CISCO EIR Lands in Israel for a Behind The Scenes Look Into The Startup Nation
Posted: January 11, 2016 / Author: Dror Liwer
Austria, San Jose, France, UK and now Israel. Cisco’s EIR program lands in the country most renowned for its cultivation of tech startups.We kicked off the week with startup and social media magnet, Hillel Fuld, for his take on the Israeli tech eco system, discussing the drivers of success for a country to become a hub. This includes an education system geared towards entrepreneurship and innovation, an army that invests heavily in technology and breading quick thinking leaders; government funding, international technology brands and financial institutions running local incubators that nurture startups and much more. Top tips from Fuld included:- Tell your own story in your own voice, as opposed to what you believe investors want to hear. The art or storytelling is critical to success.- Competitive analysis is key, "if you think you have no competitors, you either did not research the market, or have no market”.Tours to CISCO offices in Jerusalem led by Yael Villa brought an insight into the massive video and security teams that operate out of the Jerusalem hub as a result of Cisco’s second largest acquisition ever of NDS.In addition to the views of Tel-Aviv on 42nd floor of Azrieli Towers, the visit to Elron provided a deep dive into how and why this VC invests in its startups. Yaron Elad, Elron’s CFO gave an insightful background into Elron’s history, dating back to 1962 when the focus was to bridge the gap between Israeli R&D and industry to create a knowledge based industry (Hi Tech). Yaron told the story of how Elron pioneered the development of accelerators and incubators before they were known in these terms and provided some animated examples of successful investments which were really the seeds of what later became known as “Startup Nation”.Elron Director, Dr. Zvika Slovin, spoke about the many fascinating Israeli medical device companies they have invested in. Most of which were a great success and some, a little less.Together, they provided honest insights into the role of the investor, what they see as critical success factors, and what they are looking for in the teams they invest in. Following significant government investment, the southern city of Beer Sheva has become a tech hub. EMC was the first company to open offices in the city… well before the tech park opened. CISCO EIR team met with EMC Site Leader, Maya Hofman Levy, for a tour of EMC’s facilities and a discussion about the company’s decision to set up regional headquarters there. A trip to the desert would not be complete without a pitstop at the Ramon Crater. The crater is shaped like an elongated heart, is 40 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide. It is a part of the Ramon Nature reserve that includes also the surrounding Negev Mountains. With limited time, we walked, savored and stopped long enough for the obligatory selfie before carrying on with the day.Back in Beer Sheva, Yoav Tzruya, Partner and CEO of JVP Cyber Labs greeted us to discuss and provide the perspective of a modern VC, very much in touch with the eco system requirements of 2016. Following their success in Jerusalem, JVP’s office was the first VC and incubator in Beer Sheva. Few people know that JVP was the first VC to open an office in the capital, Jerusalem, which was not previously considered an attractive location for startups. With forty percent of their portfolio now comprising of cybersecurity companies, who were also encouraged to open offices in Beer Sheva, it made sense to replicate their success in Jerusalem.Yoav’s advice to the team about fundraising was two-fold, startups need to show:
Real customer traction, even if it is not from paying customers.
A clear path to substantial revenue and financial resilience.
Another day, weekend and more of Israel to explore. This included: Walking tours of old and new Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, romantic sunsets and walks along the beach, and the best shwarma and falafels ever eaten… not necessarily in that order.Dror and his family were our hosts for a traditional Friday night dinner at their home. Food and wine was a plenty. We ate, drank and got only slightly merry…. not too much to interfere with our trip up north on Saturday. Jachnun for breakfast, Agam Hachula, the Mecca for migratory birds, and yet more food (more like an incredible feast) in a Druze village courtesy of our host, Wassim. Luckily we also developed storm dodging skills and managed to make it back to to the hotel before the storms hit.Before we knew it, the last night in Israel was upon us. What more could we hope to see and experience to conclude the week? We were guided to what appeared from the outside, a run of the mill restaurant in Jaffa, intrigued and in suspense. Inside however, was a different story. The grand finale constituted of yet more food and… a magic show at the Sorcerer's Night, hosted by our very own Dror Liwer. We had an absolute blast! Thank you and Shalom Israel.