MIBA's Mark Davidoff, Mike Dergis, and Bernard Bourgeois

Michigan Israel Business Accelerator launches new hub designed to woo Israelis

MIBA recently unveiled "The Elevator" as the first landing zone exclusively for Israeli startups in the U.S

As many Israeli companies consider coastal states like New York or California for their relocation efforts, the Michigan Israel Business Accelerator (MIBA) is reminding Startup Nation that there are other states that might fit their business needs. Notably, The Great Lakes State is opening a new hub in Detroit’s Globe Building called The Elevator to act as a co-working space, mailing address, or networking hub free of charge for Israelis looking to do business in the U.S.
“Israeli companies are often looking to have a landing pad or open up shop in the U.S.,” explained Bernard Bourgeois, Director of Ecosystem Development at the MIBA. “Somehow, tragically, they seem to not have Michigan on the top of their agenda. They go to New York or Silicon Valley. Michigan has huge advantages, including government support, it is much cheaper to live there, it’s closer to Canada, it's in the middle of the country, and leading in manufacturing in the U.S.”

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MIBA Mark Davidoff Mike Dergis Bernard Bourgeois
MIBA Mark Davidoff Mike Dergis Bernard Bourgeois
MIBA's Mark Davidoff, Mike Dergis, and Bernard Bourgeois
(Photo: Elayne Gross)

MIBA is a non-profit economic development organization established in 2017 dedicated to fostering partnerships between Israeli and Michigan businesses. Its primary mission is to bring economic growth and job creation to the state, and it sees Israel as a partner that can help with its needs. Though Michigan might be known mostly as an automotive hub, the state can boast several focus areas such as mobility, defense, advanced manufacturing, food and agtech, sustainability tech, and healthtech.
Since its founding, it has facilitated more than 2,000 connections between Israeli companies with partners from all over the state and helped with 51 collaborations that have brought Israeli technologies and economic activity to Michigan. These collaborations have encompassed a range of initiatives varying from expansions, pilot programs, and accelerator partnerships.
While the automotive industry holds the strongest reputation in the state, manufacturing makes up almost 20% of Michigan’s GDP and the state takes the top spot in military production across the whole of the U.S., securing 37% of the total contracts in the country. It is the second most diverse agricultural state in the country, with agriculture employing more than 1 million people and contributing $104 billion to the state’s economy. MIBA hosts quarterly sector-focused webinars to showcase Israeli innovation in the state, as well as promote them in internal documentation like newsletters to help highlight their growing presence in these industries.
“The strategic partnership between Michigan and Israel has created a dynamic environment that fosters innovation, entrepreneurship, and mutual prosperity,” added Scott Hiipakka, CEO of MIBA. “The launch of The Elevator truly takes this relationship to the next level, and we look forward to the transformative opportunities it will generate for Israeli startups and Michigan businesses alike.”
Currently, there are several companies that are taking advantage of Michigan as a hub for business. Mobileye operates an office in the city of Southfield where it focuses on developing and testing automotive technologies, and OrCam Technologies has an office in Ann Arbor. GuardKnox has grown from its first two business development resources to a fully separate U.S. company and is one of the founding members of The Elevator.
The hope is that the new hub can attract younger Israeli companies choosing where to expand and woo them with access to corporate enablers, experts, and preferred resources such as legal, marketing, and accounting, as well as networking opportunities and conferences.
“At the end of the day we are the matchmakers,” said Bourgeois. “We’re the ones making the connections between companies and governments and we’re famous for our delegations.” The MIBA has hosted several delegations from Israel over the years where the plan is to set up meetings and provide B2B networking opportunities. Partnerships across the state include the FARM Incubator, Industry4.0 Accelerator, and the Health Tech Collaboration.
According to MIBA, many Israeli companies once had to be convinced to visit Michigan but now see benefits that might not be available today in states like California. Whereas Detroit was ranked as the #1 global emerging startup ecosystem in 2022 by Startup Genome, the same year saw California’s population drop for the first time in more than a century. “Their California experience was disappointing,” Bourgeois said of the delegations who recently visited the Golden State. “It's funny to see the evolution. Before the pandemic… we had to beg them to come to Detroit for a day. This time, we started organizing this and Califonia had to beg for the conversation. It went from us asking why people weren't coming to Michigan, to asking why they wouldn't.”
With the launch of The Elevator, MIBA hopes that Israelis will see the appeal of expanding to a state that is more affordable, central, and diverse than its alternatives. “I take great pride in being part of Michigan's vibrant business landscape that serves as a global magnet for innovation,” concluded Matt Elliott, MIBA Board Chair. “With this announcement, MIBA is taking a huge leap toward our vision to position Michigan as the premier partner for Israeli innovation in the U.S.”