Israeli startups often build products targeting the American market. While many founders coming out of Israel have the entrepreneurial DNA, the physical distance from their customers, potential partners and backers as well as a cultural gap on how to do business in the US, often inhibits their startup’s growth in the early stages. Despite the fact that Israel boasts the highest number of startups per capita, there’s no Israeli incubator that solves the distance problem.
As silicon valley veterans who are experienced working with startups Gil Ben Artzi, a former Yahoo exec, and Shuly Galili, founder of the CICC and organizer of the Israel web/mobile/cleantech tours, spotted the gap and launched Upwest Labs, a new accelerator for Israeli startups in Silicon Valley. Similar to Ycombinator, the valley’s top incubator program, UpwestLabs consists of a 10-week period in which selected startups are provided with a physical work space, access to capital and corporations as well as ongoing coaching from a network of local mentors, many of whom are Israeli industry professionals based in the US. The program culminates in a “Demo Day” showcasing the products to potential Valley-based VCs and angels.
Upwest Labs is a for-profit business. Startup teams of up 2-4 entrepreneurs that are selected to participate in the program are granted with some funding: $5K base + $5K per founder of up to $20,000 total. The funding can be used to cover their travel and living expenses while in the US. For that investment, Upwest Labs takes a small stake of equity in the business, similar to other incubator products.
Gil and Shuly are currently conducting interviews in Israel. They are looking for early stage startups with a product, who are fast learners and implementers but also humble and supportive. The idea is to build a community of alumni for the program, with a pay it forward culture of mutual help, which is already prevalent with Israeli startups.
If you’re an Israeli startup and interested to apply, follow the application form on the website and contact VC Cafe if you want an intro.