Cybersecurity, agritech, digital health and autonomous vehicles have all put Israel on the map as a global innovation center in recent years.
Now, two former Israel Navy commanders are riding the wave of innovation to transform the Jewish state into the port of call for global maritime technology.
Combining decades of maritime passion and hi-tech experience, Hannan Carmeli and Nir Gartzman founded innovation hub theDOCK in early 2017, with the aim of leveraging Israel’s technology assets to benefit the lucrative port, maritime and logistics sectors.
“This is a multi-trillion dollar business when you take into account the entire logistic value chain,” Carmeli told The Jerusalem Post at theDOCK’s Haifa headquarters where, together with marketing head Noa Schuman, they seem to be making a big splash in the maritime-industry ocean.
“We are betting on the fact that the time has arrived for the sector to actually absorb technology to the extent of complete transformation.”
Their decision to found the innovation hub was based on two key observations. Firstly, what they perceived to be sound indicators that the maritime sector was likely to undergo a revolution driven by technology in the coming years, including traditional shipping companies and port organizations nominating executives charged with incorporating innovation into their work.
Secondly, Israel has capabilities in many tech fields to drive maritime distribution, even if they are yet to be applied to the sector.
TheDOCK, after successfully convincing key stakeholders – entrepreneurs, corporate partners and investors – of the merits of their vision, has so far invested in seven start-ups through their four-month “Wave1” accelerator program, incorporating a range of fields including smart containers, autonomous vessels, marina management and customs clearance.
The hub is now open for applications for a further wave of investments, with its second acceleration program due to start next month.
“We are tracking the number of companies in Israel that have the potential of strategic play in the sector,” said Carmeli.
“When we started two years ago, there were maybe seven companies. Now we have 37 and, in early 2019, we hope to exceed 50 companies operating in the field. This is important for us as we need that as deal-flow for our investments.”
In addition to carrying out in-depth screening and due diligence during the accelerator application process, theDOCK works with industry partners to ensure that there is real interest in the solutions being offered by start-ups prior to their acceptance.
Among the 120 start-ups evaluated by theDOCK, Carmeli said only one-third addressed the maritime sector from the outset. He aims to demonstrate that exactly the same technology can provide opportunities in the sector.
“Our goal is to demonstrate the opportunities to the start-ups. The maritime sector is a relatively late bloomer in terms of innovation, but this is the right time and the right place to be,” said Carmeli.
“We are demonstrating to them that, yes, they could take their autonomous technology to the automotive sector – but over there it’s a ‘red ocean,’ and we represent a ‘blue ocean’ of opportunity.”
Carmeli draws inspiration from Israel’s significant contribution to the automotive technology market, despite the country never having been an automotive manufacturing superpower.
“The same could and should happen in the maritime sector,” said Carmeli. “Israel isn’t known as a global maritime hub, but it could become a maritime technology superpower thanks to all the innovation and technology know-how here.”