London calling: Israelis to compete in UK tech contest

The second edition of TeXchange, which gives 15 of Israel’s most innovative start-ups access to money and connections in Britain, kicks off next month

Britain's Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, presents the 2012 TeXchange winners (Photo credit: Mati Milstein/British Embassy)
Britain's Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, presents the 2012 TeXchange winners (Photo credit: Mati Milstein/British Embassy)

There’s nothing like winning a trip to a great destination — like London — especially if the winner also gets an opportunity to build up connections, meet potential investors, and even get some customers for their nascent technology or product.

That’s the deal the UK-Israel Tech Hub is offering — for the second time — to 15 Israeli tech start-ups. The catch: Start-ups participating in TeXchange have to pass a rigorous judging procedure by top Israeli and British tech pros, and prove that they have what it takes to make it in one of Europe’s most important tech locations.

That, indeed, is what London has become in the past several years, as the government has promoted Tech City UK, the technology cluster located in Central and East London. Tech City is one of the fastest-growing technology centers in the world — there are said to be more than 5,000 tech start-ups in the area, up from 15 in 2008 — and is considered the premier gateway to European technology markets, as well as the best place to meet European investors, said directors of the UK-Israel Tech Hub.

But even though London is a hopping high-tech center, Israel is still the capital of tech innovation. The UK Israel Tech Hub, a unique organization that helps to foster partnerships between Israeli start-ups and British businesses, was created specifically to tap into that innovation, said Naomi Krieger, Tech Hub Director. In a recent interview, she told The Times of Israel that the idea behind the project is “to create an ongoing flow of Israeli entrepreneurs to the UK and vice versa, to create a platform for collaboration of entrepreneurs and companies, giving British corporations a route to benefit from Israeli technological innovation, and tying Israeli companies to the UK’s leading companies, markets and service providers.”

The Tech Hub — the only business development group of any foreign embassy in Israel specifically focusing on tech relationships – was established in 2012, and ran its first TeXchange event last year, with hundreds of companies applying. The 15 winners were taken to London for a three-day jaunt, where they met executives from the media, retail and telecom industries.

This year, the Tech Hub said, the contest will focus on start-ups working in the “future retail sector,” which includes online or in-store technology, such as e-commerce solutions, analytics, payments and risk management. Besides meeting UK tech companies working in those areas, the Israelis will also have a chance to meet officials of some of the UK’s biggest retail chains, and will also be able to set up booths at Retail Week Live, Europe’s biggest annual event dedicated to all things retail. The winners will be announced February 11, and the trip will take place in mid-March. Companies will pay their own expenses while in London.

The program is sponsored by the Tech Hub, the Commercial office of the Israeli Embassy in London, and the Israel Export Institute.

Those selected last year would definitely recommend the program, said Mayer Reich, CEO of RankAbove, one of 2013’s lucky 15. “Understanding which out of a swarm of new technologies can offer value to your business isn’t a simple or straightforward feat for company executives, and poses a challenge to young companies trying to bring their product to market, or expand to new markets,” said Reich. “TeXchange helps bridge that gap and we are very grateful for being selected to participate in last year’s program. The valuable connections that I made at this and other UK Israel Tech Hub initiatives definitely advanced RankAbove’s continued efforts to grow its European footprint.”

For Israeli start-up Zooz, said CEO Oren Levy, “the TeXchange visit to London was an excellent opportunity. It opened us up to the UK market and to potential partners and customers within it, bringing us tangible results. What really stood out for me was the intimacy of the event that made it the perfect setting in which to present ZooZ and still manage to personally meet the carefully selected attendees.”

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