Meet some of the world’s most thoughtful up-and-coming entrepreneurs in our new blog series “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity.” Each leader has found their own way to embrace a global perspective, even if that means moving halfway around the world to get your business off the ground.
This week we’re featuring Eran Orr, founder of VR Health, a VR based healthcare application he started in Tel Aviv, Israel before crossing the Atlantic to relocate in Boston, Massachusetts.
Launched moments before his move to Boston, discover how Eran was able to take an idea and transform it into a business in a new, and unfamiliar territory.
This is part 4 of 7 of our “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity” series. Check out part 3 with Olu Okunsanya of Brakes & Shocks.
What’s the story for VR Health?
We are developing a health-related application in virtual reality. When I say virtual reality, I’m referring to immersive headsets. As far as we know, we are the only company in the world using VR as a certified medical device and all of our medical applications are FDA registered. We use the VR devices as a tool for clinicians as well as patients. They’re used for different cases including physical therapy, cognitive rehab, pain management, heat flashes, and all other elements.
How did this idea come about, and at what point did you realize it was more than just an idea and had the potential for something greater?
I am a former F-16 pilot in the Israeli Air Force and four years ago I began suffering from whiplash injury due to flying. It was during my own rehabilitation that the idea of combining virtual reality and rehab came about. Immediately after I started the company back in Israel, I moved to Boston and two months after that, I was luckily accepted into MassChallenge which is where things really took off.
Since participating MassChallenge, how has your start-up changed or developed?
We were part of the first cohort for all MassChallenge programs in the healthcare sector (MassChallenge HealthTech). And through HealthTech, we had the opportunity of partnering with Microsoft and ARP. Both partnerships happened because of MassChallenge and enabled us to ramp up in scale, understand the market, and tap into the Boston ecosystem. For me, that was very important because I came here knowing no one. As an entrepreneur coming to a new country, that was the best thing I could ask for.
Is there a large entrepreneur community in Israel?
In Israel, you’ll find more startups than large organizations. Especially in Tel Aviv; I believe we have the biggest startup community per capita worldwide. There are several reasons why that happens. From government support to mentality and culture, and the fact that we’re a very small country.
I’ll give an example. One of my professors in the university at the entrepreneurship program wanted to explain to us why Israel is such an innovative country and why he believed a lot of entrepreneurs come out of Israel. He gave us an assignment where he asked us to reach out to high-rank people in Israel, those in the government and CO’s with the limitation of two phone calls. Everyone in the class succeeded. He wanted to show us that that is the power of the Israeli ecosystem. Because Israel is very small, a lot of people know one another and through the army, you can reach basically anyone.
Culturally, how has your Israeli background impacted the development of your company?
For better or for worse Israelis do not appreciate regulations and red tapes (laughs)… which can be seen as a bad thing. On the positive side, we don’t take anything for granted. We are always working to understand how to make things better faster. That for an entrepreneur is probably one of the most important characteristics.
Did your experience in the Israeli Airforce contribute to the emergence of VR Health?
No doubt, the Israeli Airforce is one of the best organizations that I know. The culture is amazing, and I met so many amazing people. I was in the Airforce for 15 years and a lot of things I learned while there I have applied on the business side.
In the Airforce there is a culture of debriefing. After each and every operation that you do, you are debriefing and trying to understand where you can do better when doing the same things. We’ve applied this to our business. We get constant feedback from our customers, iterate, improve our products, and debrief again basically applying that same culture on the business side.
You have an impressive academic background with degrees in Business Management, Government, and Politics, and an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Business Administration.
How has your education helped gear VR Health?
When my wife was accepted to her Masters program in Boston, I also started my MBA in entrepreneurship but still didn’t know what I was going to do in Boston. During my MBA is when the idea came about. After I decided to give it a try, I attended school and played it by the textbook. I was in the military for 15 years so I had no expertise in establishing my own company. I’d attend school by day and at night take my textbooks, and took down whatever was said in the textbooks and apply it to what today is VR Health.
Headquartered in Boston and Tel Aviv, do you foresee VR Health expanding into other territories?
As we speak we are expanding into Australia with an office next month, followed by London after that. We’re considering Canada, and shortly, more offices in the U.S. on the west coast.
We establish offices wherever we have customers and people that are interested in working with us.
What is your thought process on expansion for people who want to break out of their country or launch/expand a company in a different country than their native one?
The best advice is to follow the Nike slogan and just do it. Also, when choosing a place to start your new business, try to find organizations like MassChallenge that will enable you to tap into the ecosystem faster. That makes a whole lot of a difference.
And while I have yet to travel elsewhere in the states, find a place that is welcoming to foreigners. Boston specifically is a warm place for foreigners.
Be sure to check out our other 6 interview in our series “A Global Mindset: How 7 Standout Startups Navigate International Opportunity”.
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