Category Archives: Company visit

The Hive: an accelerator for Olim

Yesterday, we visited the accelerator The Hive, created in 2006 in Tel Aviv, and presented to us by its director Audrey Chocron. An accelerator is like an incubator, but on a shortest period (6 months instead of 2years). This accelerator is the brainchild of the association Gvahim whose purpose is to facilitate the integration of Olims (new immigrants in Israel) finding positions in Israeli society.

the Innovators Nation team at the Hive

the Innovators Nation team at the Hive

This is a very pleasant and colorful place that allows 15 entrepreneurs of 8 nationalities to make their projects become a reality. There’s no time to dwell on the business plan and prospects, they must first act as the lucky ones have only 6 months in the accelerator before flying on their own. Fortunately among these 8 start-ups, 5 are IT projects that quickly reach their market.
The Hive is a real network accelerator for these newly arrived graduates. The main problem for these entrepreneurs is that, are they are freshly arrived in Israel, they did not go to the army, so did not created their network of friends and relationships in the country. Plus, Israeli employers often don’t know very well the schools or universities were Olim are graduated from. So The Hive make them meet CEO, investors, consulants, coaches,etc.

After Audrey’s presentation, we met some entrepreneurs and talked with them about their project.

Giorgio talking with an entrepreneur, at The Hive

Giorgio talking with an entrepreneur, at The Hive

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Weizmann Institute: paradise for scientists

Scientific research in Israel: specific effort for the commercialization of scientific inventions

J-3. It was after meeting with entrepreneurs in the incubator in Nazareth NGT and tasted the food through the famous Israeli hummus that we visited the Weizmann Institute.

At Weizmann Institute

At Weizmann Institute

Weizmann is its founder’s name. Who is Mr Weizmann, the founder of the university? Mr. Weizmann was the first president of Israel. He promoted many innovations by giving a vision and taking actions. He is considered one of the founders of biotechnology.

inside the Weizmann Institute

inside the Weizmann Institute

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house


The essential role of basic research to innovation

Located not far from Tel Aviv at Rehovot, the university dedicated to research is famous worldwide. To begin our visit, we had to go through the huge campus that is quite similar to US counterparts. In the most recent building, the Koffler accelerator, we realized that here science is a main concern. In the center of cancer research and genetics, we met Dr. Daniela Novick.

Then the heart of the building is a dream laboratory: freshly cleaned glassware, experiments in progress, ovens everywhere. In this atmosphere, Dr. Novick told us about her research. We learned how this brilliant scientist has fostered both fundamental and applied science. Compared to other institutes in the world, this is the major distinction of the Weizmann Institute, the emphasis is primarily focused on basic research, scientists are free to explore areas of interest. This is the curiosity of researchers that led to major discoveries in science.  These results led to applications for the general public that were not expected. Without basic research inventions like the microwave or pace makers could not have been launched.

Science is an integral part of the Israel  common thinking and is highly valued. Scientists are very well known and well perceived in society. The Weizmann Institute seeks to get still closer contact between scientists and the general public. This initiative is a good example: on March 30th, 2012, scientists will explain in many cafes in Tel Aviv their science projects to Israeli citizens.

The ability to commercialize scientific discoveries

The discoveries, resulst of basic research, are subsequently commercialized. In this field, the Technology Transfer Office plays an important role. Composed mainly of lawyers, they assist scientists in protecting their inventions and license sales.

The mindset of innovators in Israel

When asked about particular Israeli behavior that are conducive to the emergence of innovations, his answer is simple:

  • Improvising always-Never be paralyzed by the rules, invent alternatives
  • Stay focus of research is paramount, we must not turn away from the main purpose
  • Invest heart and soul – the experiments are not waiting, work on weekends is sometimes required

A little paradise

All the scientist can live in theur own villa on the center. The place is very nice: gardens, modern buildings, labs, museums, etc. We also visited the house of Mr Weizmann, founder of the institute, built in the ’30. A very modern building, full of souvenirs, in a beautiful garden.

Wiezmann house

Wiezmann house

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NGT: an incubator in Nazareth

Here we go! Today 24 April 2012 we moved to the north of the country, destination Nazareth. After a two hours trip by bus we arrived here to discover another reality of Israel, the incubator New Generation Technology (NGT).

Incubators are programs designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services, developed and orchestrated by incubator management and offered both in the incubator and through its network of contacts.

