In the modern era, any part of the world can serve as an incubator for the next great technological idea. And MindCET, located deep in the south of Israel near the town of Yeruham hopes to prove that by choosing a setting that's nothing like the technology innovation hubs all over the world.
Although MindCET also has an office in the business district of Tel Aviv, the main work of developing cutting edge education technology solutions will be at the remote site, in part to minimize all the distractions. The idea is to make workers feel like they're back in their parents' basement and discovering the allure of technology for the very first time. Even MindCET's department names – the Garage, the Laboratory, the Aquarium – are designed to evoke this very feeling.
MindCET shares its quarters with the 40-year-old Center for Education Technology but works independently of its big brother.
The Garage is where the heavy work of actual idea incubating takes place. Anyone who has been to or seen an idea incubator in the U.S. will find the setup familiar. The Garage brings together aspiring entrepreneurs and puts them in touch with experienced mentors who help guide them from the idea stage all the way to implementation and onward to the market.
The Garage offers two different programs depending on how far along each start up is on its developmental path.
– The five-to-six month Pre-Seed program is geared to those looking to turn rough ideas sketched out on napkins into minimum viable products. It asks for 4% equity in return for workspace, office hours, and a mentor from each of the three departments. There are currently eight projects in this program.
– The Incubator program is a bit more serious, offering startups with more developed ideas and business models $50K in return for 8% equity. So far, it's been an incredibly selective program. MindCET CEO, Avi Warshavski, shared that of the 100 applications his team has fielded, only two have been accepted: Reelingo and Wikibrains. The incubator program is looking to accept three more–but at this rate, it looks like it may take another 100 applications. (Those could arrive quicker than one might expect, however, for a country that boasts the highest density of tech startups in the world.)
What sets MindCET apart is its focus. It invited startups that look to revolutionize education by making innovative use of technology and puts them in touch with experienced educators who are willing to offer ideas, expertise and insight into how the academic process actually works and where it could be improved.
The core of MindCET's mission is "helping schools implement technology in a wise way," says Warshavski, "Sometimes people are looking at technological infrastructure and hardware and forget the pedagogical aspects of the operation, which from our point of view are the most important ones."