said Avi Blasberger, director of the Israeli Space Agency, in the statement.
The vest is part of some 4,600 pounds (2086kg) worth of equipment to be delivered to the station aboard a Cygnus Northrop Grumman (Cygnus NG-12) spacecraft. The Cygnus NG-12 is the 13th planned flight of the robotic resupply spacecraft and its 12th flight to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. It will be launched from the NASA flight facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
Other experiments that will be on the spacecraft include space mice, robotic avatars, and recycling polymers for 3D printers. Analog-1, a study led by the European Space Agency that will head to the space station with this launch, will explore how humans can best operate and communicate with robots in space. Also, Zero-G Oven will be used by astronauts to bake cookies in space for the first time.
Navin Systems, the Israeli pedestrian guidance and navigation app developer, has mapped out locations of bomb shelters and protected spaces in Tel Aviv and throughout the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, the company reminded Israelis on Tuesday, amid escalating security concerns surrounding the barrage of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel earlier in the day.
While allowing users to navigate all space without the need for GPS, the Tel Aviv company’s patented peer-to-peer crowd mapping technology also automatically creates detailed maps of indoor spaces, which are often difficult to navigate with GPS due to weak signals.
The company says “security mapping” is necessary as visitors to buildings typically remember the locations of stores in the mall or university classrooms, but most do not know where the protected spaces of the building are located or remember the routes that lead to them.
This isn’t the first time Navin’s “security mapping” of southern Israel has been reported, due to mounting security concerns.
The mapping in Beersheba includes several major buildings in the city, including the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Negev Mall, and the Grand Canyon Mall, along with shelters across the city. The project is being expanded to additional locations throughout the country, the company said.
Using artificial intelligence and complex algorithms that are part of its cutting-edge technology, the Navin app can immediately identify the location of a user inside a building, including the exact floor. The app enables navigation for users in stores, hospital departments, university facilities, and bathrooms.
Users will be able to access detailed walking routes, including escalators or regular stairs. The app is constantly updated with crowd-sourced info.
“We invite users to add shelters to the app in the buildings that they visit,” says Shai Ronen, co-founder and CEO.
Navin was co-founded in 2012 by Ronen, a former Israeli Air Force F-16 pilot and an expert in navigation systems, along with Lior Ronen and Gidi Barak. The company has already mapped out Tel Aviv spaces like Dizengoff Center, TLV Fashion Mall, Sarona Market, Ichilov Hospital, the Tel Aviv Museum, and Azrieli Towers.
Building upon its current success in Israel, the company has expanded to the US, creating maps for museums and stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. They have mapped out escalators, elevators, specific departments, and transitions between floors in stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, IKEA, and more.
Ronen has said that future goals include mapping out major cities in Europe and the Far East, which the CEO believes are particularly challenging in terms of the complexity of the buildings.
Dr. Maria Blekher has always had one leg in academia and the other in industry. As the director of the Master’s program in Digital Media and Marketing at Yeshiva University’s Katz School of Science and Health, the academic side is obvious.
The marketing professor, who grew up in Beersheba, is quick to note that much of her academic success also stems from a PhD at Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the completion of a postdoc at New York University, prior to the move to Yeshiva University (YU).
Academic and industry intertwined when Blekher created a course for Yeshiva University called “Business in The Israeli Environment,” teaching students at YU about Israel’s vast high-tech ecosystem and tying in a US-Israeli market connection based on her own experience. Besides studying pro-social and consumer behavior in both Israel and America, she’s worked at Bank Hapoalim and Numonyx, a semiconductor company founded as a joint venture between Intel Corporation, STMicroelectronics NV, and Francisco Partners to develop flash memory products. The company, which had 1, 200 employees in its Kiryat Gat facility in February 2010 was also acquired that month by US chipmaker Micron. In New York, Blekher created an online platform selling Israeli products to the American market as part of a fellowship through an American-Jewish organization called Cojeco (Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations.)
The US-Israeli market connection is what prompted her to establish the Yeshiva University Innovation Lab, a “launchpad” for Israeli startups looking to enter the US market.
