NEW HAVEN, Connecticut—It was billed as an “economic development mission … focused on building and strengthening connections between the Connecticut and members of Israel’s innovation ecosystem.”
And so it was.
But, according to Ned Lamont, the Connecticut Governor’s recent weeklong trip to the Jewish state — in which he and representatives from Connecticut’s public and private sectors met with venture capitalists, incubator, accelerators and thought leaders — turned to be that…and so much more.
“Israel really rolled out the red carpet for Connecticut. I was so impressed,” said Lamont upon his return to Hartford on Thursday, February 24.
The Governor attributed Israel’s especially warm welcome by Israeli leaders at least in part to a special connection between the Israel and Connecticut that makes them kindred spirits.
“President Herzog said to me, ‘You know, you're small and innovative and punching above your weight class just like Israel, so we should do more together,” Lamont said, noting that Connecticut is the first state to send an official mission to Israel in two years.
At a news conference in New Haven held on Monday, Feb. 28, just four days after Lamont’s return home, the Governor discussed some of the highlight’s of his trip.
The delegation from Connecticut included representatives from Raytheon, Hartford HealthCare, Digital Currency Group, the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and Connecticut Innovations.
The governor and the delegation met with partners and founders from Strauss Group, Viola, Vintage and OurCrowd and attended several roundtable discussions with Google. The trip culminated with a VentureClash event led by Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital arm and featured six pitches from companies looking to expand to the United States.
In addition to meeting with business leaders, Governor Lamont met with several Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, and Dr. Salman Zarka, Israel’s chief COVID-19 officer. Interim UConn President Dr. Radenka Maric and representatives from Technion also led a session around their clean energy initiative.
Lamont was especially moved by his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, where on February 22, he participated in a lighting ceremony of the Eternal Flame. Following his tour and a wreath laying ceremony, he gave brief remarks about the importance of remembering our shared history so that atrocities and genocide, like the Holocaust, never happen again. Lamont’s emotional remarks at Yad Vashem can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=ryNfHZz6v_U&t=41s
As for the mission’s goal — to meet with business leaders and learn more about the innovation ecosystem in Israel — the Governor described it as a great success.
“In addition to meeting with more than a dozen businesses in Israel, we also met with leading investors, incubators, accelerators, and thought leaders in the country. From those meetings, we have already established next steps and additional opportunities to work together in the future,” he said at the news conference.
“We were fortunate to bring the best and the brightest Connecticut delegation members with us to meet and network with early-stage companies interested in expanding to the United States,” Matt McCooe, CEO of Connecticut Innovations, said. “We continue to further our efforts to turn Connecticut into a global tech and bioscience destination for companies and talent.”
“We had an incredibly productive trip to Israel,” Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman said. “The governor led delegation meetings with high-growth Israeli companies, venture firms, established companies, and the Israeli government. Our meetings were singularly focused on how to increase collaboration between our two economies and mutually beneficial direct investment. I am optimistic about the future of the Connecticut-Israel economic relationship.”