For the past 40 years, the undisputed home of the global technology industry has been Silicon Valley, which is the home of some of today's biggest and best-known tech corporations. It was the birthplace of the integrated circuit, the microprocessor, the hard disk drive, and even the internet itself. In recent years, however, a growing slice of the industry has been fanning out across the United States, and even growing in far-off nations.
Internationally, the big new kid on the technology block is China, whose technology market has grown by leaps and bounds of late. It isn't the only major technology hub that's sprung up in the world, however. In fact, there's another thriving technology hub that's building a strong bilateral innovation pipeline with tech firms here in the US. I'm speaking, of course, about Israel, which has become a major player in global technology and is fueling growth on both sides of the Atlantic. Here's a deeper look at the technology ties that have been growing between the US and Israel, and how one man, in particular, is working to expand them through a growing network of Israeli startups and innovators looking to penetrate the US market.
A Vibrant and Booming Technology Economy
Although the technology industry in Israel has been gaining worldwide renown lately, it's hardly new. Its roots date back to the early 1960s, with the emergence of companies like ECI Telecom and Elron into the global market. Since then, the technology sector there has become one of the most innovative in the world, attracting billions of dollars in venture capital and fostering some of the highest rates of startup activity anywhere. Of course, while Israel did well in building a high-tech industry within its borders, it also needed markets for the tech products it produced. They found just what they were looking for in the US, both through direct sales as well as a flood of acquisition activity by US companies like Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and others. Today, however, that relationship is poised to grow even stronger, due in large part to the efforts of one man working to bring Israeli startups straight to American shores.
An Israeli Tech Hub in Florida
For Israeli startups, the traditional path to the US market has been through acquisition by a US firm or strategic partnerships within the industry here. Now, Ron Kimhi, who represents the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), is changing all that by offering Israeli startups a direct route into the US market by connecting them with the resources they need to gain a foothold stateside, and more specifically, in the burgeoning Tampa Bay, Florida technology scene.
The first hurdle he had to clear, however, was in convincing Israeli founders that Tampa Bay would make for fertile ground for their US expansion plans. He recalled the early days by saying "Getting the founders to believe that there is something interesting happening in of all places, Tampa, Florida, was my biggest challenge." Still, the effort started to pay some handsome dividends in short order.
Beginning with a mission to expand participation in the FIBA program from around 20 startups to at least 60, Kimhi set to work connecting with as many Israeli founders and startups as he could find that had an interest in the American market. What he found was an overwhelming appetite in the booming Israeli tech sector for a direct means of entry to the US. After over 1500 calls and emails in his first month of work, an astounding 99 firms had joined the program. Says Kimhi of the process, "When I started, many people said I was insane, but after iterating on our value proposition messaging a few times, I found the winning formula and reached that figure" But that was only the beginning.
An Exchange of Minds
In service of making sure that the connection between the US and Israeli tech industries is truly bilateral, Kimhi has also worked to export some of the brightest minds in the US tech field to work directly for startups in Israel. That effort came through the Birthright Israel Excel initiative, which selects 40 technology students that hail from the most prestigious universities here in the US for internships throughout the Israeli technology sector.
For Israel, such a talent pipeline couldn't come at a better time. That's because the rapid growth of the industry there has created a high-skill labor shortage that might act as a check on future growth if not addressed. That's another part of the reason that so many Israeli tech startups are so eager to find homes in the US market, where resources and skilled labor are more plentiful.
A Natural Symbiosis
As the relationship between the US and Israeli technology sectors continues to grow and prosper, it's offering opportunities for businesses on both sides. For US firms, it promises a continued flow of innovation and new partnerships to feed what has become the biggest and most influential part of the national economy. For Israeli firms, it offers room to grow beyond their borders and some welcome relief from the current labor situation they face at home. Together, they make a formidable high-tech pair that should have the wherewithal to continue to dominate the global technology economy for years to come, even in the face of rising Chinese influence. Given how much the two sides have already prospered together, there's little doubt that the best is yet to come.
Photo Credits via the contributor's Adobe Stock License by comzeal, natanaelginting, and itchaznong.