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  • Writer's pictureAriel Cohen

Choosing an accelerator? This is what startups should look for

Entrepreneurs can benefit from joining one of Israel’s many accelerator programs - but choosing one is easier said than done


Everyone talks about funding, VCs, and exits in the ecosystem of Startup Nation. While much attention has been given to the success of Israel's startups, little attention is given to the communities and networks that help foster their growth - notably, the accelerator programs that support young companies and entrepreneurs.

“Israel is a special country as it is very innovative and therefore accelerator programs are inherent part of the ecosystem,” explained Adi Hoorvitch Lavi, Director of Business Development & Strategic Partnership at Poalim Hi-Tech. “Once you have an ecosystem with a lot of startups, which most of the startups fail, they need support from these accelerator programs... They assist startups in taking entrepreneurship challenges and collaborating with other, large, companies.. .we have so many acceleration programs because we’re such an innovative country.”

The leadership of some of Israel's accelerator programs. Photo: PR/Nofar Hasson Hendelman/Q Elite Beauty/Isaac Shokal/Yarin Taranos/IDCX

Typically, today’s acceleration programs last between 3-6 months and are an opportunity for a handful of companies to get access to mentorship programs, content, networking opportunities, and business guidance for their growth. In her role at Bank Hapoalim, Hoorvitch Lavi helps with sponsorship opportunities for these accelerator programs that she describes as being “part of what is going on in the ecosystem… It’s our way of knowing all the time which startups are growing, or interesting, and being part of the ecosystem. If you’re not collaborating with accelerators, you’re not part of the ecosystem.”

Y Combinator, the first-ever accelerator program, was created in 2005 in Silicon Valley with one main premise: to help first-time startups tell their story in a way to get them in front of - and investment from - VCs. Today, ‘YC’ is one of the most prestigious accelerator programs in the world and has helped companies like Airbnb, DropBox, and Stripe with their growth with support following a $125,000 investment. By 2011, the concept had arrived in Israel and has been fostering the ecosystem here ever since.

“For us coming to Israel, it was a clear next step,” explained Yonit Serkin, Managing Director at MassChallenge Israel. MassChallenge is a global network of innovators helping solve ‘massive challenges’. While its headquarters are in Boston, the accelerator program set up a base in Israel in 2016. “MassChallenge in Boston had indicated its first foray into global activities would be to Israel not for any Zionist reason… but rather an understanding that really smart, bright technical talent exists here and that being able to connect these two markets was going to be incredibly exciting and powerful in terms of creating jobs for the future.”

MassChallenge Israel accelerates roughly 40-50 companies here each year - and it has nine different programs that operate in cities around the world. While Serkin described the program as “sector agnostic”, they look for early-stage entrepreneurs who can have access to 350 mentors locally and thousands from its international network abroad.

MassChallenge was born in Israel after arriving as part of a wider network, but Israel’s oldest and first accelerator program from 2011 came from one of Israel’s most well-known exports - the army’s 8200 Unit. 8200 For Startups by EISP was designed to take ‘the knowledge, the know-how, and the skills of a tech entrepreneur and give them to the entire tech community.’

“Today, there are so many accelerators, you have to make sure you get the right and good smart content,” said Yarden Abarbanel, Managing Director of at 8200 For Startups by EISP. “Because it’s the easiest thing to give bad advice.” Today, the program is in the middle of its 11th cohort focussing on helping companies at the early stage of their journeys.

James Spiro 18.05.21 - CTECH by Calcalist

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