The Jerusalem Post
More tech can be done in Israel, Techstars CEO says
“Israel has already created so many successful entrepreneurs, but there is so much more that can be done,” says Maelle Gavet, CEO of Techstars, one of the world’s largest international tech accelerator programs, visiting Israel for the conclusion of its sixth cohort program here this past week.
Techstars chose ten promising start-ups for the three-month program, where it provided business mentorship, access to a global network of investors and business entities, as well as an investment in the company.
“Our goal is to find amazing entrepreneurs and help them succeed,” Gavet said. “Techstars was founded 15 years ago, and we now have 2,600 companies we have invested in around the world. Each cohort takes 10 start-ups, and we will invest in 400 companies through our 40 programs this year.”
Techstars launched its Tel Aviv program in 2016, and has thus far worked with 60 companies here – but not all Israeli. “We try to create an international environment for our cohorts while maintaining a local feel,” Gavet said. “So about 40-45 of the companies we have worked with here are Israeli, while others come from abroad.”
Gavet said Techstars is different from other accelerator programs in two ways. “First, we are a global network. Most of the other big accelerator programs are local, often with a focus on Silicon Valley. Second, our Israeli mentors help make program members successful. Israeli engineers are very good at designing products, and while Israeli companies, in general, have gotten better at marketing and business development, and the local ecosystem has matured a lot, many still need help. Our program has a very well-tested system for building companies and getting them access to international investors.”
Techstars’ investment in Israel is just starting to pay off. “We invest in super-early-stage companies, so we usually expect about five to ten years until an exit. Our first cohort was in 2016, and we just had our first exit. In March, e-commerce company approve.com was acquired by Tipalti for about $40 million. The portfolio value for our Israeli companies is $200m., and we see a lot more potential.”
Gavet mentioned that increasing diversity in the tech world is a company priority that takes on a unique direction in Israel. “We are always asking how we can get more women into that space, and in America, we work a lot with the African-American, Latino, and Asian communities,” she said. “Here, we are working to integrate religious and Arab communities more.”
Among the programs in this year’s Tel Aviv cohort are 3chron, a tool to help people communicate more naturally online by using 3D video; gorillaLink, which offers an IoT satellite access platform; IndieFlow, a work-flow management platform for the music industry, and Heex, a cloud-based collaboration software tool focusing on Smart Data management in autonomous driving. Others include Kneese, a finance organizer for multinationals around the world; Spanland, an AI engine that provides real estate professionals with analyzed data on untapped renewal; It’s July, an urban travel guide for families; Immagnify, which turns weeks of prospect research into seconds by automated lead sourcing for sales teams; MakeTuto, a tool that enables companies to create step-bystep interactive tutorials; and radd, a video-based e-commerce experience to smartly connect online customers with their desired products.
Gavet has only been working with Techstars for six months, but her list of professional qualifications is long. She has been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, one of 40 Under 40, and was ranked fifth on magazine’s list of the Top 25 ‘Female Techpreneurs.’ After six years as a principal at the Boston Consulting Group, she became CEO of OZON.ru, Russia’s largest e-commerce site, and later, executive VP of operations of the Priceline Group, the largest online and travel agency in the world. Most recently, she was COO at American real estate giant Compass, which recently did an IPO at a valuation of about $10 billion.
Last year, Gavet took time off to write a book,
which has become a best-seller. “I didn’t expect such a positive reaction,” Gavet said. “In the first half of the book, I discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tech world, looking at how we ended up in a world focused on company growth instead of a world concerned with such things as quality of life, privacy, and transparency. And in the second half, I try to offer solutions.”
Gavet believes that Western societies have entrusted governments to safeguard the balance between entrepreneurial capitalism and certain ways of life. “There are different types of balance in the US, Europe, and Israel,” Gavet said. “But the governments have lost their balance, and they need to get them back.”
“At first, there was a sense that tech was all good, but at some point, we realized that there are serious consequences, and that we have been hurt by allowing tech companies to self regulate for too long.”
Ultimately, though, Gavet said she is an optimist. “Humanity is really good at fixing problems once we identify them. I’m happy to be working with young entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place.”