The Innovation Lab, which first launched in May 2019, just kicked off its second cohort this September. It features a group of 11 Israeli startups in a variety of sectors, including medical devices and AI-powered sensor technology. The three-month program, which connects those startups with YU students and ends in December with a final project, also partners with Gvahim, the Israeli NGO that helps new immigrants to Israel with business and career goals, Cactus Capital, the first student-run university venture capital firm in Israel, and Yazamut 360°, the Entrepreneurship Center of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).
NoCamels sat down with Dr. Blekher recently in Tel Aviv to talk about why Yeshiva University’s Katz School of Science and Health as well as its new Innovation Lab, aims to be an important initiative in the US-Israeli business connection. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
NoCamels: How did you come to found the YU Innovation Lab?
Maria Blekher: I joined Yeshiva University before the Innovation Lab when I got the chance to develop a course called “Business In The Israeli Environment,” which is my expertise.
After landing at NYU — it was a postdoc, which means strictly research — I was looking for more things to do. I love being busy and I need several projects, and as much as I love academia, I love to see impact. Academia is very impactful, but sometimes it takes years to get something published. After a year, I got the chance to start teaching at Yeshiva University and although I started as an adjunct, it felt like home because it has an Israeli flag on campus and they play Hatikvah [Israel’s national anthem] at every single official event. The sense of community and belonging — it just felt like home. For me, it feels like Israel.
In 2014, I started to teach my first course as an adjunct, and then after one semester, they offered me the chance to teach more courses, because again, I was teaching back in Israel during my PhD, so I had teaching experience and also principles of marketing [skills]. One thing led to another and a couple of years later, we launched the Master’s in Marketing program and they offered me the opportunity to lead it. I stepped up into the leadership position. I am still doing this position now, though I’m hiring someone soon because my main focus now is the Innovation Lab.
NC: It sounds like you were thriving as a director of YU’s Marketing program. Why the shift towards the Innovation Lab?
MB: I love marketing. I think I bring my marketing expertise into the Innovation Lab. I didn’t ditch [the marketing program,] but I think that putting this expertise to work in the context of early-stage Israeli startups or startups in general, has more impact on an outcome. The combination of understanding the Israeli business environment and the Israeli tech scene and my marketing background is kind of a unique edge that brings value to startups who want to enter the US market.
There are plenty of marketing experts in New York. But there are fewer people who can use their marketing skills to bring startups to NY. I love being in places where I bring the highest value. I want to be there where I can help others. If my impact can be broader, working with students and startups because of my diverse background, that’s where I want to be.
NC: What are you looking to achieve as the director?
MB: It’s an interesting story. A couple of years ago, and it was before my time, the state of New York provided the university a grant to renovate a space on campus to attract Israeli startups. This was around 2017, before I was involved in the lab.
I think that [former NY] Governor Cuomo visited Israel, was impressed with the Startup Nation and at Yeshiva University, we have this institutional connection, so the background story was, “You’re Yeshiva University, bring some Israeli startups.” For the university, it was a great opportunity to bring some startups and let them work with students.
When I heard about [the grant] and I was told I should help to find Israeli startups because of my background, my first question was, “Hold on, does the school have an innovation lab?” I was told no, but somehow we got this grant and we needed to renovate this space. So I said, “Ok, this is the kind of project I want to be involved in because this is my expertise.”
I was on top of the project from day one. I literally chose the color of the paint on the walls. I [ told the school] we should build up a program that will connect our students with Israeli startups and provide added value. In order to do this, we need to see the challenges that Israeli startups are dealing with and figure out what kind of things we want our students to get from the program. I said, “If we’re building something, let’s build an institution that will connect our students with the startups and provide added value.” And that’s how we started.
Then I was appointed founding director but when we started working on the project, it was just an idea. When we had the official launch in May, it was very exciting because you see something on paper, you see an idea and then you see it come to life. Now we have 11 startups, over 90 students working with us, and that’s amazing.
NC: As someone who knows the Israeli business world, what are some of the challenges Israeli startups face?
