Celebrating 25 years promoting trade and investment between the US and Israel
Barry Bogage is the director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC), a nonprofit membership organization that promotes trade and investment between Maryland and businesses and research institutions in Israel. The organization is a public–private partnership of the Maryland Department of Commerce, Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Trade, and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. On levels local and international, the MIDC works with companies based both in Israel and the US, providing funding, strategic business development, and networking opportunities during entries into and exports from the US market. Barry has been with the MIDC since its creation in 1992.
This month, the MIDC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For information about the celebration event this Sunday, May 7th, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, click here or visit marylandisrael.org.
EDWIN WARFIELD: What kinds of international business programs and projects does the MIDC run?
BARRY BOGAGE:We’ve done a number of programs over the years. The BIRD Foundation is a fantastic program; it stands for Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation. It was set up about 40 years ago by the US Department of Commerce and the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade. It funds joint research between American and Israeli companies—not just Maryland, but American and Israeli companies—to the tune of up to a million dollars. And, even better, the grants do not have to be repaid if the project fails in the market. It’s a great opportunity for American companies to get a nice chunk of money and partner with institutionally some startup Israeli high-tech company that’s got some unique technology that the American company wants to incorporate into one of their existing technologies. They work together for a couple of years, and they create something new out of it. The BIRD Foundation uses organizations like ours around the country to help them put deals together. We specifically work to match Maryland and Israeli companies to do joint research and to get the BIRD Foundation grants, so that’s been a great program.
We usually have one or two projects a year that get funded. This year, we had two projects funded. We had three submissions—one did not get accepted. We had two projects funded, which is really nice. We also get a finder’s fee out of it, which is helpful for us.
Q. What about the Maryland/Israel Trendlines Fund?
A. We are constantly looking at new ways to create opportunities between Maryland and Israeli companies. For instance, many years ago we set up this program called MarketReach America, which is an early version of an accelerator where we brought over delegations of Israeli companies for a week-long strategic planning process of mentoring and so forth. Through that process, which was very helpful to the companies—but bottom line is they still need investment; they still need dollars to get started. We mulled over for years, as this venture capital industry is really booming in Israel: What could we do to have investment capital for these startup companies?
We partnered with an Israeli firm called Trendlines, the Trendlines Group—which, at the time, had been our representatives on the ground in Israel; it was a consulting firm. Trendlines changed and became an investment company themselves, and stopped doing consulting and raised a venture fund. We had become friends over the years and talked about how we could work together to partner on creating a venture fund to invest in Israeli companies that we could try to attract to Maryland.
We did not set it up as a requirement for them to come into Maryland, because if it’s going to be a true venture fund, then they’ve got to go where it makes the most sense for them. We just figured we’ll set up the fund, and we’ll help them, we’ll work with them, we’ll establish the relationship, and we’ll have a shot at them if and when they need to set up offices in the United States.
We raised about $4.25 million from 40 angel investors in the Baltimore–Washington region and assigned Trendlines to be the administrator and managing partner of the fund, which basically meant that they sourced the deals and did the due diligence. They were already going to invest in these deals, and they presented what’s called a sidecar fund: they presented these opportunities to us to see if our fund wanted to invest. We had an investment committee ourselves from the 40 investors. And so we invested in 12 companies with the $4 million.
Q. What do hope the future holds for the MIDC?
A. At this point, we’re very encouraged. It’s been about five to seven years at this point that we’ve had the fund. We’ve had two or three companies have exits, we’ve had two or three companies go out of business, and we’ve got another half a dozen or so that are still chugging along, working on the technology, raising money. Most of the 12 companies are in medical devices, so they have clinical trials to do—they’re in some fashion working through the clinical trial process and regulatory approvals. Three exits out of 12 is already a nice track record. We’re really hoping for another couple more, and we’ll be looking to raise a second fund at that point.
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