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2018-07-13 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


July 13, 2018  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Israeli firms see Tampa as fertile ground for expansion


Guy Giladi - Deputy Consul General of Israel to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Puerto Rico, based in Miami., speaking at the FIBA Innovation Fusion event in Tampa. Guy Giladi - Deputy Consul General of Israel to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Puerto Rico, based in Miami., speaking at the FIBA Innovation Fusion event in Tampa. About 500 business owners, investors, and others packed into the Bryan Glazer Family JCC’s ballroom for the second annual Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA) Innovation Fusion event to listen to Israeli entrepreneurs pitch their products.

FIBA is hoping the Israeli businesses can cultivate local investors, establish a U.S. base in the Tampa Bay area and grow their market here and expanding their networks, the event served as a platform to offer advice to business owners, investors, and startups.

This year’s event on June 13 featured presentations from eight Israeli companies as well as two keynote speakers, Aron Di Castro of Waze and Danny Brigido of Wix, both start-ups out of Israel that have become highly successful.

“We are seeking bridges between Israelis and Floridians,” said Guy Gilady, Deputy Consul General for Israel in Miami.

State Sen. Dana Young, Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo, and County Commissioner Sandy Murman presented a $750,000 grant from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity to FIBA to ensure the continuation of the mission of innovation and entrepreneurship in Tampa. All three emphasized the desire for Tampa to become the best tech community in the state

While FIBA chooses to work with Israeli companies that have moved past the startup phase and into the next steps of establishing a workforce, creating offices in the U.S., “We hope that platforms and events like this will foster relationships between business from both sides, find opportunities for cooperation, and basically increase the economic activity between our two countries,” Giladi said.

The presentation kicked off with a video from the 2017 event. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who invested in one of the Israeli companies that FIBA brought here last year, spoke over upbeat music about how Tampa will be one of the fastest growing cities in the country over the next 10 to 20 years with a 2 percent population growth each year.

Manager of the Wix Customer Solutions office in Miami, Danny Brigido, spoke on challenges that startups come across and how Wix overcame some of those challenges to get to where they are now. Wix is a website development platform for small businesses. When Wix built its Miami office a year and a half ago, Brigido was tasked with managing a group of about 30 employees – the office now employees more than 120 people.

“I believe it was the right choice to come to Florida,” said Brigido. Wix’s previous office in tech-hub San Francisco was competing for highly-qualified employees in a cutthroat environment. “When Wix got into Miami, we were fresh, we were new, there weren’t that many other tech companies that were recruiting or offering what we had to offer so we gained a lot of key individuals.”

Brigido also placed emphasis on creating a comfortable and collaborative workplace, which is important in the tech business, as priorities change quickly and the workforce needs to be prepared to handle the constant changes.

The eight companies that were featured not only presented their ideas in hopes of gaining investments, but also discussed their business structures and how they plan to grow. Each company showed a promotional video and then participated in a question and answer session with Rachel Feinman, executive director of FIBA.

ECOncrete joined with FIBA earlier this year and has already been working with local business to bring their eco-engineered marine infrastructure to Florida’s largest cargo port in Tampa. ECOncrete executives talked about their construction material that would suit the needs of the community while protecting the wildlife.

“We’re looking to raise funds to establish our entity right here in Tampa,” said Tomer Schatzberger, vice president of marketing for UC-Care, a company aimed at improving prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment. “This is a really great opportunity to present our solution and get investments for our company.”

Shalom Nakdimon, CEO and founder of WiseShelf, a company offering inventory management solutions for retailers, spoke about building successful tech companies in a business environment that is constantly changing.

Shaked Lev explained the platform for his company, Say, a name-tag and phone app communication system that he hopes will change the role of business cards at conferences and events such as Innovation Fusion.

BetterCare, a company with a care management platform aimed at improving care in nursing facilities, and Nucleon, a company with a focus on identifying and analyzing cyber threats, have also been actively involved in scouting out places in Tampa to open their offices.

Others in the 2018 group of companies working with FIBA include GlobeKeeper, a tech company that developed an encrypted communication platform to keep security personnel safe and reduce costs, and Intervyo, developer of a digital interview simulation engine that uses human predictive analytics to screen candidates and assess their suitability for a job.

Waze’s DiCastro, wrapped up the event by discussing the company’s new Connected Citizens program, a free data-sharing program in which Tampa already participates. The popular GPS navigation app – now owned by Google – paired up with the Florida Department of Transportation when Hurricane Irma threatened the last year by posting locations of available evacuation shelters.

FIBA focuses not only on embracing business in the Jewish community, but for the entirety of Tampa.

Based at the Glazer JCC in Tampa, FIBA was created in 2016 by the Tampa JCCs and Federation with a $1 million state grant to offer office space to select Israeli companies so they can get to know the Tampa Bay area, giving them access to the community’s industry experts, corporations, and investors.

FIBA’s Feinman pitched the Tampa Bay area as a good place for Israeli companies to establish U.S markets. “From the number of small businesses to larger businesses, restaurants, and real estate developments,” Feinman said. “Everything has really felt like it’s boomed since we started coming out of the recession in the last eight years or so.”

Two of the companies from FIBA’s 2017 cohort of Israeli businesses achieved notable success after coming to Tampa. StemRad, which makes protection equipment to shield individuals from deadly gamma radiation, scored a $6 million investment led by Vinik, and WeissBeerger, a beverage consumption and analytics company, was purchased for a reported $80 million by Anheuser-Busch.

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