How Israel is Shaping our Future

Day three of our program began with an informative meeting at Moovit‘s headquarters, the #1 urban mobility app worldwide. Moovit is unique in that it aggregates information from a variety of sources to provide the most accurate, real-time information for travelers; this includes transit operators, governmental authorities, and millions of their users. A key feature of their platform is that they integrate all forms of transport–including car-sharing, local bicycle services, scooters, all public transport options, and more–to provide a unique Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solution to their users. One of the most impressive aspects of their business is how they are using Big Data to transform the way people move across cities. They collect 5 billion anonymous data points per day, which can be shared with local governments and transit operators to make their services more user-friendly and efficient. To share a personal example of how this can have an individualized impact, data from Moovit can help people with disabilities navigate the often-unfriendly landscape of public transport by providing accurate, real-time information on which subway stations have functioning elevators. One big takeaway from this visit was learning about how a company can use one platform to provide solutions to a variety of client categories; in this case, they serve individual consumers, private companies, and government agencies. As humans continue to migrate to cities and we see a growing number of megacities with over 10 million people, we will see an increased need for smart mobility applications that help us navigate the urban jungle.

Next, we visited one of the most amazing organizations in the world: the Weizmann Institute of Science. The Weizmann Institute is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research facilities focused on natural sciences. First established in 1934, they are responsible for groundbreaking research, advances in medicine and technology that have significantly improved quality of life around the world, and discoveries that are truly shaping the future for humanity and the environment. For example, their cancer research led to the discovery of the gene that encodes p53, a protein that suppresses tumors and is found to be dysfunctional in almost all types of cancer. Their work has led to the basis for the drug Erbitux that treats colorectal, head, and neck cancer, and many other insights for cancer varieties. They are responsible for one Nobel laureate and three Turing Award laureates. From a business perspective, it’s impressive to note that their research has led to over 2,000 families of patents which are the basis for 37 independent companies, and $37 Billion of revenue (in 2017). A lesson learned here is how technology transfer can commercialize scientific discoveries to take groundbreaking research out of the lab and into the hands of consumers for the benefit of society worldwide.

We then went to Rishon Start-Up, a co-working space designed exclusively for technological entrepreneurs. It’s subsidized by the municipality, which allows early stage startups to access their services at a very low fee. This is one way the government fosters entrepreneurship and commerce, by providing opportunities for new businesses to succeed. It’s a unique environment for startup founders to work closely together; it was impressive to see the collaboration happening between different groups that otherwise wouldn’t have had much interaction. Creating a shared space for people who are facing similar challenges allows for cross-pollination of ideas and solutions, and the energetic exchange in the office was tangible. We also had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with entrepreneurs who were in similar fields as us to discuss new ideas that we were each working on and get feedback, which was a huge value-add. As the global economy transitions to the new “gig” economy with more independent freelancers and entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to have these places that foster connection and collaboration to create a thriving business-world for our future.

From here, we went to one of the most impressive visits of the trip: Netafim, a company that has revolutionized the way our food is grown around the world. They are the creators of drip irrigation that allows farmers to grow more food, with less water, using a precise irrigation technology. Their custom-designed tubing delivers the perfect amount of water and nutrients to the root of a plant–not the soil–which allows for healthier plants while saving precious resources. They have even individualized this process to specific crops! Their proprietary technology also allows the farmer to monitor, analyze, and therefore optimize processes at every step of the way. We took a guided tour of the factory and it was incredible to see the autonomous robots working together! We saw how they can even diagnose problems, identify solutions, and communicate between each other–and with humans–to maximize production efficiency. There is so much demand for their products worldwide that they are operating at 100% capacity! With our rapidly expanding population, this technology is critical for farmers to sustainably produce enough quality nutrition to support our future civilizations.

With such a future-focused day, it was nice to end it by revisiting our past. We visited a local Bedouin community in the Negev, Israel’s southern desert, that shared with us their traditional ways of living and some of their cultural customs. The Bedouins are a subgroup of the Arab people living in Israel with their own historical and social uniqueness. Many of them are fully integrated into society and live a modern lifestyle, but their origins are of a semi-nomadic way of living. We sat around in a tent with one of their elders and learned about a simpler way of life. It was a good reminder to end the day that despite all our technological advancements, it’s important to be in touch with our roots and stay connected to the most meaningful parts of our lives.

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