Israeli 'innovation day' first step in helping Thailand develop its IT start-up ecosystem

Tech June 17, 2014 00:00

By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation

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Business-to-business matching sessions held during Bangkok event, with focus on mobile sector, social networks

The Economic and Trade Office of the Embassy of Israel yesterday held the “IIT-SEA Mobile Forum: The 1st Israeli Innovation Technologies Day” in Bangkok.
The event promoted the Middle Eastern nation’s creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in Thailand and the region, and presented Israeli innovative technologies in the field of mobile, new media and social networks to Thai businesses. 
Barak Sharabi, head of the embassy’s Economic and Trade Mission, said Israel wanted to create inspiration and awareness of innovation creativity in Thailand, with a focus on high technologies in mobile and social networks. 
Adopting Israel innovation technologies (IIT) will enable Thai Industries to reduce production costs and increase yields, with the emphasis on timing before the Asean Economic Community comes fully into effect at the end of next year, he said.
“This event was only one part of a longer strategy of promoting Thailand’s innovation ecosystem. I believe that IIT in collaboration with Thailand’s public, private and academia sectors, will assist in the creation of new technologies and will increase investments in R&D, provide experience and knowledge, higher income, and will increase GDP [gross domestic product] and attract FDI [foreign direct investment] – all within the goals Thailand has set for itself to achieve by 2020, the same Thailand that leads Asean in social-media usage,” said Sharabi.
At yesterday’s event, Israeli IT companies engaged in business-to-business meetings with Thai companies with a view to working together and/or setting up joint ventures. They also held discussions on the upcoming technology trends.
“Thailand is a large user of social media, while five of the top 10 games on Facebook were developed by Israeli companies – so why not cooperate to take advantage Israel’s innovative technology? We believe in Thailand’s investment and expect to see partnerships between Thai and Israeli firms,” said the official.
Israeli companies wishing to pursue Thai ventures include Cellex Networks, Communitake Technologies, IPgallery, MCE-System, Mer Group, CellO (part of Mer Group), OneSmartStar, Siklu Communication, SpeakingPal, Vidmind and WiseSec. 
Israel has the highest percentage of engineers per capita of any country, with around 140 per 10,000 people, followed by the US with 85 engineers per 10,000. 
It is also the centre of foreign R&D in hi-technologies, with 55 per cent for ICT and communication, 16 per cent for life science, 16 per cent for semiconductors, and 5 per cent for clean tech. 
“Necessity is the mother of all invention, and this is exactly how Israel started everything. Last year at an event we organised in Bangkok, Dr Yossi Vardi, the Israeli ‘start-up guru’, said the core of IIT is the Israeli culture,” said Sharabi.
Three-way collaboration
Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to Thailand, Simon Roded, said his country’s leadership had realised that collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors was a requirement for any ecosystem that would enable mankind to create and invent.
“We really hope to see Thai businesses take advantage of Israel’s R&D, and to see further cooperation happen,” he said.
The success rate of Israel’s tech start-ups is 90 per cent. The key to the nation’s hi-tech success is collaboration among the government, private, and academic sectors to co-create the ecosystem of innovative technology, said the ambassador. 
Israel’s start-up ecosystem is the second-largest in the world, behind California’s Silicon Valley.
“We want to expose this to Thai business and hope to see cooperation between Thai and Israeli interests on ICT investment,” said Roded.
Sharabi added that Israel is well-known as a world leader in technological invention and innovation. It has the highest percentage of investment in research and development, leading the world with 4.4 per cent of GDP in R&D expenditures, followed by South Korea with about 4 per cent. 
“Israel has worked on the final draft for discussion with the Thai government on R&D for creating the ecosystem together. We have already approached the Thai Research Fund and now await further development together,” he said
One notable example of highly successful foreign direct investment in an Israeli start-up is Waze, a GPS mobile app developed by Waze Mobile, which was acquired by Google for US$1 billion (Bt32.4 billion) last year.
“Just one application was sold for $1 billion, which shows how R&D can lead business,” he added.
Moreover, now that smart phones are a key part of Thai people’s lives, e-wallets and mobile personal devices are the hottest trend in Thailand, the official said, adding that social media is another strong sector in the Kingdom. 
Mobile apps are, therefore, expected to be a high-potential sector in terms of matching between Thai and Israel businesses. 
However, it should be noted that innovative technology is a fundamental across all business sectors, and mobile technology can therefore be developed and implemented across industries, as well, he said.
Start App Nation
Apart from promoting Israel’s innovative technology through events such as yesterday’s, developers have also established a B2B (business-to-business) platform called Start App Nation, which consists of a selection of unique and innovative applications created by Israeli developers. 
These applications meet the interests and needs of corporations and individuals alike, and are in keeping with the latest trends of the mobile market place – cloud-based solutions, mobile finance solutions, mobile advertising solutions, personal communication and social-networking solutions, mobile workforce and organisational process management, safety and security, gaming, app development, promotion and monetisation, and more. 
The Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, a non-profit organisation supported by the government of Israel and the private sector, facilitates business ties, joint ventures and strategic alliances between overseas and Israeli companies. 
The institute is committed to bringing together mobile-centric corporations around the world with Israeli companies whose mobile applications, services and platforms provide a business advantage in the highly competitive mobile market.