Merage Israel Lean Launchpad Graduates First Cohort: Brings Hands-on Business Tools to Cutting-edge Life Science Startups in Jerusalem

The first ever Israel Lean Launchpad program, founded by the Merage Institute to provide effective training to entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists, has concluded in Jerusalem with an initial cohort of a dozen Israeli startup CEOs and founders. The program, which first found success in Silicon Valley, aims to give start-up founders in the Israeli startup ecosystem the tools to build sustainable companies by focusing on the importance of business models over business plans.

Members of the program participated in ten day-long workshops and seminars focused on different areas of commercialization, that included rapid-fire feedback from their target audience on their business hypotheses, including revenue models and partners, storytelling and more. The program ran from February through April 2019. Inspired by the Lean Startup methodology created by Steve Blank and employed worldwide, the program was brought to Israel by U.S. businessman and philanthropist, Paul Merage and Start-Up Nation Central,  the Jerusalem Development Authority, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Yissum.

Yishay AizikExecutive Director of the Merage Foundation said, “We are proud to launch the Israeli Lean Launchpad with our partners after we identified the need to provide Israeli entrepreneurs with practical tools to commercialize their wonderful ideas. Our goal is to increase the rate of success among Israeli startups and to help them penetrate the U.S. market in the future.”

Hosting the first Lean Launchpad in Jerusalem is indicative of the growing role of tech in the city.  “Jerusalem is a hi-tech and bio-med hub in Israel and is highly respected around the world. Seven years ago, when I was Chairman of the Jerusalem Development Authority, we decided to pursue the development of a hi-tech and bio-med ecosystem, based on the strength of our city’s institutions, including the Hebrew University and our advanced hospital system. Jerusalemis on its way to becoming a world leader in these fields, and as Mayor, I will continue to do everything I can to support this growth,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said at an event marking the conclusion of the program.

Prof. Eugene Kandel, CEO of Startup Nation Central said, “Scientists and researchers who learn entrepreneurship and business skills are better able to commercialize their research. The Israeli government, which makes large investments in basic and applied research, stands to benefit tremendously should it be translated into viable profit-generating companies. Training programs such as Lean Launchpad are exactly what we need to help tap into this underrealized source of entrepreneurship. I am very much in favor of the government agencies helping pilot such courses in all research universities and testing their long-term impact.”

In addition to the Merage Institute, Lean Launchpad’s partners include the JDA, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, HUJI Innovate, The Jerusalem School of Business Administration, The Magid Institute for Continuing Education founded by Hebrew University, and Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University.

“The Jerusalem Development Authority is pleased to promote and support the Israeli Lean Launchpad program. There is an advanced technological ecosystem in Jerusalem. Developing management capabilities with an emphasis on customer understanding, as promoted in the program, complements the existing strengths in city,” said Itzik Ozer, Senior Director of Business Development, JDA.

In recent years, Jerusalem’s hi-tech scene has skyrocketed from 200 to 600 start-ups and the Mayor cited The Hebrew University, Hadassah and Sha’are Zedek as leading institutions that helped make that happen.

Hebrew University’s Vice-President and Director-General Yishai Fraenkel, said, “One of the things that is most important in this industry is biotech and its connection to the academic world. This is where a lot of innovation is coming from. Artificial intelligence was born in academia and is now critical to so many startups. The connections between the university and the start-ups have massive potential.”  

Ran Meged, Merage Institute leader for the Israeli Lean Launchpad said, “The focus of the 2-month program is to teach and train entrepreneurs on paths from research to product and the transformation of ideas to business models, using the feedback of their potential customers and partners at the earliest stage possible. The first cycle focused on technologies in life sciences with a specific emphasis on ideas in digital health, medical devices and diagnostics. The next cycle will focus on early stage startups. We hope that soon everyone who is seeking funding for their startup will first participate in a Lean Launchpad program.”

Among the companies with the potential for global impact is Genetika+. CEO Dr. Talia Cohen Solal notes that, “300 million people suffer from major depression a year. Many lose weeks, months and sometimes their lives waiting for their doctor to find the unique medication that is right for them. We want to take the search for the right prescription out of the patient and into the lab where it belongs.”

Dr. Shai Harel, the academic director of the program and the head of the strategy and entrepreneurship division at the school of business administration said “The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the school of business administration see great importance in bringing the academic world to the industry practitioners. The school believes that the combination of the theoretical practice within the academic world and the practical side of the industry can bring about a change especially in entrepreneurial and innovative companies. The school strives to bring startup’s CEOs cutting edge academic knowledge while making it practical and helpful, hence, we see great importance in this program and we intend to keep on developing it.”

The next Lean Launchpad class is scheduled to take place this summer and the current group of graduates will participate in the prestigious Merage Lean Launchpad event in California.  

Contact: Estee Yaari, Media Relations, Yissum, The Technology Transfer Company of The Hebrew University, 

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