Microsoft to bring Start-Up Nation to the ‘next level’Jun. 12, 2014
Israel is often called the second most important location for tech start-ups in the world, after Silicon Valley, but why not shoot for the top? That’s the question Zack (Tzachi) Weisfeld, senior director and manager of Microsoft Ventures Europe, asks. “Israel has lots of resources for building a successful start-up, but we’re still behind Silicon Valley,” Weisfeld said Wednesday in Tel Aviv at Demo Night for the members of the fourth session of the Microsoft Ventures Israel accelerator. To fix that, he said, “we decided to look at what Silicon Valley has that we don’t.”
Like Silicon Valley, Israel has angels and venture capital firms that can fund early-stage companies and help them grow. But Israel doesn’t have the access to markets that a start-up in California would have, said Weisfeld. It also lacks the diversity found in Silicon Valley. “You have the same graduates of Unit 8200 and the other elite Israeli army units who become entrepreneurs. We want to see more people of other backgrounds — women, Haredi Israelis, and Israeli Arabs join Israel’s start-up ecosystem. We have been working on this, and will continue to do so,” Weisfeld said.
If any organization is capable of pushing Israel to the next level as the Start-Up Nation, it’s Microsoft. After two years in the accelerator business, it has one of the most impressive records in readying young firms for the marketplace. “In the US, 59 percent of graduates of the top accelerators get funding within a year of graduating from their programs. For Microsoft Ventures, the average number of firms that get funding during that period is 85%, a significantly better figure,” said Weisfeld. On Wednesday night, before the four month-program was officially over, he said, 77% of the 13 companies in the fourth round of the Israel program had already gotten a first funding round, he said.
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