Israel Picks 12 Organizations to Help Foreigners Launching Tech Startups

Organizations will provide the framework as part of a special visa program

Attendees at the Digital Innovation Festival, an international high-tech gathering, in Tel Aviv, September 9, 2015.
Eyal Toueg

Foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a high-tech company in Israel will now have the government’s full backing, after 12 organizations were approved to sponsor and provide a supportive framework for them, the Israel Innovation Authority said on Tuesday.

Under the program, foreigners can get a visa for up to two years during which they are entitled to support through the authority’s Tnufa program, which inventors and nascent startup companies during the earliest stages of their projects. If the initiative becomes a company, the entrepreneur can apply for full support from the authority and for an expert visa for a period of up to five years.

The 12 approved incubators and accelerators were chosen to host the entrepreneurs in a “supportive framework” that will give them exposure to Israel’s climate of innovation, work spaces, technological infrastructure, as well as business and logistical support.

“Until now an entrepreneur that wanted to set up a company in Israel couldn’t legally work in the country and he had no choice but to hire local managers, which made it difficult to run the company,” explained Salit Lev, industry relations manager and head of its Startup Area. “Entrepreneurs wanted to come but there wasn’t any convenient option for them from a regulatory viewpoint.”

The authority said the visa program was not directed at people seeking jobs in Israeli high-tech, even though government and industry agree that there is a severe shortage of engineers and other professionals. At the same time Israel has one of the highest rates of startup formation in the world, but the authority said the program was still needed.

“We don’t need more entrepreneurs, Israel has enough. This is a tool to enable entrepreneurs who want to come here to take advantage of the networking and environment in Israel and form a company,” Lev said.

Among the 12 organizations, which were chosen because they are already active in supporting entrepreneurs, is Tel Aviv Global, a municipal company responsible for economic development and the operator of a high-tech accelerator.

Another is Samurai Incubate, which operates an incubator for pre-seed and seed-stage startups in Israel and Japan, and TechForGood, which backs entrepreneurs in Israel and South East Asia who use technology to tackle social problems.

In Jerusalem, Hebrew University’s HU Start is an approved sponsor and Gvahim, a nonprofit that helps new-immigrant entrepreneurs and Alon Medtech Ventures, which focuses on life science and medical electronics startups based in Yokenam Illit.