We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Israel is one of the most technologically developed, innovative and comfortable countries for startup development. Alena Novgorodskaya moved to Israel from Ukraine three years ago and right away figured out what this ecosystem was lacking: partner connections from the former post-Soviet countries. Along with her team, she has developed and launched Global Israeli Initiative platform to solve this problem, and with the help of which, tech-corporations, startups, investors from Israel and post-Soviet countries can meet each other and launch joint projects. Alena told Startup Jedi how she came up with the idea to launch such a platform, in what directions the team works and what goals they strive to achieve.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Global Israeli Initiative (GII) is a transformational agency that helps companies implement innovations and scale with the help of unique Israeli insights and technologies. The GII team consists of professionals from such areas like sales, business development, marketing and project management.
GII in numbers:
2,5 years on the market;
500+ offline B2B meetings, organised on request;
10 innovative business tours to Israel;
5 large-scale Ukraine-Israeli techno-summits;
10 000+ professional contacts.
- How did you come up with the idea of a GII platform?
- After relocating to Israel and learning local realities with investors, corporations, I realised that the subject matter of post-Soviet countries is quite up-to-date, even from the outsourcing point of view. For instance, as of now, Ukraine is fulfilling 50% of orders, provided by Israel.
In Israel, I worked as Chief Business Development Officer in Nexence startup for a year or so. We had a task to close one of the investment rounds, which we’ve successfully done with my team: in 4 months, we raised more than $1 million. This job helped me to understand the Israeli market better.
Since then, I started collecting contacts of various investors, corporations, hubs and managed to form a database, which was a GII basis.
Then, I found like-minded people and, together, we organised and held our first large event in Israel — Israeli-Ukrainian innovative EXPO, where we gathered 500 people.
After this conference, we understood that we need to launch a technological platform, which will be working by a project principle and promote Israeli startups and technologies, offer collaborations with post-Soviet countries, build technological bridges, which would work for both sides. That’s how we come up with the idea of creating GII.
- Is it a team’s initiative or an initiative from the Israeli government?
- GII is a transformative agency, so we correctly understand the specificity of two markets: in Ukraine and Israel; we also have a lot of experience in launching projects of different levels and scales, but the most importantly, we know how to establish long-term business contacts, make matches and organise b2b-meetings.
We are an international company. The part of the team is in Israel — here we have business development. The operational team is in Ukraine. We also do projects for two countries.
When it comes to the support from the government side — every our project is usually supported by both: Israeli and Ukrainian governments. We work very closely with the embassies of both countries. Commonly, governments act as our big operational partner, which takes the initiative, a significant part of our work: both at the invitation of speakers, and the invitation of companies, for additional creativity.
- Can we name the process of creating propitious conditions for innovative development the major aim of GII?
- The GII’s major aim is to build technological bridges between Israel and CIS countries. Many of our current projects are focused on the Ukrainian market, but still, we have orders from the markets of other countries.
- What are the major directions?
- Initially, we had two directions, but COVID-19 pandemic gave us the third direction. And as a result, our directions today are:
Technological business diplomacy (technological summits, b2b missions and technological tours to Israel, educational projects for techno-entrepreneurs);
Community development of new Israeli citizens who are interested in high-tech and startup nation (organising networking events, workshops, tech-tours within Israel);
B2B Lead Gen Studio is a lead generation service for B2B, searching and attracting potential customers online.
This is our approach: it is vital to concentrate on key things, you do the best. We concentrate on technological collaboration. So, when we organise business missions — they are only about technologies, technological solutions or corporate innovations.
Our first direction — technological business diplomacy. Its main goal is to create, develop and scale b2b-relationships between Israeli companies and companies from the CIS. For instance, corporations seek corporate innovations, technological solutions, which they can apply to their manufacturing.
In the framework of this direction, we also talk about startups and investors. With this, not only about Israeli investors but also about Ukrainian, Belarussian and investors from other countries, who search for additional opportunities.
In addition, we are talking about corporations, which search for more clients, both Israeli and from post-Soviet countries.
