Rachel Marks Feinman, the new Executive Director of the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator, believes bringing innovative Israeli ideas and products to Tampa can help set it apart in the competitive entrepreneurial tech scene.
“My hope is that people understand that this is not a Jewish cause. This is an economic development effort that the [Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation] has really undertaken, and to a certain degree, is underwriting,” she explains. “My hope is that we really can engage the entire business community, and that they understand the value of attracting these companies here.”
Feinman, who succeeds Jack Ross at FIBA’s helm, brings to the organization her expertise in law and business as it prepares its second cohort.
“We’re definitely in a growth mode,” says Feinman, who was raised in the Tampa area.
Ross has taken a job with StemRad, a participant in the FIBA’s first cohort, that has decided to open its U.S. subsidiary in Tampa.
Feiman has been working closely with many investors and businesses in the community as a corporate partner with the Tampa-based Hill Ward Henderson law firm. While President of the Gasparilla International Film Festival, she gained experience in fundraising, cultivating relationships, and overseeing development.
Founded by the Federation in 2016, FIBA has had eight companies complete its program, and is planning a second cohort of eight between February and June. It will be split into two groups of four each, with each spending six to eight weeks of intensive training in Tampa. That’s up from one week, with the goal of enhancing their successes.
“One of our key focuses is on customer generation for these companies,” she says.
The Israeli companies that work with FIBA are established businesses that can benefit from its help acculturating into U.S. society. “These companies all have a product that’s ready for market -- and ideally have customer traction in Israel or another market,” she says.
The goal also is to bring innovative ideas and products that can help solve local problems and build the local economy, distinguishing it from medium-sized cities looking to attract tech companies.
“We’re on our way to doing that,” she says.
Since she assumed her new job earlier his month, Feiman has been meeting with people. “Our plans really for now are to grow organically and work on successes for the companies that will translate into success for our community,” she adds.
There’s a long history of innovation in Israel that a lot of people are unaware of, she says. An example is an Intel chip which our computers rely upon.
Israel’s compulsive military service program, for Jews and those from the ethnic Druze community, puts lots of its workers in desk jobs using computers to solve problems. “A lot of them come out of the Army with ideas for businesses,” she says.