MB: I think that’s the main question. The way I see it and based on my knowledge and based on multiple conversations — I spoke to Israeli startups and other colleagues and accelerators, really trying to nail the main challenges — the challenges that I identified and the ones that we really want to tackle are these three: knowledge, culture, and connections.
Culture – Culture is huge because as an Israeli, when you grow up in Israel, sometimes you feel like the 51st [US] state, you watch Netflix, and you even shop on Amazon and you grew up watching Sex and the City and you grew up in New York — if you speak to an Israeli startup, they’ll say, “Ok, I get American culture.” That’s not true! The first thing I thought of, “You think you know? You don’t!” There are so many differences and you need to know these cultural differences and you can talk to any Israeli and they’ll tell you 10,000 situations of misunderstandings. But when you are in the business of business and the business of startups, these are your investors and these are your customers, so you really need to be careful and you really need to be aware of these differences.
Connections – In Israel, everybody knows everybody. If you need to recruit a marketing person, you’ll find it in your network, if you need to recruit a developer, you’ll find it. In the US, with all due respect, you are just another person, especially in New York where the most talented people from around the world are gathering, and you don’t have the network.
Israeli IoT security firm Armis confirmed late Monday that it agreed to be acquired by NY-based Insight Partners at a company valuation of $1.1 billion.
Under the terms of the agreement, Insight will acquire the company for cash with participation from CapitalG, formerly Google Capital, for $100 million and rollover from certain existing stockholders subject to customary conditions and approvals, Armis said.
Insight Partners had participated in a Series C funding round of $65 million for Armis last April, bringing the total capital raised by the company to over $110 million. That round was led by Sequoia Capital. Google is also a previous investor in Armis.
The deal represents the first billion-dollar exit for an Israeli company in 2020.
Following the acquisition, Armis will continue to operate independently and will be fully managed by its two co-founders, Yevgeny Dibrov, CEO, and Nadir Izrael, CTO, and the executive team, the company indicated.
Armis was founded in 2015 by Izrael, Dibrov and Tomer Schwartz (no longer with the company), and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California and Tel Aviv. Armis says its solution eliminates IoT security blind spots, letting enterprises embrace IoT as part of their digital transformation and develop full visibility and control over the IoT devices that operate within their networks. Armis’ security solution analyzes and classifies these devices in order to identify risks or potential cyber attacks. The company’s customers have included Mondelēz, Sysco Foods, Allergan and Samsung Research America.
“Insight is one of the most sophisticated software investors in the sector, and it is due to the depth of their domain expertise that they really understand the enterprise IoT device challenge we are looking to solve, and the size of the market opportunity,” said Dibrov in a company statement.
“We considered growth rounds and strategic offers, but by partnering with Insight we have the best of both worlds – operational support and independence, both of which were important in our decision to take on a scaleup partner this early in our company journey,” he added.
“Armis is one of the most ground-breaking enterprise data-centric security solutions that is actively protecting modern businesses today,” said Jeff Horing, Managing Director at Insight. “We see the huge problem they are solving. Armis has established themselves as the leader in the enterprise IoT security space, and we believe this team and their technology will continue to transform the way unmanaged devices are secured.”
Teddie Wardi, Managing Director at Insight, said: “The strength of Israeli security software is unquestionable, and we are thrilled to be the scaleup partner Armis has selected to continue their explosive growth journey. In a world of unmanaged devices, Armis’ technology is a game-changer,” he said.
Gili Raanan, chairman of Armis and general partner at Sequoia Israel and Cyberstarts said, “Armis is the largest Israeli cybersecurity acquisition of a private company ever and this is an important milestone in the Armis journey, building a substantial stand-alone cybersecurity power-house.
Raanan, Horing, and Wardi will serve on the Armis Board of Directors as part of the acquisition deal.
In 2017, Armis alerted tech giants Google and Amazon of potential cyber breaches in their smart speaker products with vulnerabilities set to affect over 20 million users at the time. Armis researchers had uncovered an exploit over Bluetooth that would allow hackers to take over devices and spread malware. Both companies released security updates for their respective Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa devices.