Three of the world’s biggest tech companies announced this week that they were going to open up new facilities that they hope will enable them to take better advantage of technology innovations developed in Israel.
On Wednesday, Intel and GE Healthcare announced that they would open an evaluation lab in northern Israel, to optimize integration of GE Healthcare products with Intel processors.
Meanwhile, Microsoft announced on Thursday the establishment of the Windows Azure Accelerator, the company’s first accelerator designed to help startups develop their technology. The four month program, which begins in April, will take place at Microsoft’s Herzliya offices.
Both Intel and Microsoft have long had research labs in Israel, and both companies’ local research centers have developed products that have been crucial to the success of each; Intel has developed numerous processors at its Israeli facility, based in Haifa, while Microsoft developed key components of its Windows operating system here.
GE Healthcare said in a statement that it was opening the evaluation lab in Tirat Hacarmel, near Intel’s Haifa research center, with staff coming from both companies. The lab will focus on aligning and optimizing GE Healthcare products, many of which use Intel’s microprocessor technologies, the company said.
The Microsoft program is aimed at early-stage start-ups, and Microsoft plans to provide office space, training, mentoring, and other benefits – including financial, depending on the product or service being developed – to participating start-ups. Among the benefits will be inclusion of participating start-ups in the Microsoft BizSpark program, which provides free software and development tools for start-ups, and a “starring role” at Think Next, Microsoft Israel’s annual innovation event that highlights the company’s most promising upcoming technologies.
Microsoft is not seeking any equity in the companies it approves for the accelerator. Nearly all accelerators require a partial ownership of companies they adopt, usually between 6% and 8%. Microsoft is seeking early-stage companies working in enterprise software cloud services, consumer services, and mobile technology.
Tzachi Weisfeld, Microsoft Israel’s director of business development, said that the company had chosen Israel as the first location for a Microsoft accelerator because of the country’s active start-up scene. “The accelerator is the first one in Microsoft history, but we have a great deal of experience in working with early stage start-ups. The model we have chosen will provide start-ups with world-class products and services, and help them enter the market.”
While Microsoft might not seem like the kind of place that a start-up would be able to get the support it needs to move forward – after all, it is a large corporation with its own agenda – Tomer Dvir, chairman of Israeli start-up Soluto said that, counter-intuitively, Microsoft is actually an ideal fit for start-ups. “If I were starting my company now, I would almost certainly never have thought of Microsoft as a potential partner, but the reality is completely different than most people perceive. Besides the support of mentors who are top people in the industry, Microsoft offers exposure to the world markets, and a wealth of tools that are very valuable for start-ups.”