Israel’s 8200 military unit, often compared to the American NSA is renowned for being the birthplace of some of the most groundbreaking innovations. Since 1989, alumnus have come together to form the 8200 Alumni Association and promote innovation in a civilian setting with the mission of having a positive impact on Israeli society. We spoke with Eliana Dan, the alumni’s CEO on the importance of the association, success stories, and their diverse, meaningful programs.
"We believe that technology plays an important tool for reducing social gaps. And the world is going exactly in that direction."
The 8200 Alumni Association (S.M.2) is a non-profit organization, established and managed by senior alumni of Israel's central intelligence unit. The association focuses on several fields of activity, including educational and community projects, networking among its members, and support for young entrepreneurs in Israel.
Many of 8200’s alumni have become the country’s most successful leaders in diverse fields. Our vast alumni network enables us to bring our members professional and personal benefits, along with helping the Israeli society in general, and more specifically in promoting innovation through technology that reaches the entire Israeli mosaic.
The only requirement is to be an 8200 alumni. There is no member fee or other requirement. Although the membership is for our alumni only, most of our programs focus on non-8200 participants. The Alumni Association brings years of experience and success in accelerating early-stage startups from all verticals and all sectors of society, as well as designated programs for promoting technological education in the periphery and technological tools for teachers, promoting women leadership, and promoting minorities.
The 8200 For Startups by EISP accelerator has been operating for ten years with a proven track record. The program has so far supported over 120 start-ups, 85% of which are still active, raising over a combined $650M, and employing more than 600 people in Israel and overseas. Four of its start-up alumni have been acquired by other market leaders over the past 5 years.
In addition, 8200 IMPACT is the first acceleration program in Israel for social technology (social impact) startups, that aim to solve significant social problems through technology in a wide spectrum of fields. This non-profit program was launched in order to harness the human capital of 8200 alumni for the benefit of society. Founded in 2016, Hybrid has transformed the Israeli startup industry, creating shared prosperity for Arabs, Jews and the economy as a whole. More than 1,600 aspiring Arab entrepreneurs exposed to the startup world through our community outreach and more than 40$M of commercial deals and capital were raised by Hybrid startups.
Our association serves as a hub for our alumni initiatives. The Woman2Woman community was founded by four inspiring women alumni with the vision of leading change in Israeli society by creating value for young talented women. The community provides women the skills to develop their careers by hosting inspirational events, providing practical tools and a supportive community coupled with our flagship mentoring program.
The same happened with the Hybrid. After completing a few successful cycles of the EISP program, we noticed that only 1% of startups in Israel are led by Arab founders. Excluding the talent of two million of citizens from Israel's primary economic engine is detrimental and unsustainable. Thus we decided, together with our partners, to open the Hybrid accelerator.
The 8200 Impact accelerator, as well as Hybrid, was a natural development for our acceleration programs. There is a rapid growth in the impact investment market worldwide. This is not just a trend, but a shift in the investors and large corporation’s state of mind.
8200 Impact focuses on early stage ventures with a prototype and proof of concept that aim to solve social programs through technological means. We believe that technology plays an important tool for reducing social gaps. And the world is going exactly in that direction.
During the screening process we focus on the team members of each initiative rather than the actual product or its future market segment. We understand that with the right team at hand, the 8200 For Startups by EISP circle of friends, mentors, alumni and board members can assist and provide the right focus and guidance.
At its core, the goal of the 8200 For Startups by EISP is to aid early-stage startups develop and grow their ideas over a 5-months workshop, helping entrepreneurs obtain a more comprehensive and exhaustive view on all aspects of a start-up’s life such as product, marketing, finance, fundraising, legal, pitch, and team building.
Yes, I am an 8200 Unit alumna myself. I served in a relatively technological position, and afterwards went to study law. I hold a master’s degree in law from the University of Haifa. I was formerly a training and development manager at KIDUM, one of Israel's largest psychometric exam preparation companies and was formerly the director of student recruitment and marketing office at the University of Haifa.
I see the 8200 Alumni Association as an impact venture itself. We have a unique alumni community who is both innovative and socially oriented. Gathering our alumni expertise and knowledge, we believe we can positively influence Israeli society from all verticals and all sectors.
Although COVID-19 has major health and economic impacts, one of its rare benefits is the collaboration between SOSA and the 8200 Alumni Association. Before the lockdown, SOSA hosted one of our accelerators. During the lockdown we all worked from home, and after four months we realized we want to find a partnership that will include both a physical space (the most amazing space I must say) and most importantly an entity that will provide our network with access to global resources. SOSA has exactly that secret sauce. Our association works yearly with hundreds of startups and the opportunities for SOSA's corporate clients are out there.