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Israeli Tech Innovators Battle for Funds During Covid-Era Virtual ‘TechFest’

Ten Israeli technology startups traveled 7,000 (virtual) miles to Oregon for the startup pitch competition.

A variety of Israeli-based startups got a chance to strut their stuff at a recent virtual tech confab based in Portland, Oregon.

Three high-impact Israeli health-tech companies joined ISRAEL21c Executive Director Brian Abrahams on the main-stage “Innovation in the Time of COVID” session at TechFestNW on Dec. 2. In addition, 10 fledgling firms got a chance to pitch for funding during the event.

The annual global gathering of innovators, entrepreneurs, tech companies and investors, held virtually this year from its base in Portland, Oregon, was cosponsored by ISRAEL21c.

Abrahams interviewed Nimrod May, chief commercial officer of Sonarax, which transmits data over soundwaves for touch-free access, payments, authentication, location-based services, marketing and indoor positioning; Elya Tagar, VP business development for Diagnostic Robotics; and Meni Shikhman, VP business development and partnerships at TytoCare, whose home kit enables remote medical exams.

HILOS 3D-printed sustainable shoes made by American-Israeli citizen Elias Stahl. (HILOS)

“NW Techfest is a well-regarded technology and investment program, and I was proud to be able to present a program on Israel,” said Abrahams.  “The three companies we focused on each have amazing innovations that will make a difference during COVID-19 and shape health technology for years to come. The response to the program was very positive and has generated a lot of follow-up inquiries.”

The panel “really showcased that Israel is a player in the race for technologies for treating COVID or catching it before it worsens,” says Michelle Bombet Minch, chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Jewish Community Relations Council and co-chair of its Israel Advocacy Committee.

“Often overlooked in press coverage of Israel is the expertise, innovation and investment in so many different technologies, and this put it in front of investors, students and so many others,” she says.

Touting Israeli technology

Started in 2013, TechfestNW takes place at Portland State University — one of the first campuses on which Israel21C’s Digital Ambassadors program launched in 2014.

“I’m all about Israeli technology, and I felt that the Startup Nation definitely belongs in TechFest,” Bombet Minch said.

In 2018, she contacted TechFestNW founder Mark Zusman, a local newspaper publisher, and found Zusman enthusiastic about including Israeli companies in the annual event.

 

Federation cosponsored that year’s confab, which included an Israeli cybersecurity company headquartered in Portland.

“In 2019, I found more donors and partnered with the Oregon-Israel Business Alliance. They suggested Zohar Sharon, chief knowledge officer of the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality, whom we sponsored to come and give a talk about digital cities on the main stage.”

10 Israeli companies at PitchfestNW

In addition to the panel hosted by Abraham, TechfestNW had several more Israeli touches this year. Without leaving home, 10 Israeli technology startups traveled 7,000 virtual miles to Oregon for the event’s PitchfestNW, a startup pitch competition.

Bombet Minch noted that Israeli startups had never been able to participate in the event’s PitchfestNW due to the great distance and expense of travel.

This year, with everything going virtual, Bombet Minch recognized a golden opportunity. She contacted Moran Zilbershtein, head of Israel’s Economic and Trade Mission to the West Coast, and arranged for 10 Israeli startups to participate.

Although the winner among the 60 startup competitors was local — Portland-based sustainable 3D-printed shoe manufacturer HILOS — founder Elias Stahl moved to Israel in 2012 and served in the army for three years.

Screenshot of TytoCare’s Meni Shikhman showing his company’s device at TechfestNW in December 2020. (TytoCare)

The dual citizen has led student trips to Israel and tells ISRAEL21c that he credits the pioneering Israeli 3D-printing industry with providing a launchpad for his business.

One PitchfestNW judge has Israeli ties, too: Rafi Schraer is director of investor relations at Jerusalem-based OurCrowd’s San Diego office.

TechFestNW usually attracts an audience of about 1,000. For this year’s virtual version, more than 1,000 tickets were ordered.

Bombet Minch is already looking forward to next year’s event, whether it be virtual or in-person in Portland.

“I’m excited to report that I have two donors onboard who are committed to this event for the coming years,” she said. “We want to show that the Jewish and Israeli community is supporting TechFestNW.”

TechFestNW showcases cutting-edge Israeli solutions appeared first on ISRAEL21c.

(Edited by Matthew C. Hall and David Martosko)