New MIDC Initiative Aims to Help Entrepreneurs From the Start-Up Nation Break Into the U.S. Market

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Trade between Maryland and Israel reached $470 million in 2017, creating 600 jobs throughout the state, thanks in large part to the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC). MIDC is a nonprofit, public-private partnership designed to promote bilateral trade and economic development between Israel and Maryland. It frequently runs programs showcasing Israeli business startups in Maryland in hopes of finding them local funders.

MarketReach America was just launched by MIDC as an entrepreneur program that will bring between 15 and 20 Israeli startups to Maryland for training on how to break into the United States market. The binational program trains business executives from Israeli medical technology startups on best practices that will enable them to operate in America. The Israeli participants will learn how to deal with federal research and regulatory agencies. The program is funded by MIDC, Maryland Department of Commerce, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the Israel Innovation Authority, with a grant from the Abell Foundation.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the new program “a great example of the kind of collaboration and partnership we strive to achieve to boost trade, foster entrepreneurship, and build on our long and proud shared history.”

Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill is also excited about MarketReach. “Maryland and Israel share many strengths, particularly when it comes to developing medical devices and digital health applications, so our state is the ideal partner for this program,” he said.

The participating Israeli companies will spend two weeks in the area meeting with potential customers and distributors and being trained on ways to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for regulatory approval, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research collaboration.

The top three participating companies will be awarded free office space for one year at the University of Maryland BioPark in Baltimore City.

Building on Success

There are currently 30 Israeli companies with offices in Maryland, according to Adam Lipert, MIDC’s business development manager. Their industries range from defense and cybersecurity to life sciences and medical applications.

An additional 30 Israeli companies operate in Virginia as well, he said.

At the Nov. 14 event “Maryland and Israel: Improving the Lives of People with Disabilities,” held at the Bender JCC in Rockville, members of the community had a chance to meet representatives from some of the Maryland-based companies and learn about the positive impact of their products and their relationship with the local business sector.

Acoustic Protocol, an Israeli startup company, opened an office in Kensington, Maryland, last year. The move broadened the market for its app, developed in Israel, to help people with hearing problems decipher the public announcements often blasted at airports and the metro. The app, called Hearoes, captures public announcements and delivers them to subscribers’ cell phones. The muddled sounds are spelled out, enabling users to learn about a gate change at the airport, a problem with their train, a school or business’s morning message, or when their table is ready at a restaurant.

“Sound is imbedded in our DNA. Sound is actually a key to our survival,” said Yanir Gvirtzman, the company’s Maryland representative.

AmplioSpeech was another Israeli company represented at the 90-minute event.

Typically, children spend years attending a weekly group speech therapy session in school. With AmplioSpeech, participants spend five days a week in a one-on-one program and then another 15 minutes a day practicing with a computer program that records their progress, said Frank Baitman, the company’s general manager.

“In our system, we know what is happening when we are not with the student,” he said. “Everything is monitored.”

With offices in Israel, the Netherlands, and Maryland, AmplioSpeech helps people overcome their speech problems using a digitalized therapy system that the company hopes someday will be used in schools throughout the country. Started to help ease stuttering, the company now has four employees in its Baltimore office.

“We feel very comfortable here in Montgomery County and in Maryland in general,” said Gvirtzman. “We definitely believe Maryland is good for business.”

By Suzanne Pollak

 Suzanne Pollak is the senior writer/editor at Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington. She was a reporter at The Courier Post in New Jersey and The Washington Jewish Week, and she now writes for The Montgomery Sentinel.