A terrific core team, a big vision and a large addressable opportunity.
These are the criteria ICONYC Labs used in choosing five companies for its new accelerator program for early-stage Israeli tech startups looking to gain a foothold in New York on their way to going global.
“We realized there is a big opportunity here, especially now that New York is a great tech hub. There’s a lot of curiosity about Israeli startups, but [investors] want them here to work with them,” says Eyal Bino, founder of ICONYC with Sharon Mirsky and Arie Abecassis.
The program is focusing on industries for which New York City can provide a competitive advantage. “This includes mainstays such as ad-tech, ecommerce and financial services, as well as burgeoning areas in New York City like digital health, IoT hardware and software and even ag-tech,” Bino tells ISRAEL21c.
“You see these emerging areas reflected in our current batch of startups, each of which takes a ‘smart data’ approach to solving problems for businesses and consumers.”
After a nine-month screening process of more than 200 applicants, ICONYC chose the following five companies for its first cohort, headquartered at coworking space AlleyNYC in Manhattan:
- DandyLoop, a crosspromotion marketplace that’s creating a new way for more than 600,000 independent online stores to acquire traffic without paying for it.
- Gaonic, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) based data and analytics platform for enterprises that leverage IoT technologies, such as energy, manufacturing and utility companies.
- Clickspree, an advertising technology that increases brand engagement and ROI through personalized and timely video ad delivery.
- Flux, a smart agricultural product enabling water-efficient growth of food and plants through technology and crowdsourced insights.
- Myndlift, a mobile health approach to making brain training effective and affordable, initially targeting those who suffer from ADHD and related conditions.
Navigating the US business world
Along with the opportunities in New York are plenty of challenges for Israeli entrepreneurs, ranging from the legal to the cultural.
ICONYC’s Israeli founders, each solidly entrenched in the New York business scene, aim to teach the startups under their wing how to craft emails, pitch products and run an investor meeting in fluent English and in sync with local cultural norms, among other skills. Business and funding acceleration and operations support are provided in exchange for common equity averaging about eight percent.
“We don’t view ourselves as a traditional accelerator, but more as a strategic partner that can help these startups with the first step in becoming global companies,” Bino says. “We borrow elements from the traditional accelerator model, and amplify them to better position these companies for long-term growth.”
The six-month program runs longer than most traditional accelerators, he explains, “and we take a more tailored approach so that each experience resonates with the needs of each company.”
ICONYC develops customized plans for each startup, and reviews and refines each plan on a weekly basis.
“By taking this approach, we do away with ‘one size fits all’ features like Demo Day, acknowledging up front that each startup has different funding needs at different times,” Bino says.
Bino, 39; angel investor and adviser Abecassis, 49; and Mirsky, 35, met through their work with the Global Innovator Program of the Worldwide Investor Network, a three-month accelerator for low-profile, high-potential foreign companies in high-tech, ecommerce, ad-tech, mobile and mobile health.
“Over the last four years we featured about 100 companies, 40 of them from Israel,” says Bino. “About 90% of them made money.”
He and Abecassis, an angel investor and adviser to New York tech entrepreneurs, identified a need to build an accelerator tailor-made for Israeli entrepreneurs.
“With all of the different initiatives around Israeli tech in New York City, such as the Cornell-Technion partnership, our program plugs nicely into a natural environment for these Israeli startups to thrive,” he says.
They get it
Karin Kloosterman, a former ISRAEL21c writer and now CEO of Flux, says that in her first week at ICONYC Labs she met “more influentials from the New York high-tech investment, media and business community than I could meet in a year in Israel. And I am talking about personal dinners and one-on-one meetings arranged by Arie, Eyal and Sharon, through their close, personal network.
“The beautiful thing is that we are seeing support from all ranges of industries by people who aren’t Israeli or expats, or who aren’t Jewish as I would have expected, but influentials who simply want to support startups and the efforts of ICONYC Labs. This is the power of American-style networking through level-A connections.”
She notes that although heads of major high-tech firms regularly fly to Israel to meet with promising startup entrepreneurs, “Getting out of the [Tel Aviv] bubble is important for companies that want to do real business in the US.”
Kloosterman feels that the ICONYC founders “get” her company, which aims for a different market than do most Israeli agro-tech companies.
“In Israel in my early fundraising efforts, I felt I always had to educate the investors I was meeting. Arie, Eyal and Sharon understand my market and this was clear from the beginning when they started their intensive process of doing due diligence on Flux. They knew my competitors and they knew the landscape and this is why I chose to risk all and move my family to North America to take a chance on them as much as they are taking that chance on me.”
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