By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News

Chicago is currently playing host to Tel Aviv University entrepreneurs, each with ideas for a start-up company and a desire to connect with high tech industry leaders and venture capitalists for investment opportunities and growth.

The two-week IDEAS Immersion Program is designed, through classes, workshops and training, to engage and encourage a new generation of innovators from Israel, said David Dorfmanfounder of the three-year-old IDEAS Immersion and vice president of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University Western Region.  

The program is part of Tel Aviv University’s growing ecosystem of programming and support for its entrepreneurs. The university is ranked eighth globally for graduates raising U.S. venture capital—more than $1 billion in five years. It is a world leader in research and is a tech hotbed.

A public showcase, where the startups will make their final presentations, will be held on Sept. 15.

“IDEAS Immersion is a unique experience that will help prepare these outstanding entrepreneurs to become the future leaders of the digital technology world,” Dorfman said. “Almost seven out of ten Israeli entrepreneurs look at North America as their natural market because of the very large consumer base here. We created this program as a way to give them a leg up.”

The first-time Chicago program is partnering with 1871, a five-year-old organization created to support Chicago’s digital startup community. In that time, it has become the hub for the city’s thriving technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

“The IDEAS Immersion program is part of a project we’ve been pursuing for some time which is to build a recurring pipeline of projects,” said Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871 and general managing partner for the Chicago High Tech Investment Partners and G2T3V.

“They are mentored and introduced to customers, investors and technology opportunities and partnerships, all of which are designed to connect their economy and innovations,” added Tullman, who taught at Tel Aviv University for several years  in the MBA program.

1871 is the largest incubator for start-up businesses in North America. The organization produces 1,000 events a year with seven major universities and eight early stage venture funds. “Chicago is a double bottom line because you have a lot of sophisticated investors who want to make good investments in tech businesses and also want to invest in Israel and be supportive of Israel. On the West Coast, where IDEAS Immersion started, entrepreneurs don’t find the organization or resources that Chicago offers, he added.

The six companies that were selected to participate are: 

  • PANCHO: A mobile app that connects tourists with emergency services in any location. Represented by Moran Sverdlov and Daniel Yom Tov.
  • Vet My Hood: A mobile platform that connects users to on-demand veterinarian services. Represented by Eyal Zukovsky.
  • TFRESH: An on-the-go toothbrush/breath freshener. Represented by Hila Afriat Lauterbach.
  • PRforALL: An interactive B2B platform that delivers targeted queries from the media to PR firms in real time. Represented by Mor Aviram and Tamar Shlimak.  
  • KINDR: A daycare finding platform for parents. Represented by Aviv Lazar. 
  • Castor: A three-dimensional button that creates gaming characters, merchandise and do-it-yourself items. Represented by Omer Blaier.

“Having meetings with companies that made it and to be mentored by top professionals in our field will definitely help us understand better what should be our best ‘go to market’ strategy, wrote Aviram with PRforALL in an email from Israel. She holds an MA in political science and communications from Tel Aviv University. She and her partner have managed to work with six large PR firms and build a community of hundreds of experts that increase their media presence daily using the platform in just few months’ time. 

“It’s very easy to measure the success of the program based on money raised and revenue generation,” Dorfman said. “We’ve had 20 percent of the startups raise seed funds and we see that as a strong indicator of the value with bring.”

Advance registration is required to attend the Sept. 15 showcase open to the public. To attend the free event, contact Nadine Cohen at or 773-562-5474.

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