Inside the Israeli Impact Tech Ecosystem - Sankalp Forum 2020

On November 4th, Pears Program for Global Innovation led a panel representing the Israeli ecosystem of Innovation for development at The Sankalp Forum 2020 Virtual conference. The Sankalp Forum is one of the biggest annual global conferences on the Global South's Impact Economy, promoting business-led solutions to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

We organised a virtual panel discussion with Nicky Newfield from Arc Impact, Hilly Hirt from The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and Ariel Beery from CoVelocity, moderated by Hagit Freud, Managing Director at Pears Program for Global Innovation.

The panel began with a discussion about the reason why Israeli innovation holds a great potential for significant impact given the global advancement in technologies and innovations. However, Israel is still far from being where it should be in terms of the amount of technologies deployed and impact made in emerging markets. The panel started with each of the panelists describing how they contribute to fulfilling this potential.

The IIA, an independent governmental funded entity operating to encourage the private sector to innovate by mitigating their risk, is important because it invests millions of dollars into companies across all sectors and is determined by the market. Hilly spoke about the clash between Israeli entrepreneurs who have great skills in innovative technologies but lack knowledge about the actual emerging markets they are targeting. IIA provides a comfortable middle ground between these two opposites. Arc impact is an Impact VC which invests in early stage start-ups. Nicky spoke about the variety of wonderful technologies she sees in Israel and how she wishes to see some of those technologies addressing global challenges. CoVelocity is a new company that Ariel recently co-founded, which distributes health technologies to areas across the globe that aren’t commonly reached. Ariel spoke about his motivation to accelerate global market penetration of life saving technologies, and minimises health access inequality.

Yet while these organisations reflect the dynamic and productive terrain for innovation for development across Israel, the panel focused on what is still missing for the Israeli eco-system to deliver on its potential..

One of the main issues discussed was the lack of partnership within the field. Ariel noted this in relation to the absence of co-development between NGOs, local actors and the developers of the technology. Nicky commented on the need to have a greater understanding and coordination between the technology developed and the market it is reaching, similar to Hilly who emphasised on the need to understand the importance of the markets and how to show that the innovative technology is something worth taking a risk on. Through obtaining a greater understanding of the markets, including its complexity and size, entrepreneurs will possess the necessary tools to understand and connect with their target market appropriately.

The panel discussion emphasized the importance of partnerships between actors in Israel to actors in target markets. The issue of partnering with potential customers from an early stage was underlined by Ariel, and depicted accurately through the term “venture customers. Based on his entrepreneurial experience, Ariel said the most valuable partners to Israeli entrepreneurs are partners operating on the ground that can be venture customers.

”Venture customers are customers who understand the problem, know that the current solutions don’t address these problems sufficiently and are willing to take a chance, with their organizational time and resources, in order to see if the solution that the entrepreneur is offering is actually solving the problem”

There is a need to focus on the customer's response to the product in order to see if the company is providing a benefit. It is an important step for a business in order to enter into a new market, and this is often where Israelis face a challenge given their distance from the target market.

Nicky shared her investor perspective, and said that she is always highly impressed by the technologies she comes across, but it is often a challenge to understand the market potential of those technologies. She would love to see more partnerships with philanthropy and with investors from the target market that would help de-risk the investment and support the companies in the market understanding and market penetration.

The panel ended on an optimistic note, discussing the potential partnerships and collaborations that could be developed within each organisation.

We, at the Pears program, are committed to enhancing collaboration and building bridges and enhancing closer collaboration between the Israeli ecosystem to partners in the global south.

Watch the event again here!

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