The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, America’s pro-Israel lobby, gathers its top leaders and activists in Washington, DC every spring for its annual Policy Conference. This event is the preeminent national gathering of individuals concerned with the U.S.-Israel relationship, attracting some 18,000 leaders and activists from all 50 states. These activists attend the conference to hear from leading political leaders and lawmakers, senior Israeli officials, top Middle East scholars and political analysts.

This year, the topic of Israeli innovation played prominently in the Conference, with 23 sessions on Israeli innovation. Members of Start-Up Nation Central’s (SNC) executive team participated in nine of these events and offered content input into many of the others.

It is no coincidence that AIPAC chose to have 23 sessions on Israeli innovation at its landmark annual gathering. One of Israel’s key assets is solving world problems through innovation. This includes solving problems for countries, large companies, and academic institutions. These varied programs offered vivid examples of how these technologies are put to use around the world.

Among the highlights –

  • Eugene Kandel, CEO of SNC, moderated a breakout session on Israeli Digital Health Innovation. Noting that Israel is home to over 400 Innovative Digital Health companies, Kandel generated a lively discussion with the three panelists: Yonatan Adiri, Founder, and CEO of Healthy.io; Michal Geva, Founder and Managing Partner at TriVentures; and Danny Weissberg, Co-founder, and CEO of VoiceITT.The panelists reviewed the extent of Israel’s expertise in big data, sensors, and predictive analytics, along with extensive medical records, and how these have generated a wide array of innovative solutions that are receiving global attention. Yonatan Adiri highlighted some of the latest technologies coming out of Israel and how they are shaping the future of Digital Health worldwide.
  • Michal Geva noted that there are currently over 500 companies working on Israeli Digital Health technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence for diagnostics and triaging patients, data management, extremely revolutionary biometric sensors and many technologies oriented to facilitate healthcare activities direct to the consumer. Over 450 delegates attended this standing-room-only session.
  • Wendy Singer, Executive Director of SNC, participated in a panel entitled, “Israel’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: A Year in Review.” Together with leading VCs and analysts, she offered an overview of Israel’s tech ecosystem in the last year, including the data and trends around recent fundraising rounds; exits, IPOs, and hottest technologies. Daniel Frankenstein, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of JANVEST, stressed that Israeli technology companies continue to be of keen interest to VCs around the world, and are raising more venture per capita than companies in any other country.
  • Jerusalem’s innovation scene was the topic of two leading sessions: Eugene interviewed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, teasing out what are the key ingredients that led to the surge in Jerusalem’s start-up activity. Whereas a few years ago, there were barely 100 start-ups in Israel’s capital, today there are upwards of 400. Wendy led a panel with MK Erel Margalit and MassChallenges Head of Strategic Partnerships, Yonit Serkin. Margalit discussed the meaning of the Intel acquisition of the Jerusalem-based Mobileye company for $15.3 billion, and other factors that created such a strong innovation ecosystem, tracing it back to the days of Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek.

Moreover, two powerful innovation stories were featured in a plenary session, before an audience of 18,000 strong. The co-founders of HYBRID – Eitan Sella and Fadi Swidan – were interviewed about their groundbreaking work to help strengthen and grow the start-up ecosystem in Nazareth, a project of the 8200 Alumni Association. The second session, by Oded Ben Dov Founder of Sesame Enable, exhibited his company’s inclusive technology, which helps people with disabilities use devices that would otherwise remain inaccessible to them. Sesame Enable has developed a completely touch-free smartphone designed by and for people with disabilities. The company’s technology is compatible with both iOS and Android and enables control over apps by tracking the movements of the user’s head, hand, or any designated object.

Wendy Singer is Start-Up Nation Central's Executive Director, following a 23-year career at AIPAC. During the last 16 years, Ms. Singer served as Director of AIPAC’s Israel Office, and was previously a registered lobbyist for AIPAC on Capitol Hill. Singer also worked for five years as a legislative aide in the House and the Senate. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband Saul and their three daughters.

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