Drive TLV, an innovation hub connecting high-tech Israeli startups working on manufacturing and smart-mobility technologies with major investors around the world, is expanding its development efforts to include startup companies in the United States and Europe.
Drive has helped raise $1 billion for more than 40 startups focused on automotive technology since 2017. It is now extending its program offerings to North American and European startups. It also will be expanding its reach to companies in the fields of logistics, insurance and energy.
Major Drive partners today include Honda, Volvo Cars, Volvo Group, DENSO, NEC Corp., Novelis, Cox Automotive, Hertz, Ituran, Next Gear Ventures and Israel’s Mayer Cars and Trucks Group.
Drive’s FastLane program offers startup companies a combination of mentoring and training. FastLane is an intense five-month series of bi-weekly sessions with teams of financial and technology experts. It features ongoing face-to-face meetings with Drive’s corporate and private-equity partners and an international CEO forum with key industry leaders.
The FastLane program provides a framework for startups to enter new markets, build value propositions, fully commercialize their technology and develop lasting relationships with prospective customers looking for game-changing solutions.
FastLane alumni include UVeye, a provider of quality-control inspection systems for assembly lines. Others include Foretellix, Arbe Robotics and Tactile Mobility—companies involved in artificial intelligence, autonomous-vehicle technology and sensors. Two others, Addionic and Apollo Power, focus on the development of sustainability and electrification technologies.
“We help startups set up plans for long-term success,” said Drive co-founder Tal Cohen. “Unless you have a partner like Drive, the pathway to success will be much more difficult.”
“People don’t understand how much goes into onboarding and commercializing new technology. Corporate investors are the elephants and startups are the mice,” Cohen said, comparing the two as different animals with two different heartbeats who need to understand how to work together.
“We help startups and their corporate partners set expectations for each step along the way,” he said. “If both sides get to know each other, the process will work. But it takes time. It takes an emotional rhythm. If you have guidance on how to behave at every stage, the likelihood of success is much higher.”
Drive has more than 15 experts in commercialization and related fields along with operational teams that serve as mentors and facilitators. Its seventh FastLane program finishes up in early 2022 and an eighth is scheduled for later in the year.
“A key question for most startups is how to employ a particular technology in the right way,” Cohen said. “How do you create the right business model? How do you engage with the right corporate partner?” The commercialization of technology represents uncharted territory for many young companies with an innovative product, but who lack a developed business model. FastLane according to Cohen, helps them map one out.
“This is very much a group effort,” he said. “Startups understand we are shortening the path to commercialization. Their corporate partners see the process taking place more quickly and effectively. We see wins and successes for everyone involved.”
UVeye, which went through the FastLane program in 2018, began in the security field as a company producing high-tech scanning systems that look for bombs and contraband in vehicle underbodies.
UVeye has pivoted to the auto industry with three highly successful products:
UVeye entered the U.S. market in 2019 and is making its Atlas, Helios and Artemis inspection systems available to automakers and other manufacturers, as well as to dealership service departments, tire stores, repair shops, fleet operations and used-car auction houses.
“UVeye is a company with tremendous technology and the capability to deploy it successfully around the world,” Cohen said. “The company has the desire and ability to succeed. On paper, we should be saying ‘Wow, that’s it. Here’s a startup that can be an immediate success.”
But realistically it takes about two years of ups and downs for startups to be ultimately successful. “You have to go through a process of developing market knowledge, capability, functionality and the commercialization of your technology. UVeye has gone through that process and is emerging as a highly successful company.”
“Drive not only understands the needs of its corporate partners, but Drive also understands its FastLane startups as well,” UVeye’s CEO Amir Hever said. “They build a bridge that helps prepare each startup for the commercialization process, giving direction and advice on how to present their technologies to companies that are looking for breakthrough solutions.”
Hever added that, “Drive is not the typical accelerator. They give you mentoring, but also a good business perspective on how to work with corporate partners. For instance, they helped us in building relationships with Volvo, not only as a customer but as an investor.”
Drive is adept at linking startups with global companies such as Honda and Volvo, according to UVeye Chief Marketing Officer Yaron Saghiv. “They make things fit on both sides of the equation,” Sagjiv said. “They bridge cultural gaps. They know both worlds.”
In May of 2021, Drive opened POWER by Drive, a proving ground and development center in the Tel Aviv area to further the commercialization process for FastLane participants and other startups. POWER by Drive includes a 20,000 ft2 (1,858 m2) provIing ground and a headquarters facility with meeting rooms, offices and laboratories for use by high tech startups and interested corporate partners.
Eyal Rabin, POWER’s manager, said that the test track can be set up with traffic lights, roundabouts, street signs and other features to simulate a wide variety of traffic situations. The secure geo-fenced facility guarantees user privacy and protects the confidential nature of technology under development. Engineers from the Mayer Cars and Trucks Group will support test and development programs taking place at the POWER center.
“POWER by Drive is a logical next step in the commercialization process that includes our FastLane program,” Cohen said. To further accelerate the commercialization of new technologies at POWER some of Drive’s corporate partners plan to establish offices at the new development center as well. With POWER in their backyard, travel also will not be an issue for Israeli technology firms wanting to test, validate and quickly demonstrate their innovations for prospective partners.
“Startups with exceptional manufacturing and mobility technologies often need help to commercialize their products,” Cohen said. “That’s where Drive TLV and its partners can assist with guidance and collaboration consulting.” He said that POWER is designed to bring corporations and technology startups even closer together in order to build the trust and understanding vital to any long-term business relationship. “POWER helps ‘de-risk’ the initial stages of collaboration and significantly increases the likelihood of success,” he said. “Both sides, the startups and their corporate mobility partners, can benefit from the process.
“Startups want to showcase their technology, while major corporations want the process to go quickly and smoothly. POWER provides the platform to help startups understand the ecosystem in which they will be working, while helping their new corporate partners learn how to best utilize the mobility innovations under development."
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