When Israeli-based medical device company Itamar Medical, which produces an FDA-approved device for sleep apnea patients, announced last year it was moving its U.S. headquarters from Boston to Atlanta, the announcement made waves. Boston, traditionally known as a major center of the life sciences industry, is a hub for medical device firms, whereas Atlanta is still emerging in this sector.
So why the move? Though there were a number of business decisions underscoring the decision, COO Shaul Sharoni says the first was pretty simple — he was a fan of the weather.
He explained how the company saw a major issue a few years back when a snowstorm hit the Northeast, delaying shipments out of their warehouses. Following that, Sharoni began looking for more favorable climatic regions.
He settled on Atlanta, moving Itamar’s office to the Southeast in December 2016. The team is now about a dozen strong and intends to grow in areas including sales, marketing, management, HR, and more.
Weather isn’t the only convenience factor. Being on the Eastern time zone allows for the ability of same-day communication with counterparts in the Middle East. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport provides many options for flights and an easy journey for colleagues flying into the city.
He also cited access to local talent. “When looking at Atlanta, we saw how many large companies in Pharma, Medtech, and biosciences sciences in this area, which led us to the conclusion that there must be good talent we could recruit here,” says Sharoni.
This was promising for Nachum Korman, North America Vice President and General Manager of Israeli-based Landa Digital Printing, as well. He opened a U.S. division in Alpharetta this past year.
“Today we’re about 6 employees, but in 2020 we will be a company of about 70. So my questions were: how can I be attractive to employees? How can I find young employees, talented and excited employees that can grow in the industry and the business? Finally I came to Atlanta,” says Korman.
Of course, the economic climate here had to be favorable as well. And indeed it is: for many of the technology sectors Israel has staked a claim in — cybersecurity, Fintech, health tech — Atlanta is also leading the way.
Conexx, the non-profit organization whose mission is to engender positive business relationships between Israeli and Southeastern companies and help facilitate the process for Israeli companies to come here, is headquartered in Atlanta. They help Israeli companies seeking a foothold in the Southeast with the necessary paperwork and support for forming relationships with the robust technology community here.
Since it began over 20 years ago, Conexx has been involved in transactions with Israeli companies in the Southeast generating over a billion dollars. They have helped pave the way for the now-over-50 Israeli companies in Georgia.
The Metro Atlanta Chamber also launched an Atlanta Tech-Gateway Initiative, which helps international companies navigate the Atlanta business market.
It’s not just major corporations, however. The #1 startup nation in the world — yes, a country the size of New Jersey holds that claim — is also creating its own community of transplanted entrepreneurs who seek the southern hospitality of Atlanta and the Southeast.
These entrepreneurs seek not only the same benefits — accessibility, local talent, established tech sectors— as larger companies, but also the unique ties the Atlanta startup ecosystem has with Israel.
For example, Atlanta is home to the only southeastern office of Techstars, the global accelerator program. Techstars has strong ties to Israel, with a counterpart program in Tel Aviv, and actively recruits startups from the country.
Michael Cohn, a serial entrepreneur and Managing Director of the Techstars Atlanta program, believes Atlanta offers a unique opportunity for Israeli entrepreneurs.
“Over the last couple of years, there has been a marked increase in access to seed stage capital in our city,” says Cohn. “Investors are doing local deals, but are increasingly looking for tech investment opportunities elsewhere. With a reputation for driving successful outcomes, exceptional Israeli startups that relocate to or open US-based operations in Atlanta will have the attention of the investment community.”
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola also has strong ties to Israel — its Bridge startup program was based in Tel Aviv. The sister program, the Atlanta-based BridgeCommunity Commercialization program, is currently recruiting startups for its second class.
Both large companies and new founders agree that southern hospitality makes the move across the globe a bit easier.
“I met hundreds of investors and groups (when deciding where to move the office),” says Sharoni. “The people here in all are unbelievably nice and welcoming and warm. And that’s something that I really appreciate, because it’s very similar to the culture — the openness and warmness — of Israel.”
All these signs point to the prediction that the community will only continue to grow.
“For Israeli startups, there is also a community right here in Atlanta, making it a softer landing for entrepreneurs with families,” says Cohn. “We may not have the numbers of New York or San Francisco, but it’s important for Israelis to know that there is a growing Israeli community in the Southeast, and it’s epicenter is Atlanta.”
Featured and inline image via Conexx.