Pears Challenge 2017 seeks to bring startup nation to the developing world

Israel is one of the world’s innovation giants. However, at present, most Israeli technologies benefit just 15% of the world’s population in the developed world.

By Michael Zeff,  JPOST

Dr. Aliza. Belman Inbal at the Pears Program for Global Innovation

Israeli innovators to develop ventures that will benefit the developing world while turning a profit in India’s affordable healthcare market.

The project is known as the Pears Program for Global Innovation at Tel Aviv University, and its 2017 installment of the Pears Challenge was just launched this week.


“The Pears Challenge is Israel’s only venture-builder that targets the needs of people in developing countries. The program aims to create a new generation of successful Israeli companies with technologies that can transform the lives of poor people worldwide,” Dr. Aliza Inbal, director of the challenge told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

This year’s challenge is focused on development of affordable healthcare ventures for lower income communities in India. The program is managed in partnership with MindUp, a digital health tech incubator based in Haifa.

In India, the Pears challenge has recruited 40 partners, including national hospital chains and India’s largest startup incubator, T-Hub.

“The challenge is for individual applicants, and we are looking for people that can provide value for health startups, such as actual healthcare practitioners, engineers, and people with business and ‘meditech’ backgrounds,” Dr. Inbal explained. “First we recruit the most outstanding and appropriate people, then they go through a five-month ideational program, in which they learn about the sector, business models, the local markets and cultural things they need to know.”

The ideational phase was designed to enable those chosen as program fellows to join together and develop ventures most appropriate to their given focus. Once the best ventures have been selected, fellows receive ongoing support for their innovations, beginning with prototyping, piloting, connecting with seed financing, all the way through to successful commercialization and scaling up of their project.

“If we end up with 10 venture groups and 10 good ideas, then we will take all 10 to India,” Dr. Inbal said.

Ventures from the two previous Pears challenges addressed issues such as small-holder farming in Africa and solutions for handicapped individuals.

Those projects got funding from the Techstars start-up accelerator, the Israel Innovation Authority and so-called ‘angel investors,’ and have raised more than $1 million in seed financing alone.

Several companies that emerged from that challenge are already posting profits. One that was founded only one year ago recently signed a contract with the United States Agency for International Development.

“The Indian innovation ecosystem is hungry to work with Israeli start-ups. They are interested in Israeli technologies for low and lower middle income Indians, and their healthcare market represents a tremendous opportunity for Israeli start-ups. It’s projected to grow to $280b. by 2020,” said Dr. Inbal.

Israel is one of the world’s innovation giants. However, at present, most Israeli technologies benefit just 15% of the world’s population in the developed world. The program seeks to address the needs of the remaining 85% of world population, thereby – as worded by the Pears program – “making the start-up nation into a contributing nation.”

“I think that we are missing an opportunity for Israel to have a moral impact, and show that Israel is a force of good in the world,” Dr. Inbal said.

“The best way to do it is not through charity or advocacy, but through using our ingenuity to transform the lives of people around the world for the best.”

November 23, 2016 | 8 Comments »

Leave a Reply

8 Comments / 8 Comments

  1. This year’s challenge is focused on development of affordable healthcare ventures for lower income communities in India.

    Isnt that what Trump needs to replace obamacare? Maybe she should contact Jared?

  2. @ Sebastien Zorn:
    Correction: Castle Clinton is in the Battery not the Bowery.

    “But the godafader of de powerful Johnson family gives 26 favors.”

    “That’s flavors, Guido, not favors, flavors!”
    (reposting) LP (1972) “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Godfather – But don’t ask.”

  3. @ Ted Belman:
    Reminds me of the Tom Lehrer line — which I have quoted before – mea culpa — “It’s a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he’d been dead five years.”

    Her bio reminds me a bit of Caroline Glick’s, about whom the same could be said.

    I am also reminded of a joke I came up with before Hillary decided to run and now will tragically not have as much opportunity to use, Chelsea Clinton being such a Nepotistic — is that a word? — contrast.

    I was on my way to play a concert at a school at one of the far corners of the earth. I had gotten on to the 6 train and had to take it all the way to the last stop in the Bronx. Parkchester. When I got out, I found myself in a vest-pocket park called “Hugh Grant Circle.” Really old. Obviously, not named after the contemporary British actor. So, I Googled it.

    It was named after a late nineteenth, early twentieth century, Tammany Hall politician known only for being New Yorkers youngest mayor and for, ironically, his opposition to the creation of public parks. (That’s one of Teddy Roosevelt’s achievements, by the way, whom Trump admires.) Hugh J. Grant.

    Well, I got to thinking. There’s a Chelsea Clinton (Now it’s Chelsea-Clinton-Ryan but it was originally Chelsea-Clinton) Health Center in the mid 40s on ninth avenue, right where the neighborhoods of Chelsea and Clinton come together (incidentally, Duane Reade was named after the two streets comprising the intersection where the original store was). And, there’s Castle Clinton, in the Bowery, which was a fort that marked the earliest beginnings of New York City, originally, New Amsterdam, which later became a famous concert amphitheater in the 19th C. where the Jenny Lind, “the Swedish Nightingale” famously sang around 1850.)

    So, wouldn’t it be cute, if, as a good-natured gag, celebrities and public figures were to hold press conferences in front of places named after long dead individuals who happened to have the same full name but to whom they had not the slightest connection!

  4. @ Bear Klein:
    @ Sebastien Zorn:
    If you are wondering how she got to be the head of this, here’s a short resume.
    Aliza made aliya while in University.
    She joined the army for a three year stint after getting her BA.
    She got her Masters in International relations form Cambridge.
    She then became a diplomat in Israel’s Foreign Ministry where she stayed for 12 years. Three were spent in the Israel embassy in Zaire and three in the embassy in Brussels.
    While in Brussels she earned a Masters of Comm from Boston U.
    She left the Ministry to get a PhD in International Development at Georgetown U.
    While there she headed a department at the World bank for about 9 months.
    On returning to Israel she sold this idea to the Pears Foundation and they backed her through Tel Aviv University. I think she has been doing this for over 6 years.

  5. @ Ted Belman:
    Mazeltov. Impressive. I found an Israel21c article about the Pears Challenge:

    What sites like Israel21c,, and — which lists even more sites — do in publicizing all the ways that Israel is a “light unto the nations” is the best sort of hasbara.

    I’ve never seen them on billboards, or in subway ads, or in commercials. I’ve only seen “Birthright Israel,” and I’ve read about Pamela Geller’s attempts to publicize Palestinian atrocities against Jews that way only to have them struck down by judges.

    This can’t be struck down. And, they make the blood-libels that the Pro-pal forces promote seem all the more unlikely to the un-biased.

    The Chinese government promotes China’s contributions here despite their many real crimes, therefore people really don’t want to hear about the real human rights abuses, and so they have a good image of China.

    The problem with things limited to web sites are that — except for annoying website and youtube popups — they mainly preach to the converted because you have to be looking for it to find it, except when people share with their friends which is random. Billboards, bus and subway ads, radio and tv commercials are in your face. And people will look forward to them because they make you feel good and people want to talk about Israel so if they only have blood libels to discuss, that’s what they will talk about.

    Now there needs to be a more serious concerted effort to bring the startup nation to the developed world, as well, in the realm of the information war.