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Florida Israel Business Accelerator creates jobs, opportunity through tech startups

Bringing Israeli tech to Tampa
Florida Israel Business Accelerator, FIBA
Posted at 6:46 AM, Apr 26, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa is becoming a hot market for tech startups, and one local nonprofit is eyeing companies in Israel to help solve problems businesses in Florida and beyond may be facing.

The nonprofit Florida Israel Business Accelerator, or FIBA, was launched in 2016 by the Tampa Jewish Community Centers & Federation, and leaders say it's been a success ever since.

"We help Israeli technology companies to grow and scale and have an economic impact here in Florida. So we introduce them to customers, strategic partners, and investors," Pam Miniati, Co-Executive Director at FIBA, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska. "Six years ago, we had to convince companies to come here. You know, they, they would say, Tampa, what's Tampa? You know, they'd heard of Florida, but they'd heard of only Miami. And now, we don't have to convince companies to come to Tampa anymore."

"What's the benefit to bringing them here?" Paluska asked.

"The benefit to bringing them here is we help Florida; we help the economy, they hire people here, they grow jobs here, they move their families here. We have worked with over 78 companies since our beginning six years ago. And those companies have raised a total of $920 million (globally) so far. And, of those, 24 companies have created almost 100 high-skilled technology sector jobs."

ABC Action News sat down with two companies that told Paluska they would only have considered moving to Tampa once they met the leadership team at FIBA.

"I would say naturally, Tampa would not be on our list," Tomer Schatzberger, founder and CEO of UC-CARE, said.

Schatzberger said the medical device company uses advanced technology to help diagnose and treat prostate cancer. The company's main office remains in Israel, while Tampa is now the base for global operations.

"As father to four kids and my wife, we saw Tampa as a great opportunity for our family and the business," Schatzberger said. "FIBA introduced us to some of the leadership here both in terms of investment and clinical and in our area, and we met some urologists, we met radiologists, we met investors, and we saw the potential here. We also saw how easy it is to hop through TPA to every location we want in the U.S., and therefore, you know, it was easy for us to choose, easy for me to choose to set our company here."

Another tech startup now calling Tampa home is Watergen.They create drinking water from the air.

"Our biggest unit, we can do, you know, 1,600 gallons a day," Jake Newman, an engineer with Watergen, said. "The way it works is we suck the air in, we cool it down to its dew point, suck the humidity out of that air, and then we put it a tank and filter it on a pretty consistent basis."

Newman said Florida's humidity makes it an ideal place to create water and, during disasters, can be mobilized to get water to hard-hit communities.

"But we have this big trailer with a generator on it; it has one of our second largest machines. And basically, you can pull it around any emergency site in the event of a hurricane or flooding or tornadoes, whatever it may be," Newman said.

Newman moved his family to Tampa in August to help launch the new venture.

"The long-term plan is to have a beautiful showroom down in Tampa, thanks to the connections we've made, as well as a big warehouse to store our machines," Newman said.

One of the main goals of FIBA is to find problems locally that tech companies in Israel might be able to solve.

"We need businesses to speak to, and then we do it all," Miniati said. "From there, we will source the companies and evaluate the companies. Finding Israeli companies is not our problem, as you said, you know, we have plenty we hear from companies all the time who want to come here. But we really want to be able to offer them something that's going to be valuable, and that's going to work for them. So finding these businesses who have these needs is key for us."

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