Ido Batchko is a friendly and approachable co-founder of a successful AgriTech start-up called Amaizz which makes a series of products that reduce post-harvest losses by up to 50%. Talk to any agriculture expert, and they will tell you that loss and waste throughout the food supply chain is a major strain on economies and societies everywhere, especially developing markets.
Apart from being motivated by commercial success, Ido is inspired by the impact his technology has on the livelihoods of farmers and, not unlike other Israeli entrepreneurs, has an “itch” to tackle some of the toughest problems in emerging market countries. Amaizz is now focused on scaling fast in developing markets. We recently introduced them to Strive Masiyiwa, a leading pan-African businessman, and chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA has as its goal to increase incomes and food security of 30 million smallholder farmers across 11 African countries. Ido describes the pitch meeting: “Within minutes, Mr. Masiyiwa understood that Amaizz technology would have a serious impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. He paused, and I saw how it was all sinking in. He understood not just the business model, but the power of the change this would bring to Africa.”
The next thing we knew, SNC was invited to present Amaizz and other agri-tech start-up technologies at a large agricultural summit in Kigali, Rwanda, hosted by AGRA. This was the first time that Israeli technologies were highlighted at this continent-wide gathering of African agriculture decision makers.
SNC hosts decision makers from some of the largest companies in the world – from AXA Insurance to BNY Mellon to Daimler, and organizations like the Texas Medical Center and Wisconsin’s Water Council – who continue to flock to Israel in surprising numbers looking for innovative tech solutions.
In search of innovation
If the 300+ multinationals that are already set up here do not view Israel as a sales market – which it is not – why do they set up here in such large numbers? One could argue that MNCs set up in a foreign country when that place is a regional hub. Well, Israel is hardly that, either. They come here for one reason alone, and that is in search of innovation.
Start-Up Nation Central has been at it, hosting corporate and government delegations from across the globe for nearly six years. I am still taken aback by the magnetic pull that Israeli technologies have for these C-suite visitors. I notice a pattern that runs through the course of their visit – or what we at SNC call ‘engagements’ (a proactive process for them and for us). Often, the visiting corporates are either fidgety or skeptical at the start. Some have been dragged here by their VPs. Others just don’t believe there’s something here they haven’t already seen.
What happens in the ensuing hours, as SNC’s Strategic Partnerships team unveils the start-ups and industry experts that have been cherry picked to match precisely the pain points of the visiting company, is that it gradually becomes clear to them that there is a whole ‘zone’ of things they don’t know. Karin Gattegno, SNC's VP for Strategic Partnerships, says, “For a top corporate leader who’s been around the block a few times, finding out that you haven’t even scratched the surface in terms of innovation that’s relevant to your company – well, that gets your attention.”
The ‘aha moment’ usually means that an entrepreneurial pitch, or story, or tech demo, has captured their imagination. And they understand that to truly innovate, they can’t afford not to be here.
No magic dust
When an ‘aha moment’ happens with the head of a large NGO, we know the impact will be significant – NGOs are often in search of solutions for the most serious of challenges. Such was the case when Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA’s CEO, spent two days in Israel this summer. What Dr. Kalibata understood is that Israel’s AgriTech ecosystem (650 start-ups strong) provides innovations that, with a local partner on the ground in Africa, can help smallholder farmers access tech solutions across the agriculture value chain – from planting, to harvest, to post-harvest and distribution.
Dr. Kalibata was clear with the start-ups we introduced her to, that success for implementing Israeli technologies in Africa is measured by the amount of lives that are impacted. Based on the follow-up she and her team have done with numerous Israeli start-ups, that challenge has been accepted.
Ok, so our secret is, that Israel doesn’t really have magic dust when it comes to innovation. What our country does have is a thriving tech sector, and an entrepreneurial culture that can share its lessons with the rest of the world. If the last five years are any measure, we can expect the ‘aha moments’ to occur at a steady clip; and the corporate and government traffic to continue unabated. The good news is that Israel’s 6000+ start-ups show no signs of slowing down.
Wendy Singer is the Executive Director of Start-Up Nation Central firstname.lastname@example.org
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