Israel soon to announce Innovation Visa program hosts

Selected incubators and accelerators will act as landing pads for foreign entrepreneurs seeking to work in local startup ecosystem

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative view of Tel Aviv at night, August 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative view of Tel Aviv at night, August 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Israel Innovation Authority is set to publish in the coming weeks the names of the 12 incubators and accelerators selected to host foreign entrepreneurs in Israel as part of its Innovation Visas pilot program.

The idea, announced in December, is to enable foreign entrepreneurs to learn from the Israeli ecosystem and eventually also benefit from government support should they set up a startup in Israel. Entrepreneurs who want to come and work in Israel need to apply for an expert visa and be sponsored by a company they work for.

“We believe that entrepreneurs can benefit from working in our ecosystem and seeing how things are done here,” said Salit Lev, the Industry Relations Manager at the Israel Innovation Authority who heads the Innovation Visas track. “But Israel will also benefit from this interaction, as it will lead to cultural diversity and expose our entrepreneurs and startups to different ways of thinking.”

The entrepreneurs will be able to stay in Israel for 24 months while receiving support from the authority’s Tnufa program, which aims to help inventors with good ideas at a pre-seed stage.

The program was not set up to intentionally attract entrepreneurs to Israel, said Lev. “We have more than enough of our own,” she said. But the initiative aims to provide a framework, lacking until now, to enable entrepreneurs to come to set up their ventures in Israel if they wish to do so, she said.

The Innovation Authority will choose some 12 organizations, among which are local incubators and accelerators, that will act as “landing pads” for the entrepreneurs and guide them through the local high-tech ecosystem, Lev said. “We don’t want these entrepreneurs just to come here; we want them to succeed,” Lev said. “Within a month we will announce the names” of the selected hosts, she said.

Should the newcomers decide to set up a company in Israel, if they register the firm locally, they will be also able to benefit from government startup grants and an expert visa for up to five years, Lev said.

Lev emphasized that the initiative is still at the pilot stage, and could be amended based on requests.

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