The Jewish community of Baltimore has a long and thriving relationship with the
State of Israel, even before the establishment of the state.
founder Henrietta Szold was born in Baltimore, and the city was home to Joseph
Schwartz, head of the Joint Distribution Committee in the 1940s, by whose
efforts perhaps a million Jews were saved from the clutches of the Nazis. And,
The Exodus 1947, “the ship that launched a nation” that ferried DPs from Cyprus
to the shores of the Land of Israel, was bought and refurbished on the Baltimore
So it may not be surprising that Baltimore is also the home of one
of the more innovative programs to help Israeli startups establish their
operations in the US, opening up for them markets and opportunities that they
could only receive exposure to “on-site” in the US.
Development Center, says Chairman Abba David Poliakoff, is there to help Israeli
companies crack the US market, and helps them set up shop – literally – on
And while Israeli startups could, if they set their mind
to it, probably open offices and hang out their shingles without any help, they
would not have access to the huge network of connections the MIDC can make
available for aspects of the move abroad, whether it’s finding cheap office
space, introducing startups to investors and customers, or even helping “grease
the wheels” to help startups get access to lucrative private or government
tenders and contracts.
“Our job is to help Israeli startups get a ‘soft
landing’ in the US, providing them with an instant infrastructure that can save
them time, effort, and money,” says Poliakoff.
Anyone who has moved house
knows what a hassle it is – and how much readjustment is involved. Moving house
is considered one of the five most stressful experiences healthy people face in
modern life, and changing jobs – starting in a new work environment – is another
major source of stress.
So you could imagine how tough it is to do both
at the same time, setting up an office in a foreign country, and having to
connect with customers, suppliers, and opportunities.
MIDC, however, has
that covered, says Poliakoff.
“It’s like a one-stop service; startups
call us up and tell us what they need, and we arrange the infrastructure,
whether it’s an office, attorney, accountant, etc. At the end of the day, they
just move in and start to sell.”
And MIDC has startups covered there, as
well. Located in Baltimore, MIDC is a private non-profit that partners with the
Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, which of course aims
to bring more business to Maryland. If that sounds like an odd place for a
hi-tech startup to set up shop, you’re behind the times, says MIDC Executive
Director Barry Bogage.
“Interestingly, Prime Minister [Binyamin]
Netanyahu asked the same question of Maryland Governor [Martin] O’Malley when he
recently visited Israel.
The answer is that Maryland has almost
everything that an Israeli startup could be interested in.”
are interested in is opportunity, and the Maryland area offers that in spades,
it turns out – mostly due to its proximity to Washington, where the federal
government has billions to spend on all manner of technology. The National
Institutes of Health is located in Bethesda; the Food and Drug Administration’s
head offices are in Rockville; the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, National Security Agency, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground (quickly
becoming the US Army’s hub for science and technology) – and many other hi-tech
oriented US government agencies and groups – all call Maryland
Naturally, proximity to those sources of funding and networking
interest companies from all around the US, and the world – and Israeli companies
involved in medical and defense research, cybersecurity, and Internet services,
will find plenty of potential partners and customers.
Recently, the MIDC,
through its Marketreach America corporate partnering program, hosted a
delegation of 14 Israeli startups, part of the “roadshow” I’ve mentioned in
recent weeks, organized by the Trendlines Group.
Trendlines CEO D. Todd
Dollinger, who announced a new investment fund co-sponsored by the MIDC and
Trendlines at the event, calls the organization “unique, in that it is one of
the few, if not the only, private sector group that works to help bring cutting
edge Israeli technology to the US, helping them navigate unfamiliar and often
Indeed, the MIDC does very good work, says
“The MIDC and Trendlines have been successfully working
together for 14 years to promote business between Israeli and US companies, and
has assisted hundreds of companies in reaching US markets.”
important for the State of Maryland, says Dollinger, the MIDC/Trendlines
partnership “has facilitated the opening of offices in Maryland for more than 30
So effective is the partnership that the new
investment fund, which aims to invest moderate sums (between $50,000 and
$750,000) in early stage companies, closed barely a week after it was first
Indeed, the MIDC – through its MarketReach America program –
helps Israeli companies takes full advantage of the opportunities
“We’ve already helped over 30 Israeli companies get a foothold
in the US, not to mention the plethora of academic partnerships we’ve helped set
up with the many academic institutions in this state,” says Bogage. And the fees
the MIDC charges are “very reasonable,” says Bogage. “As a non-profit, our aim
really is to help Israeli companies, and help to develop the Maryland economy.
It really is a win-win for everyone involved.”
While most states have
development programs whose job it is to bring more business to the state,
Maryland is unique in that it partners with a private non-profit – essentially
“outsourcing” some of the nutsand- bolts of the work to an organization that has
the wherewithal to make things happen.