There are around thirty incubators along Israel. They are created to stimulate the industry innovation and to create employment. Normally they host companies specialised in the same field, normally specialized ones, as pharmaceutical, biological or IT sciences.

NGT is an exception: even if concentred on pharma projects, it has been created and was developed around Arab companies, managed mainly by Arabs. It was born 13 years ago to solve an actual problem: very competent professors and researchers with Arab origins were excluded by the other incubators and remained unemployed. The aim of NGT is to change this situation. Here there’s not at all discrimination based on religion. In fact, also if just in minority, also Jewish companies are incubated there.

Companies desiring to enter the program pass through a very meticulous screening process where they have to demonstrate that their idea reaches some predetermined requisites:

  • It is patentable
  • It exists a market for it
  • There are possible contractors relied to the Israeli context

How does it work? People come at the incubator demanding for the admission, once the project has been incubated, it’s the incubator itself that searches for the funding for the project. The majority of them are governmental funds, but rules depend on the single entity. NGT for example requires a minimum of 15% of private funds, normally provided directly by the entrepreneur. The incubator will owns a relevant quote of the stock that is in average greater than 50%, without in any case interfere in the strategy pointing on the shares control. Normally the incubation lasts two years. This limit has been set up by law and can be extended to three years in particular cases.

But why an incubator? Which are the pros for a company to be set up in an incubator? Here what we get of concrete:

  • Funding
  • Consulting and mentoring
  • Connections with the other companies in the same field
  • Externalisation of all the financial aspects
  • Access to the shared facilities, from meeting rooms to advanced laboratories

Another good news for those who might be interested is that no exit strategies exist, in the sense that also once outside the two-years period, the incubator will maintains its stocks, granting a better financial stability and confidence with third parties. In addition, in case of success, only royalties will be demanded and in case of failure the invested capital will be considered as a grant.

European countries, why not to take example from our overseas neighbours? Welcome to Israel!

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Better place: we tried the electric car and loved it!

On April 23th 2012, Ronit welcomed us at the headquarter of Better Place, an Israeli company which is located in an old water tank in Tel Aviv, and invited us to enter a theater built with recycled vehicle seats.We were shown an amazing 3D movie about the company stategy. Better Place is a company created in 2005, which mission is to make the world a better place (yes, it sounds like a Michael Jackon’s song). The electric car can look like an utopia, but it’s already here.

Charging an electric car at Better Place

Charging an electric car at Better Place

The introduction of electric vehicules in the car industry

One hundred years have passed after the invention of cars and if many innovations have been made, they are still mainly  combustion engines. Yearly, 85 million barrels of gasoline are used  worldwide and almost half of it is used for transportation. Approximately 750 million cars are active currently.

A possible solution is the hybrid engine, that combines a traditional engine with an electric or gas motor to reduce consumptions by about 20%, but from 1995 to 2005, only two million hybrid cars were produced and sold.

Pollution is a crucial issue. A research shows that 70% people think the dependence on gas has to be stopped.

For Better Place, the electric car is the solution. Through a partnership with Renault and a collaboration of twelve different countries they have created a network to solve the autonomy limitation of these cars.

Better Place has decided to expand the electric car ecosystem by building up a model which consists of:

  • Electric Cars
  • Park and plug
  • Switch stations
  • Integrated services

Renault, in partnership with Better Place, produces the Fluence, the 1st car with replaceable battery. The new lithium battery allows an autonomy of 160 km. To travel over longer distances, Better Place has developed a network of battery replacement, which allows in five minutes to walk away with a new charged battery. With the purchase of the car, the company will also install a plug at your home for reloading daily your electric car (a full charge lasts 7h). Better Place is also able to provide information, and tells you where are the stations to adjust your journey.

Inside the electric car, Better Place office in Tel Aviv

Inside the electric car, Better Place office in Tel Aviv


The electric vehicle in practice: a new comfort on board

Why chosing electric energy for vehicules? The vehicles are silent, the acceleration is immediate and especially the engine performance is better. In addition, electrical energy can come from renewable sources instead of gasoline. But with Israeli sources derived gas, the use of electric power guarantees only a saving of 30%.

Then we could try the car for a mixed course of one kilometer. The students with a driving licence took a key, entered the car with 2 or 3 passengers, and had a trial. We were all very excited! Impressions? Silence is impressive, especially when starting out. Only braking is different. The engine is reversed and recharges the batteries that provide a good engine braking. Now there is the car, the infrastructure, the solution… The question that arises is: are people willing to change?

