New Opportunities for Business Collaboration Between Israel and Pittsburgh

By Elliot Dater

You might not know it, but there is a history of Israel-Pittsburgh collaborative technology investments and transactions. It started as a trickle, but that trickle will develop into a flow, given the right circumstances. Israeli companies such as medical device company Flexicath, portfolio company Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and dbMotion (recently acquired by Allscripts for an undisclosed amount), set up their U.S. operations in the greater Pittsburgh area several years ago. In addition, Ness Technologies recently announced the opening of a new software development center in Pittsburgh.

More recently, a new attempt to introduce Israeli companies to Pittsburgh area investors was kicked off. The Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest angel investor network, recently brought a number of Israeli startups to Pittsburgh to present their companies to local investors as part of the Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic Regions’ Quarterly Israeli Deal Flow program. Five Israeli companies in the fields of internet technology, medical devices, transportation efficiency, human mobility products and drug development presented to a number of accredited investors. Although it is too early to tell whether any investments will be made, Israeli companies that have previously presented are currently under review to determine whether Keiretsu members will make an investment.

Earlier last month, the Israeli Deputy Consul General for the Mid-Atlantic Region visited Pittsburgh and met with a number of key players in the local technology ecosystem to explore ways to create and strengthen ties between the Israeli and Pittsburgh technology communities. This was just a first step, but hopefully the first of many to find ways to increase collaboration in the technology space between Israeli and Pittsburgh companies, academic institutions and sources of capital.

Academic institutions are also working to connect the dots between the Israeli and Pittsburgh technology ecosystems. Professor Paul Harper is creating a program in Global Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. The pilot country for kicking off this program in global innovation? Israel, of course. Professor Harper has been to Israel twice in the last 12 months and immediately noticed the potential for collaboration between the two technology ecosystems. The Israeli Pilot would include case studies of Israeli companies and a student trip to Israel to meet with entrepreneurs, investors and leading business figures in the Israeli economy. For more on this exciting new program, see “Israel Rising” in the Spring 2013 edition of the Katz School’s Pitt Business Magazine.

Although in its early stages, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law is looking to create a collaborative program with the Academic Center of Law and Business in Ramat Gan Israel. Potential parts of this program could include combined classes taught by faculty members of both schools, student internships in immigration law and student exchange programs. Dean William Carter has been leading this effort and it will be fascinating to see what the future holds.

A lot is already happening to link the Pittsburgh and Israeli technology economies. The two keys to creating additional growth is getting the word out on what already exists and working to create more connections where it makes business and/or academic sense.

Elliot Dater is a partner in Schnader’s Business Services Department,  and represents Israeli companies doing business in the United States and U.S. companies and investors doing business in Israel, as well as emerging growth companies in the technology and medical device industries

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