U.S. Trade Missions Show the Importance of Israeli Startups

start-up nationBy Paul Grossinger

Deval Patrick, Democratic governor of Massachusetts, in 2011; Rick Perry, Republican governor of Texas, in 2012; and Michael Bloomberg, independent mayor of New York City in 2013.  Whatever these three men have in common, it certainly is not political.

No, what they share is that each of these men went on a trade mission to Israel in an official capacity to build stronger economic ties with the “Startup Nation.”  And New York, in the waning days of the Bloomberg Administration, is right at the forefront of these missions.

Israel’s economic potency is clear.  A nation of eight million people, it boasts 65 companies on the NASDAQ, hundreds of venture-funded companies, and thousands of budding startups.

It is “the leading, largest, and most promising investment hub outside of the United States,” according to Warren Buffett, and “critical to the future of the technology business,” according to Bill Gates.

In recent years, a half-dozen other governors and state leaders have gone on trade missions to Israel, most with the goal of expanding business relationships between Israeli firms, American firms such as Intel that employ thousands of Israeli engineers, and companies in their own states.

Although all of this is well-known, it is still surprising and exciting to see the collaboration going on between the Israeli government, private Israeli companies and technology university and incubators, and U.S. local and state governments, which could build a completely new layer to the strong American-Israeli bilateral relationship.

Even more exciting for East Coast technologists, New York is at the very center of this movement.

The state with the most trade with Israel?  New York with $4.5 billion in 2012, nearly double California’s $2.7 billion.  Most of that number comes from New York City, and if you need any evidence of the Big Apple’s potency as a technology incubator rival to Silicon Valley, look no further.

The state with two sparkling new university partnerships with Israeli institutions?  New York.  The Technion-Cornell University partnership for a several billion dollar campus on Roosevelt Island deservedly grabbed the headlines, but the New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany’s $300 million collaborative deal with the Israeli government should not be overlooked.  Combined, the two deals represent a significant new capital and human resources investment to bringing both entrepreneurial Israeli students and their ideas to New York.

What is the next step?  I wrote in Venture Beat in July that New York has the capability to become the largest startup-technology hub in the world.  Like other state and local governments, New York has recognized Israel’s potency, and if these partnerships can grow to bring more young, innovative, and early-stage companies from Israel to the United States, there is no limit to how far this relationship can grow in the future.

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