In today’s global economy, everyone dreams of founding their own startup, and for good reasons: you get to be your own boss, you’re surrounded by high-energy creatives, and you have a chance at making the big bucks by selling your technology to companies that are eager to snatch up the next big thing.
For many Israeli startups, this dream is a reality. With one of the highest concentration of startups per capita in the world and almost one thousand new startups launched each year, Israel indeed earns and maintains its ‘Startup Nation’ title. But in order to succeed, Israeli startups need to reach an international market, as the Israeli market is too small to be sustainable.
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One of the best ways a startup can reach the anticipated point of exiting, going public, or simply becoming sustainably profitable is with the help of international startup accelerators – fixed-term, cohort-based programs that mentor and fund emerging startups, culminating in demo days where they pitch their product to potential investors. This essentially gives the startups the critical kick-start they need to succeed overseas.
NoCamels catalogs six of the top foreign accelerators that have rocketed Israeli startups into international superstardom.
Located in California’s bustling Silicon Valley, this accelerator scouts out strictly Israeli talent twice a year for its four-month programs. The perks for accepted startups include seed funding up to $25,000, access to leading investors, a hip workspace, direct mentorship from leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and a myriad of software, human resources, legal, and banking services so that startups can focus solely on honing their product and pitch. UpWest Labs, which is now nurturing its tenth batch of startups, already has 42 graduates who have raised more than $100 million total in funding, with an average seed round of about $1 million per company. Impressive exits include Slick Login and Qlika, startups acquired by Google and Priceline Group, respectively.
A giant in the realm of accelerators, Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator is most famous for incubating the likes of Dropbox, Reddit, and Airbnb. To date, it has funded 842 companies, with a collective market cap over $30 billion, and consistently ranks as one of the top startup accelerators in the world. They work with large batches of startups (85 most recently) twice a year, and provide them with $120,000 in funding along with varied mentorship and networking benefits. Three Israeli startups – Parallel Universe, Guesty, and Cleanly – were incubated at Y Combinator recently. Just this May, Cleanly (dealing with on-demand laundry delivery) received $2.3 million in seed funding.
Often compared with Y Combinator, Tech Stars has funded 556 companies (419 of which are active) to date, and was named by Forbes as the third best US Accelerator in 2015. Startups that are lucky enough to get accepted to the exclusive, mentorship-driven program receive $18,000 in seed funding and an optional $100,000 convertible debt note, and spend three months developing their product in one of the nine-city locations, including Berlin, Boston, and London. Platfarm and AppInside are two Israeli startups in the latest batch, which participated at Tech Stars Berlin 2015 Demo Day in September. Both have already raised their first round of seed funding.
A self-described “badass, global family of startup founders, mentors, and investors” founded by PayPal and Google alumni, 500 Startups recruits top startups for four-month accelerator programs in Mountain View, San Francisco, and Mexico City. Forbes named it the eight best startup accelerator in the US in 2015, praising in particular its alumni network and startup survival rate. 500 has already raised over $261 million in funding, and invests up to $125,000 in each of the startups. MyPermissions, WisePricer, and Sky Giraffe are among the notable Israeli startups that have partaken in the accelerator. MyPermissions, an online privacy shield app and the first Israeli startup funded by 500, recently raised $2.6 million in two funding rounds.
Like UpWest Labs, IcoNYC (pronounced like “iconic”) focuses on growing early-stage, exclusively Israeli tech startups into global companies. New to the scene, IcoNYC chose five companies for its first cohort just this past spring. The startups – DannyLoop, Gaonic, Clickspree, Flux, and Myndlift – each received $20,000 in seed funding and are currently undergoing a six-month program in New York City. The accelerator runs longer than most traditional accelerators and is also more hands-on, with customized plans for each startup that are refined on a weekly basis.
The only no-strings-attached accelerator on this list, Mass Challenge does not take any equity or place any restrictions on the startups it works with. Since its founding in 2010, this accelerator’s graduates have raised over $706 million in outside funding, creating nearly 4,800 jobs. Mass Challenge Israel, a local branch of Mass Challenge, focuses on recruiting early-stage Israeli startups for a four-month accelerator program held in Boston. Select startups receive a community of advisers and mentors, a 3,000-square-meter office space, and the training needed to compete for over $1 million in cash prizes. Some notable Israeli startups from MassChallenge 2015 are Flying SpArk, ReThink Pharmaceuticals, eRated, and feelter.
The presence of Israeli startups in international accelerators is growing and will be worth keeping an eye on, as they will likely set up shop in the US and countries outside Israel to make an ever greater impact on the global market.
Photos: Maki Oshiro/ Robyn Twomey/