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If you haven’t yet heard how St. Louis and Israel are connected, you’re not necessarily behind. The formal initiative, forged just last year as BioSTL’s St. Louis-Israel Innovation Connection (SLIIC), brings Startup Nation and our slice of Silicon Prairie together for mutually beneficial business collaborations.
Israel has a wealth of innovation-based startups that are already based in industries that have a stronghold in St. Louis: medical, financial technology, IT and agriculture. By encouraging these Israeli companies, which have been validated by third-party customers and investors, to establish a presence in St. Louis, the region is gaining powerful connections and a great reputation for innovation to boot.
To learn more about this connection—which has so far encouraged three Israeli businesses to establish a presence in STL—and how it can help St. Louis, we turned to BioSTL’s Israel Representative, Uri Attir, who has previously served as the CEO for two Israeli tech companies and has worked extensively with startups and entrepreneurs.
We partnered with BioSTL to tell you this story.
What was the catalyst for the creation of the St. Louis-Israel Innovation Connection?
From my perspective, as SLIIC’s Israel Representative, the catalyst was the mission from St. Louis to Israel in May 2014, organized by BioSTL with some contribution by myself, in which the delegation participants realized that there is a strong potential for attracting a large inventory of Israeli technology companies to establish operations in STL.
There is large overlap in the innovation happening within Israeli companies and St. Louis’ own strengths, particularly in healthcare, medical science, agriculture, cyber security and financial technology. BioSTL realized that recruiting these companies to St. Louis would not only help grow the innovation community but also complement our established efforts to “grow our own” through activities at BioGenerator.
However, rather than attributing the creation to a specific event, the strategy of attracting Israeli technology companies to STL as a tool to accelerate local economic development evolved gradually within the last 2-3 years among supporters and backers of BioSTL. The decision was catalyzed as they witnessed the creation of exactly the same intended economic development entities in Israel by other US states (such as Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and 10 others) and US regions (such as Dayton (OH), Fairfax County (VA) or Cincinnati (OH)).
What is the benefit of Israeli companies establishing an STL presence for both the companies and the city?
For Israel (IL) companies, the benefit of establishing an operating basis in STL is—first and foremost—exposure to customers and/or business partners who are bigger players in much bigger markets: the main target markets for the companies. It is the opportunity to interact and collaborate with customers and collaborators who can leverage their chances for success. The expansion to STL is the opportunity for the IL companies to shorten both the physical and the cultural distance to their target markets.
The benefit to the city of STL is the absorption of technology companies with a potential to grow and expand, thus increasing employment, attracting supporting economic activity in goods and services and, of course, payment of city taxes.
How will this affect St. Louisans?
It will create additional jobs, although we’re not necessarily dealing here with large factories/assembly lines which will immediately demand additional workers in the hundreds. The presence of state-of-the-art technological talent originating in Israel will, definitely, affect (raise) mostly the pool of scientists/engineers.
Case in point: Amdocs—the successful Israeli company with a leadership position in back-office management of mobile/cellular communication systems—has expanded its professional STL workforce from a few to a few thousand technicians and engineers within the last 20 years.
Successful life science (or any other technology cluster) Israeli companies also operating in STL, alone or in collaboration with existing STL universities, research centers or commercial companies, will have a positive impact on STL’s reputation in these technology clusters. As we continue to recruit more Israeli companies and further our efforts, we are also raising awareness of the St. Louis innovation ecosystem globally.
As part of the SLIIC initiative, BioSTL organizes trips to Israel to meet with companies, attend and speak at conference and even speak with local media about the opportunities in St. Louis. This helps raise the profile of St. Louis both in Israel and across the world.
What can we expect to see through 2015?
We should expect to see five to six Israeli companies starting to evaluate a presence in STL, the city hosting 5-10 additional target Israeli companies for showcasing and networking purposes, the execution of one or two business development missions/delegations of STL corporations, investor and innovation partners to Israel, and the scouting for and matchmaking activities between relevant Israel companies with STL-based companies, investors or institutions.