Our key-task is to make the match happen. We become some kind of a mediating translator, who understands the Israeli mentality and the mentality of business from post-Soviet countries.
In order to create this match, we hold techno-summits, and the last one has gathered more than 1000 people. The overall capitalization of companies that were present on the stage amounting in $35 billion.
We also conduct b2b-mission to both of the sides. One of the last was a b2b-mission for Israeli fintech startups: we searched potential partners for them among Ukrainian banks. We gathered 15 Chairmen of the Board — top of the top in Ukraine among banks and organised b2b-meetings with representatives from Israeli startups in Ukraine. The same way we take b2b-missions from Ukraine to Israel.
The second direction came from business diplomacy. In Israel, we develop a repatriating community — people, similar to us, who just moved to Israel and who are interested in technology and startup movement.
As of today, we have 5000 active participants in the Israeli community, who want to launch their startups, search for work opportunities in techno-companies, and plan where to go for probation.
For them, we provide different thematic workshops on how to launch projects, how to scale them, or how to adapt the business in Israel. Also, we moderate technological tours, where in one day, you can learn about the technological ecosystem of any city — Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem.
People come and in one day meet with major players of the technological system: the government sector, industrial-technical sectors etc. We go there for an excursion, meet with top officials, go to different educational institutions — technological universities, where people are told how students in the university develop their startups. Next, we communicate with startup founders, who are in the city. We finish by talking to investors. In such a way, people understand, what is the Israeli startup nation, and how it works.
The third direction, which pandemic presented to us is online-format. When the pandemic started, together with my team, we analysed where our 20% of the clientele, who generate 80% of the profit. We understood that the key-interest of these clients are b2b-meetings. As a result, we launched lead generation for b2b.
Our partners come to us, together with them clear out what they need and who their clients are. Next, we do some research for them, develop a content plan for various mailings, a plan for contacting customers. After that, we go through the entire pre-sale stage. And at the stage when the company makes a call with its new client, we usually leave.
We have a small but very energetic team: we can manage many projects at the same time. For 2 years of GII’s existence, we have done about 25 fairly large-scale projects.
- What services are free of charge? And for what clients have to pay?
- Everything considering the development of the repatriating community in Israel, we do voluntarily. We consider this as our additional social responsibility, which we happily fulfil.
We never work alone, only with partners. We manage to do free workshops and workshops for expats thanks to support from municipalities of several cities.
As for other areas: summits, technological tours, these are commercial projects and the cooperation there can be of a different nature. It can be sponsorship, partnership, barter partnership, participation in a summit, EXPO.
If we are talking about tours, then it can be both trips that a corporation pays for its employees and individual tours that are paid by investors — each for themselves.
In the third direction, we have separately developed packages, when a company comes to us, we clearly understand their request, their problem, technical assignment. The company chooses which of our packages suits them best — and we start working.
- The platform’s headquarters is located in Israel, but you collaborate with partners mostly from post-Soviet countries, the USA and Poland. What are the reasons?
- Our headquarters is located in Israel: the office is on Google campus, so we work in Tel-Aviv downtown in an awesome innovative community. Still, for the pandemic period, we switched to remote work.
We collaborate with partners from the majority of post-Soviet countries. My partners, with whom we develop GII, are professionals with large networking in Ukraine and Israel. As in the typical startup, each of us enacts all their contacts and experiences. There is no difficulty for us to contact any of our partners.
It is a chain reaction: partners from other countries see the work we do, as well as they see, that we do it qualitatively, so they join us.
- How do your projects help develop innovations in Israel?
- We are a mediator between the Israeli and Ukrainian markets. Very often, even the Israelis, who, due to some circumstances, could not work with the post-Soviet countries, after several years of cooperation with us eventually reach the goal of making interesting business collaborations.
It is clear that hardly anyone will understand the mentality of this market better than a person who grew up there. It’s the same story with Israel. It is important to find partners who have a good and deep understanding of the market, have good connections and who are on the same vibe with you.
