Today was day 1 of the mission and everything worked as planned or better. Sure, we did also have the unexpected, like when three taxis traveling to the same place dropped us off blocks apart. And how come, you may ask? It’s because Israeli cab drivers are professional cabbies, not gig workers, and they actively make suggestions for the best spot to be discharged. And clearly they disagree. This is the quintessential Israel in a nutshell. On the one hand you see remarkable and sensible commonsense innovation at every turn (we booked the cabs on Gett, the ubiquitous Israeli Uber-like app for real cabs). And on the other hand, you have a nation where each person is an expert 😂
It all worked out. We started the day at the Reichman University (IDC) near Tel Aviv. There we were hosted by the dean of the Tiomkin School of Economics, Professor Zvi Eckstein. He is a scholar of labor economics and Jewish economic history. “Oranges to tech” he called it.
We hardly scratched the surface and two mesmerizing hours passed. Zvi took us through about two thousand years of labor history in Israel and beyond and ended with a discussion about current challanges. Zvi (yes, Israel is a first name country), walked us through the economic model that he and his NGO developed and advised the Israeli Office of the Treasury to adopt (and they have).
The Aaron Institute studies weaknesses in the economy on a macro level and then design specific solutions that often become policy. At the top of the list are “improving output per capita and reducing poverty.”
The good news is that 12% of Israelis ages 24-65 work in high tech. They're well trained, extremely productive, and highly compensated. Perhaps every US technology company has substantial R&D activities in Israel and there is plenty of investment being funneled into this sector. On the flip side, like the US, Israel has a widening gap between rich and poor, and it needs to invest more in “human capital” aka the investment in people, mostly through education and skills training (investment in human capital counts for over 60% of the potential fuel for generating output). Like the US, Israel must invest substantially in urban renewal and public transportation infrastructure. It needs to invest heavily in vocational training, especially for minorities.
We then returned to Tel Aviv to meet four companies that “Improve the Human Condition.”We gathered at the Israeli HQ of Eisner Amper and were greeted by Partner in Charge Edo Pollack (originally from PA). The companies invited came out of Trendlines, a leading Israel and Singapore investment group that offers extraordinary support to the companies in its portfolio (about 57 companies). We met D. Todd Dollinger, Chair and CEO of Trendlines and then rolled up our sleeves and dove right into it. We heard from each of the founders and held real conversations. We presented ideas and possibilities that would be available to them in the greater Philadelphia region. This sort of conversation reflected what PICC is known for. At the table were the PA Deputy Secretary for International Economic Development, the leader of Delaware Bio, BIRD foundation reps, the PICC leadership and a board member with specific expertise, connecting the companies with investors, collaborators, recruiting, and folks who can help get to the next step. We provide this service indirectly at no charge as a central benefit of membership. This is the good that comes from joining. One of the companies is working with Jefferson University (member on our board), and the others were very interested in being heard, cared about, and paid attention to. Our region can do this like no other.
We heard from miRobot, an automatic cow milking robot, and from three femtech technologies that focus on serious challenges in women's health. These were Pregnan Tech, Escala Medical, and Omeq. Read about these companies and learn more when we discuss our sold out Femtech event on the 15th. This is an area where the PICC is planning considerable programming and bandwidth in 2023. Join us.
It’s getting late. More tomorrow.