Australian “Landing Pads” are new centers around the world where Australian entrepreneurs and investors can use office space and services to establish connections
It’s a typical day at the Australian Landing Pad in Tel Aviv. Within the startup value hub SOSA, the pad itself, physically no more than a small office, reaches much further than this renovated workspace in South Tel Aviv. It’s here that I meet and witness Landing Pad Manager Omri Wislizki at work making referrals, giving critical guidance on the business environment and developing key contacts on behalf of the resident startup he is responsible for.
As Landing Pad manager, Wislizki functions both as an ambassador and super connector within both the Israeli and Australian startup ecosystem. Since the program’s inception, he has met international delegations from across all industries, world leaders, and corporate executives all wanting to see firsthand the unique set of circumstances that makes up the Israeli tech scene.
Having last worked as a technology scout for LG, he comes straight from the industry, as do all of the other managers in the five other Landing Pad locations worldwide. To some extent, he sees these credentials as a way to bridge the disconnect that has long existed between the startup world and government.
At its heart, the Landing Pad in Tel Aviv serves to provide participants with high-level business development opportunities ranging from mentoring and introductions to key figures, investors, research and development companies, service providers, as well as access to capital grant opportunities. Particularly valuable to Australians has been the chance to learn how to market themselves as startups and learn more from industry veterans, skills and exposure that Wislizki feels isn’t always present in Australia given the newly emerging status of its startup sector.
He tells Geektime that, “The Australian entrepreneurs love the Israeli ecosystem and what they see the most value in is to speak to someone who has been through the lifecycle of founding a startup. It really helps them think about their business from a broader, international perspective,” or what he calls “going global from day one”
Indeed it is the mutual admiration of these aspirations for worldwide expansion that has lead to the positive reception by Israeli mentors and participant startups alike. The Israelis see Australian startups as keen and quick learners, while the Australians have remarked positively on the characteristic openness, supportiveness and directness of the Israeli ecosystem. Wislizki describes how both the “inspirational” and “educational” components distinctly shape the program. “You have founders that tell of the narrative of successes and failures of their journey and then from a more practical aspect, industry professionals provide advice as to the specific technicalities behind certain processes, for instance legal and M&A.” He notes this effect is multiplied as startups gain access to hundreds of seasoned entrepreneurs and those in associated industries throughout the duration of the program.
However, the Tel Aviv program has not always been without its criticisms. The main one is that the Israeli market is too small to scale in, given that Australian startups also come from a small market in comparison to the rest of the world. Its bureaucratic ties to Austrade, however much autonomy is given to the individual programs, also cannot be completely disregarded.
That said, Tel Aviv is not short of multinational innovation centers, startup experts and effectively deployed venture capital, access to which all contribute to the Landing Pad’s central mission of building an Australian startup ecosystem. Wislizki also points out that the shared trait of small-market size means there is much common ground to be advanced between the two nations on the front of entering foreign markets.
Dan Krasnostein, who is on the Landing Pad advisory board and played a critical role in the establishment of the Landing Pad, is of a similar view. He sees Australia as a promising market for Israeli startups well placed to fill the gaps in the market size, particularly with regards to small enterprise business.
For example, the recent NSW Fintech and Cyber Security Delegation in June, were able to initiate partnerships with the local venture capital and design partners, sometimes in less than 10 days. Current resident startup MyInterview is also leveraging a sales platform in Israel as a result of the benefits offered to it under the Landing Pad.
What’s more, the fact that Austrade is based back in Australia means that startups can receive a follow up service from the agency once graduating from the international program. As graduates, these startups also enrich the local ecosystem by distributing tools and knowledge they received after returning home. As Dan says, the program should be measured on its performance, and early evidence suggests it’s on the right track.
Reciprocally, the growing awareness of the Australian program has also piqued Israeli interest in the Australian market, prompting them to look into how they can tap into the market and share more directly, particularly in the sphere of corporate innovation. Currently, major Israeli startups like Fiverr and Check Point also have a presence in Australia.
In an increasingly globalized world, both Australia and Israel realize that for their industries to combat their relative isolation, going global — particularly in innovation and technology — is crucial to their long-term business outlook