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HTIA- LogoSpring – especially the latter part of it, in May and June, when the weather starts turning warm – is one of the nicest times of year in Israel. It’s close enough to winter that we haven’t forgotten February’s chill, and it’s still not hot enough to make us wish for February’s return, like we do when August rolls around.

But in recent years, Spring in Israel has been about more than inspirational weather; it’s been an inspirational time for anyone who appreciates Israel’s contributions to making the world a more interesting, more efficient, more healthy – and more fun – place. Two recent exhibitions portrayed Israel’s great contributions to making the world a better place – and the progress yet to come.

First on the agenda was the High-Tech Industry Association (formerly the Israel Ventures Association) Conference, held in Jerusalem in early June. The annual conference (first held in 2007) brings together heads of Israeli tech firms, venture capitalists, bankers, investors, and (for now) small companies seeking funding for their “big idea.” Sessions deal with marketing strategy, technology trends, and, of course, financing and investment issues. And this year, there were special sessions dedicated to expanding Israel’s hi-tech reach to partners in India and China, with special sessions held specifically for delegations from those countries.

Represented at the conference are all the major players in Israeli hi-tech – venture capital firms (Carmel, Gemini, Genesis, JVP, and many others.), top corporations (IBM, Microsoft – both sponsors – as well as Nice, ECI, Checkpoint, and others), along with startups that have “made it” – LiveU, PageOnce, Axxana, and others (many of which I have written about – clearly there’s a connection here!). The conference is just what you’d expect; a little geeky (it was at a presentation by Amdocs that I heard an exposition of the “Terra Play” – more about that next week), a little glamorous (there were some very big “big shots” there), but mostly lots of fun. And educational!

Not to take away anything from the HTIA, but the follow-up show about a week after the Jerusalem conference – the Israel Life Sciences Industry BioMed show – is in a class unto itself. Said to be the largest medical industry trade and technology show outside the United States, BioMed in Tel Aviv attracted thousands of visitors (some 7,000, according to show organizers), with sessions discussing the latest advances in medical devices, pharmaceuticals,  biotechnology, government approval issues, patent issues, ethical issues, and much more.  According to ILSI, first 2010 quarter exports of the Israeli life sciences industry in 2010 totaled $ 1.7 billion, an increase of about 14% over Q1 2009.

Here, too, top players from Israel – and around the world – were in attendance, sponsoring events and giving presentations. At least four U.S. cities and states and half a dozen European governments were also at the event, looking to make deals with Israeli partners or venture capitalists, who were also on the scene. Israeli universities and venture capital accelerators, where many of tomorrow’s innovations are being created right now, were also well represented.  As far as companies making presentations or sponsoring booths – name a big pharma or medical device player, and they were probably there.

It’s heartwarming to see industries celebrating themselves, but I’m a bit coldhearted – I tend to shy away from the glamor and glitz. When I go to these shows, I don’t seek out the “fat cats,” who can afford fully-staffed PR agencies and inundate you with press releases; I’m interested in the sleek, skinny “alley cats” – the outsiders looking in, the ones who struggle for a piece of the pie, trying to sell themselves to an angel. Companies with a great idea, but without the connections – the ones who, with a little luck, could become the big players at next year’s conferences. That’s the kind of story you buy a newspaper for!

Those are the kinds of companies I sought out at both conferences, and fortunately for me, the organizers made it easy, with the newest startups occupying areas on the fringes of the shows. Naturally, the snacks weren’t as good in these outlying areas, but that’s to be expected, I suppose. But what they lacked in materialism – lacking the “good” chocolate croissants, as well as major funding – they made up for in spunk, gumption and moxie, presenting the ideas and products that may become tomorrow’s must-have technology.

Ideas like these: a product that takes even lo-res cellphone camera pictures and turns them into high-resolution, high-definition beauties (HTIA); a cellphone app that lets you get personalized coupons and offers, and lets you connect with other users, when you walk into a store or a mall (HTIA);  a matchmaker service that lets startups easily find angels and VC’s interested in investing with them (HTIA); a product that will keep track of every piece of equipment in a huge hospital complex, so that a stretcher, bed, or defibrillator can always be found when it’s needed (BioMed); a device to treat wounds using ultrasound (BioMed); and a revolutionary and inexpensive device that promises to put laser dental technology in the hands of every dentists – with the device 15 times more accurate than those already on the market (BioMed). It’s appropriate these two conferences are in the Spring, the season of hope; considering the innovations presented by these and many other companies at the shows, Israeli hi-tech and life sciences has a lot to be hopeful about!

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