Tom Glaser

Coca-Cola’s New “Bridge” to Israel

The venerable Atlanta soft drink maker is seeking some good tech ideas in the Start-Up Nation
Sprawled in cherry-red chairs for the Coca-Cola Summer of Love festival (Courtesy Coca-Cola Israel)
Sprawled in cherry-red chairs for the Coca-Cola Summer of Love festival (Courtesy Coca-Cola Israel)

For almost half a century, The Coca-Cola Company has had a stake in the Israeli economy, first establishing a bottling operation in the country in 1967 and being the brand most admired by Israelis for many years. And now their interests are taking an exciting new turn with the establishment of The Bridge, a 6-month program they’ve created to bridge the gap between the Israeli entrepreneurial community and all major global markets including the U.S., Europe, Africa, Eurasia, and the Pacific.

Alan Boehme, The Coca-Cola Company’s Executive Lead for the program and his colleagues visited Israel last October, and saw things happening there that Coca-Cola wasn’t taking advantage of including access to new technologies and help to startups.  Israel was the logical place to begin the company’s new program, but while it was clear to them that another incubator or accelerator was not needed, they saw that Israeli startups do need a “bridge” to global enterprises.

Subsequently, Gabby Czertok, former managing director of CleanIsrael, was hired to head The Bridge in Israel.  The team reached out to Israel’s startup network (angels, VCs, incubators, etc.), and got recommendations on almost 200 startups.  Ultimately, 102 of them were scanned, and 10 were accepted into the program.  On top of that, another 14 more mature Israeli companies were of interest, and although not qualifying for The Bridge program, they have been introduced to the right contacts at Coca-Cola.

The Bridge’s initial program began in Israel on June 15th, and the Israeli CEOs are spending this week in Atlanta–The Coca-Cola Company’s world headquarters–for intensive marketing instruction and connections to “Business Sponsors” in the corporation—mentors having expertise in the area within the startup is operating who has an interest in their product / solution, is willing to help answer their queries, guide as necessary, and potentially organize a pilot with the chance of a license.  Other sessions have been and will be facilitated virtually through Telepresence (the program has the support of Cisco, Microsoft, and IBM who are “tech supporters”).  A Coca-Cola executive team will go to Israel in October, and the startups will return to Atlanta in December for a Demo Day at the conclusion of the pilot where they will be exposed to Coca-Cola corporate leaders, their bottlers, key customers, and VC partners.

The first class of startups is an impressive group.  I met them this past Monday evening at an event organized by conexx – America Israel Business Connector (previously known as American-Israel Chamber of Commerce-Southeast Region). As introduced by Anthony Newstead, The Bridge’s Program Lead, the companies fall within five targeted sectors: Supply Chain, Consumer Retail, Marketing Innovation, Health & Wellness, and Consumer Engagement. They include:

  • Bringg, offering an “innovative solution that enables businesses with a mobile workforce the ability to show their customers where their delivery is in real time and in a smart way”.
  • DOVe, developer of a “revolutionary software IP technology supporting data transmission over any kind of voice network, enabling mobile payment using any mobile with super security connectivity, a quick & easy user experience, and a seamless integration to POS”.
  • Hachiko, that “uses IOT sensors and technology to enable pet parents to communicate in real time with their pets”.
  • Neura, provider of “artificial intelligence for the Internet of Things to allow users’ devices to talk to one another and understand the users patterns, contexts, and activities, thus empowering the devices with the ability to respond and adapt to users’ needs and situations”.
  • PersonalHeroes, an app that “empowers a new way of thanking between people and rewarding those everyday heroes in our lives, not only through online currency but also based on a clear business model of affiliates to enable giving real rewards”.
  • SCREEMO, bringing “the power of the Internet into the real world to enable brands to engage with their audience in a timely and personalized way by using mobile to screen interactive experiences that turn customers into online users”.
  • Ubimo, a “unique mobile marketing and insights platform that helps brands and advertisers engage users at the right moment by leveraging geo-location data, weather data, time of day, local events, demographic data, and 1st party data to present them with relevant dynamic ads”.
  • WeFind, provider of “accurate location, reliable communication and location-based promotional activities based on a patent-pending crowdsourcing of smartphones, wristbands, and any existing WiFi infrastructure”.
  • WeissBeerger, the “first ever beverage consumption behavior analytics dashboard for companies to get real time data to reveal consumption statistics and trends from installed flow meters on their taps in bars and restaurants”.
  • W.S.C. Sports, whose technology enables “automatic tagging of every event that happens in a sports competition with a unique analysis system that powers the creation of personalized and customized videos generated on the fly for fan-facing, editorial and production”.

Looking beyond the consumer market in Israel to innovative technology there is not an entirely new strategy for The Coca-Cola Company. In 2007 and 2008, I helped organize missions to Israel for key Coke executives whose focus was on Water, Energy, Global Supply Chain, and Ingredients. As a result, The Coca-Cola Company became the first foreign, non-hi tech company to join the Office of the Chief Scientist’s Global Enterprise Collaboration Program in which Israeli companies engaged in R&D with major corporations receive grant support. Additionally, Coca-Cola contracted with Israeli universities for specific research, and engaged with Israeli vendors of innovative solutions, particularly in the area of water quality. For many years, this Atlanta-based corporation has been a prominent member and sponsor of conexx events, and a Coca-Cola Company executive, Joel Neuman, current serves as conexx board chairman.

But The Bridge represents a significant advance in the evolving relationship of The Coca-Cola Company with Israel. As one of the world’s top marketing companies, Coca-Cola now looks to Israel for innovative solutions to help them connect more effectively with their individual customers. And for the first time, they intend to introduce Israeli startups to their vast global ecosystem of bottlers, vendors, and corporate customers and to mentor them to success. The potential of this new approach merits our congratulations and support.

About the Author
Tom Glaser was president of the Southeast Region of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) from its founding in 1992 until his retirement in October 2013 after almost 22 years of services to the organization. Glaser is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He and his wife Connie, an author and lecturer, live on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Georgia and their 2nd home in the Blue Ridge mountains.
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