Vancouver Israeli Tech Club Fall Meetup keynote speaker Daniel Friedmann of communications company MDA, left, with presenters Yaron Bazaz, co-founder of the app Downtown and a VIT organizer, centre, and Meir Deutsch of IKOMED. (photo by Baila Lazarus)
If you’ve ever tried to start a business, you’ll know how crucial it is to have the proper support around you. This includes finding the right management and staff, marketing and growth strategists and, not least, connections with investors. Add to that the challenge of being an immigrant, and the hurdles seem impassable.
It was out of this need to support startups that Yaron Bazaz, Eran Elizur and Ronen Tanne launched the Vancouver Israeli Tech Club and its affiliate Meetup group one year ago. Bazaz had seen in California the models of business “ecosystems” that support the tech community.
“They provided a stage for local entrepreneurs to present their companies and expose themselves to potential investors, employees, media, etc.,” said Bazaz. “We didn’t have this in Vancouver. This type of ecosystem is 80 percent of the success. When you start a company, what you need is the first co-founder, the first investor, employees that are not necessarily looking for the hefty salary but have the entrepreneurial spirit to see your vision and are willing to participate.”
Within the Vancouver Jewish community, interest in VIT has garnered the group almost 350 members, as well as sponsorship from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the tech hub Discovery Parks.
So far, VIT has held four networking events. At its most recent, which took place in November, Bazaz presented his app – in Beta testing – called Downtown. It allows crowd-sourced data to let users know where the highest concentration of hip, good-looking young adults can be found in the downtown club scene at any given time.
Meir Deutsch, chief executive officer of IKOMED, also presented. His medical device company aims to reduce “the exposure to ionizing radiation during minimally invasive medical procedures.”
Events also include keynote speakers who are local businessmen connected to the Israeli community. At the November event, Daniel Friedmann, president and CEO of global communications company MDA, presented on MDA’s work in satellite technology and spoke about Israel’s contributions to unmanned vehicles, especially in how information-gathering has changed.
“During the Cold War, everyone knew where to look [for enemies],” he told the audience of about 200. “Today, we don’t know where the bad guys are. We don’t know where to look.”
There are also too many factors to look at, he said, and it’s impossible for any one organization to have the human-power to keep tabs. So reconnaissance crafts, such as satellites and drones, as well as the software, have to be more technically adept at recording even subtle changes on the ground.
“If the software shows us where some cars have been moved, we can detect bombs that were placed on the road overnight,” explained Friedmann.
Entrepreneur Shahar Ben Halevi has attended all of VIT’s events.
“You learn about other entrepreneurs’ journeys and lessons they have learned on their path,” he said. “You can always learn more about life, about business, about setting goals and the right mind set to get them.”
Ben Halevi, who came to Vancouver nine years ago, is the founder of Cornfield Media, which has media projects in different stages of development.
“One is an online streaming platform for children’s stories on multilingual channels,” he said. “The service allows parents and children to read the same stories in different languages.” Ben Halevi has a book on Amazon and had a short in this year’s Vancouver Jewish Film Festival.
He said he’s taken away lessons from VIT on team building, courage, being visionary and how to turn your vision into reality. “How to be happy with what you achieved and not depressed about the things that you haven’t done yet.”
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.