Pears Challenge 2017 seeks to bring startup nation to the developing world

Israel is one of the world’s innovation giants. However, at present, most Israeli technologies benefit just 15% of the world’s population in the developed world.

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November 21, 2016 20:01
2 minute read.
Dr. Aliza. Belman Inbal at the Pears Program for Global Innovation

Dr. Aliza. Belman Inbal at the Pears Program for Global Innovation. (photo credit: SARA SALAMON PHOTOGRAPHY)

A call went out on Monday to Israeli innovators to develop ventures that will benefit the developing world while turning a profit in India’s affordable healthcare market.

The project is known as the Pears Program for Global Innovation at Tel Aviv University, and its 2017 installment of the Pears Challenge was just launched this week.

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“The Pears Challenge is Israel’s only venture-builder that targets the needs of people in developing countries. The program aims to create a new generation of successful Israeli companies with technologies that can transform the lives of poor people worldwide,” Dr. Aliza Inbal, director of the challenge told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

This year’s challenge is focused on development of affordable healthcare ventures for lower income communities in India. The program is managed in partnership with MindUp, a digital health tech incubator based in Haifa.

In India, the Pears challenge has recruited 40 partners, including national hospital chains and India’s largest startup incubator, T-Hub.

“The challenge is for individual applicants, and we are looking for people that can provide value for health startups, such as actual healthcare practitioners, engineers, and people with business and ‘meditech’ backgrounds,” Dr. Inbal explained. “First we recruit the most outstanding and appropriate people, then they go through a five-month ideational program, in which they learn about the sector, business models, the local markets and cultural things they need to know.”

The ideational phase was designed to enable those chosen as program fellows to join together and develop ventures most appropriate to their given focus. Once the best ventures have been selected, fellows receive ongoing support for their innovations, beginning with prototyping, piloting, connecting with seed financing, all the way through to successful commercialization and scaling up of their project.

“If we end up with 10 venture groups and 10 good ideas, then we will take all 10 to India,” Dr. Inbal said.

Ventures from the two previous Pears challenges addressed issues such as small-holder farming in Africa and solutions for handicapped individuals.

Those projects got funding from the Techstars start-up accelerator, the Israel Innovation Authority and so-called ‘angel investors,’ and have raised more than $1 million in seed financing alone.

Several companies that emerged from that challenge are already posting profits. One that was founded only one year ago recently signed a contract with the United States Agency for International Development.

“The Indian innovation ecosystem is hungry to work with Israeli start-ups. They are interested in Israeli technologies for low and lower middle income Indians, and their healthcare market represents a tremendous opportunity for Israeli start-ups. It’s projected to grow to $280b. by 2020,” said Dr. Inbal.

Israel is one of the world’s innovation giants. However, at present, most Israeli technologies benefit just 15% of the world’s population in the developed world. The program seeks to address the needs of the remaining 85% of world population, thereby – as worded by the Pears program – “making the start-up nation into a contributing nation.”

“I think that we are missing an opportunity for Israel to have a moral impact, and show that Israel is a force of good in the world,” Dr. Inbal said.

“The best way to do it is not through charity or advocacy, but through using our ingenuity to transform the lives of people around the world for the best.”


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