: Encouraging Israeli entrepreneurship and providing support to startups, the new incubator is separate from Google’s two R&D centers already in Israel.

By David Halevi

Google has radically changed the way we interact with the Internet and the world, having developed dozens of products and programs that have changed the face of computing. Israel, it turns out, has one of the top innovation teams in Google Worldwide.

That’s why Google Israel is establishing an incubator for startups, where great ideas can grow and mature into great products and services, says Google Israel’s R&D center director Yossi Matias.

Google Israel was established in 2007 and innovated products that have gone on to worldwide fame – including Google Suggest, Google Trends and Google Insights for Search. That fulfills the mandate Google Worldwide expects from its Israeli branch, says Matias. “From the beginning, the goal was to build a research and development center in Israel, and to innovate global products and technology.”

Google Israel is such an important component of the company’s operation that, unlike in most other countries with a Google presence, there are two research and development centers here – in Haifa and in Tel Aviv – employing about 250 people.

As an innovator, Matias says, Google has a commitment to the developer community, and decided to open the incubator as a way to “give back” to that community. “We believe that the best way to help young startups is in the early stages of their development. This kind of assistance will provide them the biggest impact on their ability to succeed,” Matias says.

Picking up the ‘innovation vibe’

The incubator will host some 20 “pre-seed” startups at a time, with about 80 workers using the facilities for a period of a few months, after which new companies will come into the incubator to replace them. The project will be open to startups from different fields, with an emphasis on open-source technologies.

“We’re also hoping to include entrepreneurs and developers from different sectors in Israel, including those that don’t have high representation/exposure in the Israeli technology scene today,” says Matias.

Google hasn’t announced whether or not the deal will include funding. However, says Matias, the point is not the money, but the ability to draw inspiration from the Google “innovation vibe.”

Companies chosen for the project will receive meeting rooms and workspace; Internet access; the opportunity to get information, tools and advice from Google employees; support and advice from other parties (entrepreneurs, technology experts, lawyers, marketing and financial advisers, for instance); and assistance in organizing events for potential investors.

While Google would not be averse to purchasing good ideas developed by startups in the incubators — in 2010, Google acquired two Israeli companies (Quiksee, which developed 3D video tour software for use with Google Maps, and LabPixies, which makes widgets for iGoogle and Android phones) — that isn’t the goal of the project.

“The incubator is a separate program sponsored by Google, and not about work inside Google Israel,” says Matias. “We are here to help the developer community, sharing our know-how and bringing great ideas to the fore.”

Google corporate, by the way, is 100 percent behind the program. The company released a statement saying that “the Israeli developer community is hugely innovative and has the potential to create many more ground-breaking technological developments. This project was initiated with a desire to encourage entrepreneurship and to provide support at exactly the stage when developers are often most in need of it,” adding that “the technology incubator is part of Google’s efforts to strengthen its connections with the developer community.”

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