Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a start-up match

Co-Founders Speed Dating and Pitching Event in Tel Aviv brings together entrepreneurs, programmers and others in Israeli tech to find the perfect team

Participants at the Co-Founders Speed Dating and Pitching Event, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 26, 2015 (Courtesy)
Participants at the Co-Founders Speed Dating and Pitching Event, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 26, 2015 (Courtesy)

“Birthing” a start-up begins with hiring the right combination of geeks, marketing “sharks,” cool-minded finance managers, and a chief operating, technology or marketing officer that brings the team together.

But like with real-life pregnancies, there are often complications – one of the biggest being the difficulty many in the tech business have in finding like-minded people to help them create their start-up.

“Finding the right people to work with is a challenge for many in the high-tech ecosystem,” according to Yaron Carni, founder of VC firm Maverick Ventures. “There aren’t that many venues that enable tech folk to get together, get out of their comfort zones and see how they can help each other.”

One such venue, however, is the Co-Founders Speed Dating and Pitching Event, where entrepreneurs, programmers, marketing experts and anyone else interested in the high-tech business have the opportunity to seek out partners to help them fulfill their entrepreneurial dream.

“Most pitch events have entrepreneurs pitching their ideas or businesses to investors,” said Carni, “but most of the people at this event are at a much earlier stage – trying to build their team and turn their ideas into real technology.”

The relationships they develop at the event could be potentially the most important of their professional life, he stressed.

“We want to help entrepreneurs and tech experts get to know each other, so they can develop relationships that could help them advance their business and turn it into a successful start-up.”

Maverick Ventures sponsored the Tel Aviv event, which was organized by Guy Katsovich, manager of the 8200 EISP program, a non-profit accelerator for early-stage entrepreneurs in Israel. The EISP program was originally started by graduates of the IDF’s famed 8200 tech unit along with Sivan Bender of Founders Nation, a free online founder matchmaking platform.

At the event – the third one this year which attracted well over 300 people – about 70 pre-registered candidates got up in front of their tech peers and presented their ideas, and what they were looking for, in about 60 seconds.

During this time, some described fully-formed products, like Correlife, which the company’s CEO said was borne of an “obsession with correlating unrelated data, but turned into a serious study correlating health problems with lifestyle issues and behaviors.” The company, he said, could use a good marketing person. Others, like the entrepreneur who presented O’Daddy — which finds leisure activities for children — said that his project was still operating on the concept level, but was looking for programmers to help him build the product.

The Co-Founders event certainly isn’t the only way for those trying to build a start-up to meet, said Carni, but it probably one of the most efficient.

“The event provides attendees with the opportunity to meet large numbers of potential partners,” said Katsovich. “We wanted to have a much more open venue, where anybody could find what they need, and with each subsequent event, more people from more backgrounds hear about this, and we get bigger audiences, which in turn offers more opportunity to everyone attending.”

Another way for entrepreneurs to find co-workers is by attending one of the dozens of tech shows held in Israel throughout the year, where audiences hear lectures by experts on Internet of Things, cybersecurity, or one of many other industry issues. At some of those events, networking is easy, but there’s a drawback – they cost money.

“Someone who is bootstrapping a start-up can’t afford to go to an event where they have to pay NIS 1,000 ($260) for the privilege of meeting other entrepreneurs. This event is free, so there’s no risk, or downside,” said one of the participants at the Co-Founder’s event.

Carni’s partner Michel Abadi said that most of the start-ups that emerge from the event are very, very early-stage. “The main focus here is the people, and we want to get to know them while they’re still fresh to the business, and develop a relationship early on with the ones we believe are going to go on to great things.”

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