Wednesday, July 26 was a long time in the making. The Startup Shuk, the biggest event MassChallenge Israel has had to date didn’t start with the weeks of preparation our staff put into the event. It started on June 14th, when the Bootcamp for our 2017 Accelerator began. For the next 6 weeks, our startups may have been out of ‘Bootcamp’ mode, but they were still working hard, refining their teams, improving their pitches, developing their marketing materials, etc., all in preparation for this big night.
While our startups were getting in shape, we had to find the right location. After the overwhelming turnout for our first Startup Showcase in 2016, we knew we were going to need a bigger venue. In a country where a small wedding has 250 people, the first place that logically came to mind was one of the mega wedding halls that are a fixture nation-wide. We eventually settled on Sheva, a beautiful location that had plenty of room inside for our startups to demo their innovations, and a great outdoor space to allow guests to network, nosh and enjoy the famous Shuk Machane Yehuda experience we brought with us from Jerusalem to the heart of Tel Aviv.
The Startup Shuk wasn’t named so just to be cute, we decided to recreate Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda ‘Shuk’ Market at the event. Among our entrepreneurs being showcased include many who have turned their personal struggles and health problems into solutions the world will benefit from, a precocious 16 year old who is working to end bullying in schools using VR technology, and an employee at Intel who left his high-profile job once he saw an opportunity to disrupt the billion dollar tattoo industry.
Just like shuk sellers hand pick the best produce to bring to market, we hand picked which startups would join our Accelerator, with help from experts and industry champions from throughout Israel, as well as international bodies, such as the United Nations. They span all industries – from healthcare to future mobility to visual technologies to cybersecurity. Thirty-eight percent of the companies participating in the upcoming exhibition will be in the high-tech sector, 27 percent from the health sector, 13 percent from the social impact area, 8 percent from the energy sector, and 13 percent from general fields.
Our startups were arranged at their ‘stalls’ like sellers in the market, ready to hawk their innovative ideas to those who stopped by their stand. To help set the mood we brought 50 kilos of nuts, 34 kilos of candy, and 4 kilos of halva. By the end of the night, almost nothing of the nosh remained, and it seems to us like Tel Avivians would enjoy coming to Jerusalem for a bite to eat every now and then. The crowd of over 750 investors, partners, media, and entrepreneurs from the Israeli startup ecosystem ate it up literally.
However, people didn’t come for the food, they came for the startups, and no one was disappointed. Everyone we talked to had an amazing time (don’t take our word for it, you can see interviews from our Facebook live posts here and here). Our startups were blown away by how many investors they were able to meet and follow up meetings with VCs they were able to establish at the event. We also had a great turnout from media looking for a compelling #StartupStory (if you haven’t already, like our page to get to know our startups in a more personal way). The crowd also included a number of our alumni from the 2016 Accelerator. In the spirit of firgun, enjoying someone else’s success, many of the alumni mentioned that they were so impressed at how much better prepared the startups were this year than they themselves were. Meirav Oren of Versatile Natures, whose startup is connecting construction cranes to the internet and Miriam Schwab of Strattic , a 2016 alum, told us, “I love how polished and professional the startups are!”
The startups themselves also had a great time. ‘It was a GREAT event!” Gushed Rachel Neiman of Yarok Technology Transfer. “Amazing, VERY professional,” Ardon Wesley of Gooster. Roi Cohen of Vicarius shared, “Great event, found some promising leads.” Zohar Beeri of Novotalk was impressed by the performance of his fellow entrepreneurs, “Great show to all the inspirational startups!”. And, of course, the MassChallenge staff got more than a few thank yous from the startups.
See the fun for yourself here and make sure to signup for our newsletter so you don’t miss an invite to our next great event.