During a press conference at Wealthsimple's headquarters in
Toronto, Mayor John Tory announced that a convoy of government
officials and tech sector luminaries will be heading to Israel from
November 12 – 17 for a week-long trade mission.
In addition to Mayor Tory, Montreal mayor Dennis Coderre, OMERS
Ventures managing director Jim Orlando, and representatives from
SecureKey, INCubes, Plooto and Vuru will join the delegation. They
hope to convince Israeli companies, particularly those in the
FinTech and cybersecurity sectors, to collaborate with Canadian
This certainly isn't the first major Canadian trade mission
to Israel. Local politicians and entrepreneurs continue to
recognize the country as a hotbed of innovation activity.
The statistics back it up. Every year, the investment research
firm PitchBook publishes a report
of the top global universities for producing VC-backed
entrepreneurs, and Tel Aviv University ranked #9, the only non-U.S.
school on the top ten list producing almost twice the number of
venture-backed companies as the University of Waterloo. Two other
Israeli institutions round out the top 50.
So the question for Canadian entrepreneurs and policymakers is
– why Israel? What makes Israel so fertile for innovation,
follow-on investment and commercialization, and can Canadians take
inspiration from the country's startup culture?
StartupSource's Mat Goldstein, a member of Aird & Berlis
LLP's Corporate Finance group and Startups team, participated in a trade delegation to Israel earlier this year.
Mat is convinced that Tel Aviv University's remarkable success
in generating venture investment, as compared to Canadian peer
institutions, is a result of national culture – but
certainly, there are lessons to be learned from how the university
stimulates and manages dialogue between research and industry.
"One area where Canadian universities and research
institutions can learn from the Israel experience relates to the
way that many Israeli researchers explore innovation with
commercialization in mind," comments Mat. He supports this by
noting that at Hebrew U, technology is commercialized by a
stand-alone company, which is itself a for-profit company.
"The Israeli tech transfer companies tend to be owned by the
host universities, but are run as separate companies based on
private sector principles and metrics. As a result, they seem very
adept at determining when to incorporate a new company to pursue
commercialization or when to license technology to an existing
commercial enterprise or partner jointly."
Additionally, Israeli tech transfer companies have a strong
track record of facilitating connections between academic
researchers and industry at the earliest stages, leading to early
market feedback on the direction of the research.
With the federal government having recently invested an unprecedented amount of
resources into innovation departments of Canadian universities, it
will be interesting to see whether this leads to an increased trend
in follow-on investments, and whether we'll see a Canadian
institution beside Tel Aviv University in a future Pitchbook Top
10. In any event, Canadian startups and the community behind them
can and should take inspiration from the Israeli approach to
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