Budding Tech Stars Head To Tel Aviv

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Pat Phelan, CEO and founder of Ireland’s Trustev, which specializes in real-time, online identity verification using unique social fingerprinting technology, has racked up his share of awards in the past year.

In July Trustev, which aims to help online retailers sell globally by making certain they are dealing with real human beings by using a multi-layered approach to fraud detection, was named Microsoft Ireland’s Start-Up Partner of the Year. In June the company won the top Tech All Stars Award, an EU-wide search to find Europe’s best young start-up company. Phelan was personally congratulated by European Commission President Neelie Kroes. The Tech All Stars contest is organized by the European Commission in partnership with Liberty Global Ventures and Amazon Web Services as part of Startup Europe, an EU program to encourage tech start-ups to start and stay in Europe.

Phelan, one of the Emerald Isle’s best-known serial entrepreneurs, says he isn’t planning on moving Trustev out of Ireland anytime soon. But he believes that deepening connections with Israeli entrepreneurs can benefit both ecosystems and be a useful well of talent for his company.

That is why Phelan also applied for — and won — a spot in Start Tel Aviv, a competition that encouraged entrepreneurs from different countries to compete for the opportunity to learn from the start-up ecosystem in Israel during the DLD Tel Aviv festival, October 14th to 17th. Trustev was the winner; Irish start-ups Gotcha Ninjas, FoneSense and Scurri were finalists. All four plus two others — Datahug and Vidyyad — are traveling to Tel Aviv to attend the festival. (See the table for more information on the Irish start-ups.)

They are among the estimated 1,000 foreign visitors and 1,000 local entrepreneurs expected at the festival this year, which is organized by DLD founder Steffi Czerny and Oscar4B’s Ruthi Koren and Orly Shani; and co-chaired by German Publisher Hubert Burda, a digital media leader, and Yossi Vardi, a highly-regarded, high-profile angel investor and promoter of Israel’s tech sector.

Companies from Ireland were invited to compete in the Start Tel Aviv international start-up competition alongside those from the UK, Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, India, China, Korea, Mexico and Colombia. The prize was a paid trip for 13 start-up founders from around the world, to participate — along with Israeli entrepreneurs — in lectures, workshops and meetings with leading Israeli investors, developers, designers, artists and scientists.

“Security technology practically originated in Israel so I am going there to look for data scientists,” says Trustev’s Phelan. “I’ve got meetings lined up and am hoping to do some hires.”

The local leg of the competition in Ireland was organized by the Ireland Israel Business Network, a not-for-profit bilateral business organization launched last year. “Through running the start-up competition our organization was contacted directly by Yossi Vardi who suggested we get a larger delegation together to go to DLD Tel Aviv festival,” says Clyde Hutchinson, who heads up the Ireland Israel Business Network. Hutchinson liked the idea. “There are lots of start-up events in Dublin and Israel is mentioned at every one of them,” he says. “We need to learn from them, we should collaborate with them, we should try to get some of that start-up spirit,” so, he says, “we decided to bring a group of companies over there and witness the ecosystem first hand.”

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government’s innovation and trade development agency, which works with Ireland-based companies to make them more innovative, more competitive and more effective when they enter into new global markets, is partnering with the Ireland Israel Business Network to bring the group of Irish start-ups to Tel Aviv. An Irish Innovation Showcase is scheduled at the Festival and a networking event planned with the Irish Ambassador to Israel.

The Tel Aviv trip is just one of a number of activities taking place to strengthen ties with the start-up nation. More than 30 Israeli start-ups are expected to come to Ireland for Web Summit, a global Internet conference in Dublin October 30th-31st. They will be given the red carpet treatment by Irish government officials and meetings will be set up to encourage contact with local start-ups.

“There is a lot of opportunity for collaboration,” says David Scanlon, Development Adviser, Overseas Entrepreneurship, at Enterprise Ireland, who is scheduled to be in Israel for the DLD Tel Aviv festival. “Israel has remarkable capacity for innovation built over many decades — we can marry that innovation with what is happening in Ireland — there is a lot of stuff going on here in gaming, payments and security as well as around medical devices and life sciences. There is an opportunity for Israeli companies to take advantage of the sales capability and the expertise that we have built up here in Ireland. There are opportunities for joint ventures and shared collaboration around R&D. The Jewish Diaspora is large but there is also something like 60 million direct Irish descendants living around the world. There are huge markets and huge networks we could capitalize on together.”

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