- What is the basis for cooperation with foreign partners — businesses, governments, non-profit organisations?
- The story is the following: when a partner from a post-Soviet country comes to us, he understands that for him, we are the point of entry to the Israeli market. And similarly to Israeli partners, we are the entry point to the market in Ukraine.
This is how we operate in these two markets. In Ukraine, we have a strategic partner — U-Data — a group of technology companies, which is a part of one of UNIT.city — the largest technology parks in Europe; Cyber School — a group of companies for training cyber specialists, or specialists in the field of big data, etc. In Israel, we meet companies with various requests: both to raise investments and to invest money… When we meet companies with a specific request, we can also recommend the professional and trusted partners, who provide various services with which we work in Ukraine: legal, financial, operational, logistics.
Our partners understand that when they come to us, they will receive reliable information about trusted companies with which they can work.
- How do you find your partners? Please, describe the formula for search and cooperation: what do you expect from them and what do you offer?
- Usually, partners find us on their own. We are always open to suggestions and offers. At first, we offer partners to do a pilot project, so we don’t start long-term connections with a hot-head. “Pilo project” is a litmus indicator of whether there can happen or not happen business chemistry between you: whether your approaches, values and visions are the same.
- How to become your partner?
- Quite simple. Contact us, and we are quite fast with the answers. We call you, figure out what we can do together, understand the wishes of each other and, quite possibly, launch the first pilot. After that, we will know whether we will continue working together and if yes, what will be the pace.
- Can you give any example of a pilot project: what did you do and what partners it helped you to find?
- By using the “pilot project” method, we got our major strategic partner in Ukraine — U-Data Group. We started from the first summit in Kyiv, which was dedicated to Israel. Back there, we met with the founder of this company, and he got enthusiastic about the idea of Israeli-Ukrainian partnership. As a result, we organised the Ukrainian-Israeli Innovation Summit in Kyiv. After that, we understood that our approaches are so similar that we launched a series of technological tours, where Ukrainian entrepreneurs were visiting Israel.
- Among your projects, there are few realised in Ukraine or for Ukrainian partners; those are Ukrainian Israeli Innovation Summit 2018 and Ukraine DLD Conference and festival 2018. Could you please tell something about these projects? Have you traced their long-term effectiveness, like how these events influenced the innovation development in Ukraine?
- The results of the summit aren’t measured tomorrow or the day after. We noticed the first results only after some time: a minimum of 6–8 months. The result was the fact that large Israeli companies found clientele in Ukraine and the consolidated sales concluded more than $1 million.
Till the end of the summer, we plan to finalise a large purchase where an Israeli company buys a Ukrainian one. It is the key goal of conducting such events. These are b2b-meetings, that lead to such king of exits: purchases and acquisitions.
- What lies in the basis of projects, which are initiated by GII?
- Our projects are developed in a way that the maximum amount of time and efforts are concentrated on conducting negotiations and meetings between Israeli and Ukrainian partners. The formats are different.
For example, on a summit, the company can show what it worth: deliver a speech with a presentation, create a nice-looking stand and conduct a series of negotiations. In a format of the technological tour, company representatives come to Israel, come and meet the company executives personally.
The result we are counting on is always the same. It is to acquire new partners, attract investments, and scale. It is a long-term scenario.
- About future goals: which projects and why you want to launch in the nearest year?
- In Israel, you have to correspond to two key-parameters in order to be successful: quality — how you do the job and speed — how fast you can do it. We have Napoleonic plans: many projects and tight deadlines, which we set ourselves.
Recently, we have come up with a new format — transforming our technological summits into online mode. It will be some kind of a hybrid of online and offline events.
For instance, when we are going to have an Israeli-Ukrainian event, the Ukrainian community will be in a conference hall in Ukraine, while Israeli community will be in a conference hall in Israel.
Also, our nearest plans include developing our b2b-lead-gen-studio. Our biggest goal is to open two innovative centres: Center of Ukraine in Israel, and Center of Israel in Ukraine. We are actively working with embassies in this direction now.