Debs Weinberg couldn’t hide her sense of wonder and awe. “There is so much innovation in this room,” she marveled. “It’s just remarkable.”
Weinberg, chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, was referring to the approximately 175 people who came out May 13 for a reception to meet and greet representatives and executives from 11 Israeli medical technology companies.
The reception, held at The Associated’s downtown headquarters, was presented by the Maryland/Israel Development Center. An agency of The Associated, the MIDC is a non-profit public-private partnership that promotes bilateral trade and economic development between Israeli and Maryland companies.
The two-hour program also celebrated United Airlines’ new nonstop service from Washington Dulles International Airport to Tel Aviv, as well as MarketReach America, a new binational accelerator program to help Israeli start-up entrepreneurs enter the U.S. market.
Launched last November, MarketReach America is a partnership of MIDC, the Israel Innovation Authority, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the Maryland Department of Commerce and the Abell Foundation.
With MIDC, the Baltimore Jewish Council, United Airlines and Dulles Airport co-sponsored the event at The Associated.
“Israel, known as ‘the startup nation,’ is a powerhouse of technological innovation. But it’s far from its primary markets, so its entrepreneurs operate in unfamiliar territory,” said Barry Bogage, MDIC’s executive director. “MarketReach America is designed to help the entrepreneurs understand how to position their technology in the U.S. market.
“We sent trainers to Israel in February to do the classroom portion of the training,” he said. “The May trip to Maryland is for the [Israeli] entrepreneurs’ ‘customer discovery,’ to learn exactly the features of their technologies that the market wants.”
Among the Israeli entrepreneurs in attendance was Dr. Ze’ev Weinfeld, chief executive officer of OsteoSee. OsteoSee is a clinical-stage company focused on bringing bone-health screening, diagnosis and monitoring to the primary care clinic and into the home.
“We see our product entering the marketplace in 2 to 2 1/2 years,” Weinfeld said. “There are two systems in development, one for physicians, the other for consumers into the home, and that version will likely be the first to be introduced.”
Among the other represented Israeli start-ups seeking to introduce their med-tech products to the U.S. market was BioEye, a mobile eye-tracking application that monitors cognitive states. BioEye provides early detection of cognitive decline, enabling effective intervention.
Eran Ferri, CEO of BioEye, praised MarketReach America and its goals of helping Israeli start-ups learn the roadmaps of the American entrepreneurial landscape.
“It’s like going back to school but this time with mentors, and it requires a change in mindset,” he said. “When entrepreneurs talk about their technology, they want to sell you their product. Through MarketReach America, we learn to listen – not talk – to learn about customer processes and challenges. In that way, we see where there is a good market fit for our technology.”
Another Israeli start-up at the event was GaitBetter, which promotes healthy aging by reducing the risk of falls and improving mobility through motor-cognitive training technology.
“MarketReach America is one of the top programs I’ve ever participated in,” said Hilik Harari, CEO of GaitBetter. “This MIDC program saves time and money, and helps us refine the product because we know what the American market needs and what it doesn’t need. It gives us access to health care leaders in Maryland, including Johns Hopkins [Hospital] and the University of Maryland [Medical Center], and in D.C., such as George Washington [University Hospital]. People are so open here.”
Regarding the new nonstop direct flights to Israel, which United Airlines will start offering three times a week on May 22, Bogage said he was quite pleased.
“We’ve always dreamed of a nonstop flight from this area,” he said. “Now, we have it.”
For information about the MIDC or MarketReach America, visit marylandisrael.org.
Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.