Leib Bolel, president and CEO of the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance (AITA), provided an update about the relationship between Arizona and Israel technology communities at the June 6 session of Open Beit Midrash.
AITA was established in 2017 to promote economic and technological exchanges between Arizona and Israel. Bolel had been approached by Valley business owners who were interested in learning more about Israeli tech companies but discovered that no local entity existed to help facilitate those connections. An advisory board was created in 2018 to increase business and bilateral trade through B2B initiatives, business attraction and investment. In October 2018, AITA led a delegation of business owners and investors on a trip to Israel.
Since then, AITA has provided resources to more than 100 Israeli companies and eight Israeli companies have opened Arizona offices, which includes Airobotics, Eviation (designer of the world’s first electric airplane) and IMNA solutions, who have opened their U.S. headquarters in Arizona. Seven people currently work for AITA, which includes a director in Israel. There are now 18 Israeli-owned companies in the state.
During his presentation at the EVJCC, Bolel said that with a population of about 8.7 million people, it’s noteworthy that 300K-400K work in the tech sector and that there are currently 8,500 start-ups in Israel, which represents about one start-up for every 1,600 people.
According to a January 2019 article in Forbes magazine, 2018 was a record-breaking year for high-tech startup funding in Israel, with a total of $6.47 billion invested.
To put the size of Israel in context, Bolel noted that Israel fits into Arizona 14 times and has a similar population as Arizona.
There are over 300 multinational companies that have substantial base in Israel and the presence of global companies with R&D (research and development) offices in in Israel is second in the world, according to Bolel.
One example of how Israeli companies can work with Arizona is that Israeli companies need places to pilot their programs and since their surrounding countries aren’t an option, they often come to the United States to do that.
In addition to its B2B work, AITA also facililaties government-to- government connections.
Bolel noted the significance of Arizona lawmakers approving the establishment of an Arizona trade office in Israel, a story which was featured on the front page of the Jewish News on the week of Bolel’s talk. “It’s monumental,” he said, as Arizona has a trade office in only one other country in the world and that’s in Mexico.
Bolel, who the Phoenix Business Journal recently recognized in its 40 Under 40 Class of 2019, moved to Arizona in 2016 from Des Moines, Iowa, where he served as a rabbi for six years. While in Iowa, he cofounded a software company focused on the nonprofit sector.
When he and his wife, Devorah, moved to the Valley, in addition to his company, he worked wtih the Jewish Arizonans on Campus (JAC) team to serve as the directors of jLIVE, JAC’s program for young professionals, and lead MAKOR, a congregation in Scottsdale.
He originally hails from Gateshead, England and spent six years studying in Israel, where he received his undergrad and rabbinic ordination. He was introduced to Arizona when he came to Tempe to compete in an Ironman competition.
What’s next for AITA? They organization is leading a Southern Arizona Business Delegation to Israel later this month and in August, a group of Arizona founders and executives will tour Israel’s tech-ecosystem.
To learn more about the Arizona Israel Technology Alliance, visit arizonaisrael.com.