Israel is a global leader in entrepreneurship, with a total of 70 exits and IPOs worth $15 billion in 2014, according to PwC. Its innovative technologies — often developed due to a lack of natural resources such as water — are changing the game in agriculture, energy, healthcare and education.
Impressive, but can Israeli innovation spread and impact developing countries?
This was the central question during ID², the Israeli Designed International Development conference, held early this month in Caesarea, Israel. Seventy entrepreneurs, impact investors, and international development experts gathered to explore how impact investing can be used to scale ventures. The three days provided invaluable collaboration, connection and skills-building. The goal: to solve the most pressing problems plaguing the developing world.
Sponsored by the Schusterman Foundation, ID2 is both a conference and a global network with a mission to promote entrepreneurship and innovation for development. Tech transfer and market development are the goals, especially as Israeli companies must seek new sources of revenue for their products outside their own small domestic market, which is eight million people.
Intense discussion and brainstorming produced a few takeaways by participants of companies such as Lishtot, Gigawatt Global, and Doctome. Insights included:
- The need for a stronger ecosystem for Israel entrepreneurs to reach new markets, and more angel investor networks;
- The desire for greater connections between Israeli companies and investors, including domestic and international;
- Demand for accelerators and mentors to help entrepreneurs translate ideas into scalable, investor-ready businesses; and
- Local, well-connected partners are key, as they possess particular knowledge, have ready distribution channels, and understand the needs on the ground. They can mitigate operational and political risks in unfamiliar markets.
Several organizations have stepped in to fill in the gaps. Pears Program for Global Innovation creates awareness of the opportunities in developing markets and provides entrepreneurs with the skill sets, knowledge and connections to potential partners in developing countries. Its flagship fellowship program, the Pears Challenge, works with a select group of experienced Israeli entrepreneurs, guiding them through the process of generating new technologies and business models that meet the needs of the developing countries.
Eugene Kandal, keynote speaker and formerly a top economic adviser for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, proposed the creation of an Israeli international development body: TOV that would act as a platform to create impact, focusing on pilot programs in critical development areas such as water, energy and health, and then work to scale up successful models.