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This article was published on November 27, 2013

Navigating your way through Israeli conference season

Navigating your way through Israeli conference season
Shira Abel
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Shira Abel

Shira has been doing marketing for tech companies large and small for more years than she cares to admit. She is also the CEO of Hunter & Shira has been doing marketing for tech companies large and small for more years than she cares to admit. She is also the CEO of Hunter & Bard, a full-service marketing agency that works with startups, small companies, and intrapraneurs. Recognizing the potential conflict, she will not write about any active clients. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

In the middle of October, Israel had conference chaos. Multiple conferences all at the same time (same time, day and with different locations) making one interested in going to these conferences left wondering which one will get them the best bang for their time.

At the center of these conferences is DLD Tel Aviv, a massive multi-day conference that’s mainly all about networking. Yossi Vardi invites some of the and brightest from around the world and anyone who is looking to work with Israelis, consider it a must-go event. It’s also Europe’s excuse to get out of the cold weather for a week or two before the holiday season starts.

Conference season in Israel this year included: CES Unveiled, mHealth, GeekTime (formerly Start TWS), Brainhack, & DLD – DLD included side events from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and a Lithuanian Startup Event.

So how was it? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

Not all conferences are equal

Smaller conferences are easier to navigate and easier to connect with the people on the stage, but the content could be weak.

Large conferences are so packed you’re lucky to find your friends, forget about meeting a speaker or another VIP you want to connect to. The larger conferences also have multiple private after parties, which unless you’re a VIP – you’ll never even hear about. The smaller conferences tend to be more inclusive in nature. At the end of the day, it all depends on what you’re looking for.

Conference goals

There’s no point in going to a conference if you don’t have a goal in mind (and you’re not on a stage or in a hackathon). Some goals to consider:

  1. Experience the conference and see what it’s like in order to speak at the conference in the future
  2. Networking – loose connections is how serendipity happens
  3. Meeting someone specific – potential investors, media, potential partners, potential employees
  4. See what is going on in the industry and what the new trends are
  5. Learn something new (Google X had a workshop on innovation at DLD – it was great)

Every conference has a different strength – and a different reason to go. So, here’s my review of the Israeli conference season.

mHealth Conference

mHealth was brilliant. Amazing speakers, and mind-blowing companies. Medical industry leaders talking about trends, and the type of companies they want to see developed. If your company is already in the med-tech space, this is a must-go. The networking is strong and the learning is strong as well. Plus, as it’s a smaller, one (large) room conference, which means meeting speakers is easier.

Levi Shapiro is the event organizer. He’s known in Israel for being able to put together content-rich conferences in a short time frame. As he’s also a university professor, the content is always highly informative, relevant, and interesting. Whenever you see him organizing a conference, I recommend going.

Geektime Conference

The change in attitude towards B2B was highlighted at the Geektime conference. There were only two B2C startups, Keepy and Tabtale – both aimed at families. And while Keepy might be considered Israeli, the founder and team live in New York (giving them in my opinion, a significantly higher chance of actually being successful – well, that and the fact that the founder Offir Gutelzon sold his last company to Getty). But I digress, the whole methodology behind Geektime changed this year.

Yaniv Feldman and Yaron Orenstein only accepted companies that they thought would be able to create a $100 million dollar business. The good thing about this is that there’s an actual business model to each company on stage, the bad thing about it is that the audience didn’t really connect to the companies pitching, but the investors did (and that’s all that really matters).

Geektime is great if you’re looking to launch (and pitch) in a friendly environment, if you want to see the best and brightest in Tel Aviv, or if you want to meet the core of the Israeli tech scene. There are a few panels in the conference, but the pitches are the main show.

CES Unveiled

A complete and utter waste of my time. I think of CES as being all about launching new interesting hardware. This seemed like a way to milk more money from sponsors. There was a lecture room, which I didn’t stay to listen to, and a product room – with one new product in it – Green IQ. I stayed a whopping 45 minutes to say hello to friends and enjoy the breakfast. In short – pass.

BrainTech Israel

Brain science. This was the first year of the BrainTech Israel conference, which included pitches, demos and lectures. If you’re interested in brain science and brain-tech, then this would be the one for you to go to next year. Plus this conference has the largest award of any conference I’ve been to lately. The BrainGate team received the $1 million Moshe Mirilashvili Memorial Fund B.R.A.I.N. Prize, awarded at the conference by President Shimon Peres. It’s a fascinating subject with a seriously impressive team behind it. Worth it if you’re in this industry – even if you’re not based in Israel.


Networking. Networking. Networking. Yossi Vardi and friends bring the most impressive corporate innovators worldwide to DLD Tel Aviv and show them how lovely Tel Aviv is. There are panels, discussions and teaching rooms, but I’ve been going for several years now and find always myself in the hallways of the conference meeting brilliant people the whole time. Best networking of the year, period.

There are multiple side learning events at DLD that are free for anyone who signs up to attend. It’s DLD’s way to include as many people as possible, as it’s one of the costlier events in Tel Aviv.

Go if you can, period. This is a brilliant conference for networking – and that’s a powerful thing.

Image credit: Dmitry Pirstrov / Shutterstock

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