Tensions aside, US DoD to award Israeli start-up with $100k

A Department of Defense contest seeks the next big thing in homeland security in early-stage tech firms in Israel

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, right, with former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia October 21, 2014. (photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, right, with former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia October 21, 2014. (photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

Israel-US relations may be at a low point, but the US Department of Defense is so sure that the next big homeland security idea will emerge in Israel that it is putting up $100,000, to be paid to one start-up with a great idea or product in homeland security. It’s the prize in a contest sponsored by DoD and the MIT Enterprise Forum in Israel. The best entries will be invited to present their company/group live at the Combating Terrorism Technology Conference in Tel Aviv on January 21, 2015.

This shows that despite recent political troubles, cooperation between the two countries in tech and security continues. In a recent interview, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon pointed out that though there were tensions between leaders at the top level of Israel-US relationship, that relationship was like an iceberg – 90% of the activity and cooperation goes on “below the surface,” in the form of defense cooperation and other activities. The politicians “have disputes,” he acknowledged. But “with all the disputes, the United States is Israel’s strategic ally.”

The Combating Terrorism Startup Challenge is an example of that cooperation. Among the criteria that DoD will be looking for: how functional and beneficial the technology is; how good the start-up’s business plan is; potential/expected return on investment; market demand; political, legal, ethical compliance and sensitivity, credibility, experience, and skill set of management team; and how good the company presentation us, both live and in a three-minute video that start-up has to submit.

Another requirement is filling out a questionnaire. As is customary in the US, the questionnaire is lengthy and detailed, with very specific instructions on which i’s to dot and t’s to cross. Here’s an example: “Do not exceed the maximum number of words shown for each answer. Your answers must be in Microsoft Word, double-spaced, 10 point or larger font.” Contestants have until November 15 to submit their applications.

The MIT Forum in Israel is the right partner for DoD on this, an organization spokesperson said. Established in 1994 as the Israeli chapter of the world-wide MIT Forum organization – a business forum for graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and invited guests – the Forum works to nurture local businesses and especially start-ups.

Since its founding, the spokesperson said, the Forum has organized hundreds of conferences, workshops, consultation programs and other activities where entrepreneurs, industry experts, investors and technologists exchange insights about how to effectively grow high-tech ventures while adapting to dynamic market risks and overcoming challenges. The Combatting Terrorism contest is another example of how the Forum promotes Israeli start-ups, the group said – and this time, that promotion will net the right start-up the prize of its young life.

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