Ricardo driving an electric car: Renault Fluence

Ricardo driving an electric car: Renault Fluence

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Discovering the internal innovation process at Qualcomm

A new busy day starts with the visit of Qualcomm, an American high-tech company. Its headquarters in Israel are located in the MATAM (international technology center) in Haifa. We had a 2 hours bus ride from Tel Aviv to join Haifa, which is located on a very beautiful place, very close to the sea. Nir Ofry, member of the Innovation Team, makes us a quick presentation of the company. Qualcomm is a global telecommunication corporation that designs, manufactures and markets digital wireless products and services. It is like Intel 25 years ago, as the world’s largest fables semiconductor company and first in wireless technology. They help developers to develop many applications and Nir showed us some of them like iOnRoad, an app which indicates the distance between you and the car in front of you. Very usefull but a little bit scary: it can prevent car accidents.

Qualcomm headquarters in Haifa

Qualcomm headquarters in Haifa

Qualcomm employs 22,000 people and tries very hard to maintain the entrepreneurship spirit. Why is that? Because technology companies cannot be late in any sectors. So Qualcomm developed Qualcomm Innovation Network (QIN), a system for promoting corporate entrepreneurship and innovation. To know more about the internal innovation process at Qualcomm, read the dedicated article on Israel Valley.

At least, Nir told us about his personal story. He had to go to the army when he was 18 and became responsible of a huge information system in Tsahal (the Israeli army). As his mission had to remain a secret, he couldn’t tell anyone about his activities, so he developed the ability to solve problems on his own.

In Israel, geniuses are detected at a young age (around 10) at school, and they are then directed to special units in the army to develop their high potential.

The Innovators Nation team with Nir at Qualcomm, in Haifa

The Innovators Nation team with Nir at Qualcomm, in Haifa

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PlaNet Finance Group wants to develop in Israel

After coming back from Better Place, we attended to a conference about microfinance in Israel. It took place in the Leumi Bank offices.
PlaNet Finance, the 1st NGO in microfinance, launched by French Jacques Attali in 1998, wants to grow in Israel! The purpose is to increase the access to adapted financial services to the 25% of the Israeli population living below the poverty line.
A real need exists. Indeed, the majority (96%) of companies in Israel are SMEs but they account for only 23% in the total bank credits.
Micro-credits focus on micro-entrepreneurs who need small loans over a short period. Dina Weistein, Director of PlaNet Finance Israel, gives us the example of a micro-entrepreneur who needs professional photography equipment to start her business in photography for weddings in Israel.
To attract new funds for micro business in Israel, Planet Finance wants to launch a online platform for micro-credit (Microworld.org) that allows everyone to finance all or part of projects of micro-entrepreneurs.
Israel is a developed country, with a growing economy, but also with high inequalities between people. It’s estimated that poorest populations in Israel are orthodox Jewish people and Jews from Ethiopia.
At Leumi Bank, Tel Aviv

At Leumi Bank, Tel Aviv

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Visiting Google Israel: a great experience

On Sunday morning, we took a taxi and stopped in front of a big building. We went in the elevator, up to the 21st floor. On the door, it was written: GOOGLE. Here we are: our first company visit!

The students at Google, with Daniel Rouach, his collegue Laureen, Aude and Julie from ESCP Europe administration and Jonathan

The students at Google, with Daniel Rouach, his collegue Laureen, Aude and Julie from ESCP Europe administration and Jonathan

Jonathan Riftin, a Google employee, welcomed us. He showed us the offices, and talk to us about working at Google (what they do, how it works, etc.).

A Google office is exactly as you imagine it, even better. It’s colourful, young, open. People here have an amazing view on the sea. They have free food available in the kitchen (coffee, snacks, candies). They have rooms to relax, to play video games, or to make music.

After the visit we had the great pleasure to listen to Inna Weiner. She presented us the projects Google Israel is working on. A lot of very exciting projects such as “how to forecast who will be the winner of The Voice using Google Insights?”. To know this trick and to learn more about this exceptional visit at Google, please have a look at this Israel Valley article.

At the end of the meeting we asked Inna and Jonathan why Israel is so special? They both answered “the people!”. Israeli people are from all over the world, it’s a great melting pot, and they are not afraid to fail.

In the elevator

In the elevator

Ricardo and Alice in the music room at Google

Ricardo and Alice in the music room at Google

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