Israeli sports-tech

Global markets and audiences are always the aim of Israeli startups looking to scale abroad, and the esports market — a globalized audience with disposable income — has been mostly outside Israel.

Kevin Baxpehler, managing partner at Tel Aviv-based Remagine Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in esports startups, believes that Israel is positioned to be a leader in the space.

“Many of the entrepreneurs are coming from fields in which Israel is strong, such as video, data analytics, and monetization, and those are exactly the places where the esports industry has the biggest problems that need to be solved,” he says.

Remagine Ventures has also been active in helping build the Israeli esports ecosystem by hosting one of the first major events for startups in the space, which included founders of the leading companies as well as Chris Hana, CEO of Esports Observer, the sport’s most influential publication.

Tel Aviv-based Novos, an online training platform for gamers, recently raised more than $750,000 from prominent investors including an Intel-associated fund.

Novos CEO Or Briga approaches training gamers online in the same way a traditional sports team would: focusing on individual skills in order to improve a gamer’s overall performance.

Briga believes “as esports have become more mainstream, more Israeli entrepreneurs who are also gamers are going to build startups to provide solutions in this industry.”

Regarding Israel’s role in the global esports market, Weinberg believes that “Israel is going to play a big part in it, as proven by traditional VCs investing in great Israeli esports companies such as Stream Elements and Overwolf.

Weinberg points out that Israel has successfully grown huge gaming companies such as Playtika. “The challenge of understanding and serving the intersection of sports, gaming and entertainment is something in which Israeli entrepreneurs will excel.”

An Israeli Olympic gold

The real opportunity for Israel could be at the Olympics. Since 2017 the International Olympic Committee has met to discuss the inclusion of esports in future games and Japan has pushed for inclusion of esports when it hosts the 2020 Olympics.

Momentum is on esports’ side with the number of gamers and viewers watching the games; either esports will be a part of the Olympics at some point or will have its own elite competition.

“When you look at where the world is headed, esports will eventually be bigger than soccer,” says Ido Brosh. “Esports will bring in a new generation of fans who were not fans of conventional sports.”

Traditionally, Israel has excelled in sports like judo but has not had the resources and ability to dominate in some of the long-established Summer Games sports. In true Startup Nation fashion, Israel can parlay the tech talent of the country in a future bid to dominate esports in global competitions.

The country has all the talent, the infrastructure with government bodies, and most importantly, the desire to go for the gold.

Jonathan “Yoni” Frenkel heads a digital marketing agency, YKC Media, that focuses on engaging millennial and tech professionals through content. He’s been involved in the New York Israeli tech community for many years and previously held roles as a non-profit professional at both the IAC Dor Chadash and AIPAC.