Program Overview and Benefits
Israel, “The Start-up Nation,” excels at technological innovation. But the market for its technologies is abroad, with the U.S. representing the single largest market opportunity. Therefore, its entrepreneurs must operate in unfamiliar territory.
To increase their chances for success, supportive business development services should be made available to bridge the gap between the technology’s birthplace in Israel and paying customers abroad. This should include a proven methodology to help the entrepreneurs test their value proposition in the U.S. market and find American customers, as well as provide seasoned business executives to mentor the Israeli entrepreneurs, an “instant infrastructure” of critical service providers (e.g., legal, accounting, banking, insurance, human resources, real estate, etc.), and facilities from which to work, that are close to potential customers.
The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) together with the Maryland/Israel Development Center are announcing for the first time this joint program which provides a unique opportunity to Israeli start up companies seeking to expand their market presence in the US.
MarketReach America, modeled on the Lean Startup program and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) and National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) successful I-Corps (Innovation Corps) entrepreneurial training program for American scientists and entrepreneurs will provide this continuum of business development services on both sides of the ocean for a select group of emerging Israeli advanced technology companies so when these young companies do venture abroad, they are prepared to succeed. The I-Corps/Lean program is the premier federally supported program for innovation and is the training vehicle for thousands of U.S. companies that receive or are seeking federal SBIR grants.
The fundamental principle of Lean Startup and I-Corps is to ensure entrepreneurs are developing products that solve customers’ immediate needs with a product, technology or service they are willing to pay for. Called “evidenced based entrepreneurship,” it trains entrepreneurs to use an extensive “customer discovery” and evaluation process to determine customer needs and target product development accordingly prior to the completion a new product or service and its introduction to the market.
For foreign entrepreneurs who cannot adequately understand American customer needs from abroad, this is doubly important. They need to be able to understand customers and markets, and what influences them. To do that, they need to be there.
The value and opportunity of MarketReach America is that it provides a proven entrepreneurial development methodology to the participating business people, trains them to make invaluable customer connections in the U.S. market, provides a model and advice on scaling up a business, and integrates them into the U.S. market through long-term involvement of a Board of Industry Advisors. The knowledge and relationships developed during the program will help the participants to successfully launch in the U.S. market.
MarketReach America will provide:
MarketReach America participants will be selected through a competitive application process that includes a written application, in-person interviews in Israel by the Maryland/Israel Development Center and the IIA, and by Skype interviews with the certified I-Corps trainers and program managers for final selection.
The program is intended for Israeli start-ups who have shown creativity in technological innovation, a team with track record of entrepreneurial success,international business experience, and have received preliminary market validation through initial sales, private sector investment (not just government funding), or industry awards or recognition.
Entrepreneur Training in Israel
The instructors will travel to Israel to conduct the initial three-day training session for the selected entrepreneurs and to prepare them for the in-residence “customer discovery” program in Baltimore, Maryland. The Israel-based training will emphasize the principles and methodology of the program; the importance of customer discovery vs. selling; techniques for effective customer engagement and interviewing; sequencing of hypotheses development, testing and product pivots; and methods for measuring the startups’ value and growth hypotheses.
Customer Discovery Program in Maryland
The heart of the program is the two-week in-residence, hands-on program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where the startup company teams will conduct intensive customer discovery meetings. The entrepreneurs will meet with as many potential customers as possible, a minimum of 30, as well as others who will affect the success or failure of their business such as strategic and channel partners, key opinion leaders, regulators and relevant scientists and engineers. They will also participate in both group and individual training sessions with the program managers. The results of the interviews will guide continued product development pivots back in Israel and U.S. market entry.
Product Pivot and Launch
Upon completion of customer discovery in Maryland, the entrepreneurs will return to Israel and continue in an eight-week product pivot and launch program and continue to develop their company, product and U.S. market penetration activities. They will:
Post Program Support
Recognizing that scaling up a company and successfully entering the U.S. market are long-term processes, the Maryland/Israel Development Center and Israel Innovation Authority will continue to provide value-added services and support to the selected entrepreneurs: