THE COMPANIES are required to send part of their team to New York at least once a month for a week during their six-month program..
(photo credit: ADI ASHKENAZI)
When Omer Rachamim decided that his online cross-promotion company DandyLoop needed a foothold in the American market, he faced a daunting challenge.
Going to New York, making new connections, establishing himself in the business world and dealing with a hi-tech culture that operates very differently than the one he knew in Israel all posed hurdles.
“There are major challenges,” Rachamim said in a phone call from New York.
“One is the distance. I’m not leaving Tel Aviv because my [business] partner, my family, my friends and my girlfriend are still there.”
Enter IcoNYC (pronounced “iconic”), a New York-based accelerator designed to help Israeli companies set up shop there.
Rachamim heard about the accelerator when an investor mentioned it to him, and so began the long process of getting into the accelerator’s first class of startups.
IcoNYC came together when Eyal Bino and Arie Abecassis, two Israeli-born innovators, met in New York and got to discussing how to help Israeli companies get a foot in the door early on and integrate their US operations as they grew.
“The historical pattern for a lot of Israeli companies is to build their companies and get their investors before moving to the US,” Abecassis said.
“What we’re saying to the entrepreneurs is why not have the best of both worlds: Keep one foot in Israel, and start planting the other foot here.”
New York, they felt, welcomed Israeli innovation, but Israelis needed to learn how to distinguish themselves in the crowded environment.
“We’re basically bringing startup nation to their doorstep,” Bino said.
After sorting through 200 applicants, the team selected five companies for their first six-month class, which launched in April. The companies, which include Flux, an agricultural tech startup, and Myndlift, which is trying to battle ADHD with technology, are required to send part of their team to New York at least once a month for a week during their six-month program, during which they meet with investors, attend workshops and do a lot of networking.
“Americans are different than Israelis, and for us, coming to New York, we need to learn how to behave ourselves,” Rachamim said. “I’m constantly in contact with the managers of IcoNYC, who give us advice.”
In return for giving startups the mentorship and $20,0000 in funding to cover expenses, the accelerator gets 6 percent to 8% equity in the young companies.
“They really bleed for us,” Rachamim said. “They work as hard as they can to make us succeed, because our success is clearly their success.”
Asked whether they were concerned that luring Israeli companies to New York would ultimately inspire them to leave Israel altogether, Bino said entrepreneurs were reluctant to consider uprooting from Israel altogether, especially if their home offices could act as a powerful R&D branch as their companies grow in the US market.
“I think at the end of the day a lot of Israeli entrepreneurs come back home and bring their experience back to Israel,” he said.
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