18 July 12 16:40–It’s 10:30 at night, long after Palo Alto goes to sleep, and just before the last bar (of three) in Silicon Valley’s golden town hints to its few remaining customers that it’s time to go. Keren Yaniv (29) and Roi Oron (27) return home after a hard day’s work at the office where they have been located for just a few weeks. Instead of the peace and quiet that working people generally seek after thirteen hours of continuous meetings with investors, they find in the house the kind of commotion that only fifteen people in their twenties can make. No, this is not some version of the house in reality show “Big Brother”, but one of the more ambitious projects that has grown up in recent years for Israeli technological developments in Silicon Valley.
UpWest Labs, founded by Shuly Galili, formerly executive director of the California Israel Chamber of Commerce, and entrepreneur Gil Ben-Artzy, formerly a senior executive at Yahoo!, is an entrepreneurship incubator that enables companies at the initial stages of product development to pack up themselves and their team and go for three intensive months to the US. The aim is to develop the idea, find investors and partners, and make a great leap forward.
The Israeli technology incubator opened only in January this year, but it is already on its second cohort. At the beginning, the project mainly attracted the attention of the Israeli community in Silicon Valley, but UpWest is now succeeding in interesting people outside this circle.
The model is simple: After a meticulous weeding-out process, selected companies and entrepreneurs come to Silicon Valley, receive support from mentors with records of success, a place to live, and workspace and offices. In exchange, they give a stake in the company and its future profits.
The entrepreneurs who come to UpWest lodge in a large, fine house in Palo Alto, and live and breathe entrepreneurship and technology. They talk to each other about their various projects, and try to give support. If all this reminds you of reality television, that’s no coincidence. “There are difficult moments,” Oron admits. “Many times, from the pressure of the meetings, it feels as though all that is missing is he ‘Big Brother’ room where you can pour your heart out. Still, the intensity is part of the idea. There’s something exciting about it that dictates the pace, and that is what makes it possible to turn an idea into an established company within three months.”
The people at UpWest, like many Israelis here, are riding the global wave of interest in Israel that has grown mightier since the publication of the book “Start-Up Nation”, the bestseller by Dan Senor and Saul Singer that deals with the “the economic-technological miracle” that is Israel and the circumstances that made it a technology power. “The Israeli entrepreneur is very well placed in Silicon Valley today,” explains Galili. “He has a proven track record with companies like Check Point, Mercury Interactive, and many others. This gives the feeling that the Israeli entrepreneur didn’t begin yesterday, but rather knows what he’s doing. You have to remember that, even before “Start-Up Nation”, there was hard work done here to brand the Israeli entrepreneur, and the names that come to mind when the talk is of Israeli entrepreneurship are people like Yuval Shachar, Amnon Lamdan, or Shai Agassi, who certainly arouse respect.”…Read More>>