Nearly 80 Israeli company founders have walked inside the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator in Tampa to connect with investors and make the Sunshine State their permanent home.
“When we started in 2017, we had to make a pitch for Florida and now that has completely shifted,” FIBA co-executive director Rakefet Bachur-Phillips said. “We are getting requests from Israeli companies looking to come here so much so we have reduced our outreach efforts in Israel.”
FIBA, which was launched by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, is located inside the Shanna and Bryan Glazer Family JCC’s Tampa campus. The organization operates as a resource center and offers accelerator programs, but it is not considered an incubator or co-working hub.
“We will work on a founder’s pitch, their value proposition and make sure they are articulating it in a way that a Florida-based business will understand it,” said Pam Miniati, the second co-executive director at FIBA.
FIBA has a tight three-person team that works with 10 to 12 startups a year.
“They are coming to us with existing products, and we connect them with subject matter experts,” Bachur-Phillips said. The companies FIBA works with are typically in the process of raising Series A rounds. FIBA primarily focuses on supporting cyber-related companies and those bringing innovation into the hospitality space.
“We’ve had some venture capital firms reach out to us to see who is raising capital. We are seeing more companies outside of Florida starting to invest here and they are realizing we have this exclusive focus on Israeli tech,” Bachur-Phillips said.
The team also links them with lawyers and real estate agents. Although FIBA is based in Tampa, it serves the entire state, helping startups find investment and growth opportunities in other surrounding metros such as Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota and West Palm Beach. FIBA connects startup execs to the Alan B. Levan Center in South Florida, which was created through a public-private partnership between Nova Southeastern University and Broward County. The center offers accelerator programs and co-working space.
Collectively, FIBA companies have raised more than $915 million, and the 24 companies that established a presence in Florida have directly created 93 high-skilled, high-wage jobs in the tech sector, and indirectly supported the creation of numerous manufacturing and assembly jobs, according to a FIBA’s new annual economic report.
Seven companies FIBA has worked with have been acquired and three have gone public. Most recently was Aura Air, an air filtration startup, which was acquired by Molecule.
Milagro AI, which automates real-time surveillance for infections in hospitals to streamline data and provide early detection of readmission risks, worked with FIBA in 2020. Through FIBA’s resources and connections, Milagro AI formed a partnership deal with Tampa General Hospital.
The newest company to work with TGH as a result of FIBA’s 2021 program is artificial intelligence company Navina.
The Miami-based Israeli company Tabit also worked with FIBA. The startup offers restauranteurs a complete mobile platform for restaurant management through tablets, eliminating the need for static server stations. Tabit’s product line also includes kiosks. The entire Tabit system can replace traditional point-of-sale (POS) technology and manage orders and reservations.
The focus would be on startups solving back-of-house and customer service issues that hoteliers and restaurateurs face.
FIBA is formalizing a plan to provide a new hospitality program that will debut later this year. The focus would be on startups solving back-of-house and customer service issues that hoteliers and restaurateurs face.
As FIBA continues to work with numerous companies and create programming, the team says it will need more funding.
FIBA receives the bulk of its funding from the state; however, the monetary amount decreases every year. FIBA execs are planning to create a fund to raise private investments. They are targeting to launch the fund in the next fiscal year.
Additionally, FIBA is working with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor to apply for federal funding.