Israel’s economic stability depends on the strength of its tech sector, which employs more than 14% of all workers, produces over 18% of GDP, and contributes about 50% of national exports.
The Fresh Start FoodTech Incubator is located in Kiryat Shmona, bringing valuable enterprise and employment to Israel’s northern border, but also within range of Hezbollah rockets.
The incubator and its companies are continuing to function even though Kiryat Shmona has been evacuated, says Noga Sela-Shalev, CEO of Fresh Start.
“Our portfolio companies were displaced from their lab facilities in the north, but they are demonstrating creativity in adversity,” Sela-Shalev says. “If they are unable to access labs, they are bringing the lab to their homes, privileged to enjoy the mutual support offered by Israeli ecosystem partners who are opening their facilities to accommodate them and collaborating to navigate these testing times.”
“The current scenario obviously sparks concerns, most prominently around fundraising, but we are pleased and grateful to see engagements persist, and successful deals continue to materialize,” she adds.
OurCrowd, which operates Fresh Start in partnership with Tnuva, Tempo and Finstere Ventures, is hosting Israel’s FoodTech on the Frontline: Invest in the startups feeding the future, an online investor briefing, on Thursday, Nov. 16.
The event will give potential investors an opportunity to hear from Sela-Shalev and her colleagues about the challenges facing Israel’s FoodTech startups, and will feature Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority; Jeremy Coller, CIO of Coller Capital and Founder of the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) Initiative; Dr. Tammy Meiron, CTO of Fresh Start; and the CEOs of nine startups.
Israel’s FoodTech industry, like the rest of the country’s businesses, must continue to operate while about 10 percent of the workforce is drafted into the military reserves, and those remaining must contend with rocket attacks and caring for families affected by the crisis.
“We’re addressing the challenge of a significant reserve force and a scarcity of workers,” Sela-Shalev says. “Many are either drafted, displaced, or unable to work due to the disrupted school system.”
Israel’s economy both now and in the future will suffer greatly if it loses a significant number of early-stage companies, which are particularly susceptible following a challenging period in the market and a global downturn in venture funding.
“These are challenging times, with obstacles some of us never experienced before, but recent weeks have proven what we were already confident of – our unique perseverance and ability to push through and continue our important work,” she adds.
As the global population soars, food supplies are under pressure, while food production is a major contributor to climate change. The Fresh Start Incubator is home to a cluster of innovative startups developing breakthrough technologies in alternative proteins, sugar reduction and other platforms for the food and beverage industry to meet these challenges.
“Israeli research and innovation in FoodTech is crucial,” Sela-Shalev says. “Deep-tech commercialization, an Israeli strength and what Fresh Start is known for, is vital for the global food system and Israel’s economy. The Israeli government comprehends this urgency, as evidenced by the swift response and extraordinary initiatives from the Israel Innovation Authority, which stepped in to provide bridge financing and expedited funding plans for startups across sectors, ensuring the continuity of their operations.”
“Private initiatives are also rising to the occasion, fostering remarkable opportunities to sustain Israeli innovation either through funding or in-kind support,” she says.
OurCrowd says it will support Fresh Start companies through the OurCrowd FoodTech Fund and OurCrowd’s newly-created Israel Resilience Fund, designed to help vulnerable startups through the current crisis.
To register for ‘Israel’s FoodTech on the Frontline: Invest in the startups feeding the future,’ on Nov. 16, click HERE: