Gal Inbar had never been to Pittsburgh prior to August 2019. Now, not only is the 47-year-old Israeli finding the city to be a home away from home, but he is also poised to help boost the area’s economy in a big way as executive director of the newly launched initiative 412×972.
Supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and assisted by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, 412×972 takes its moniker from the telephone area codes of Pittsburgh and Israel. The mission of the initiative is to facilitate relationships between Pittsburgh and Israeli businesses.
The Federation had been envisioning an initiative to connect Pittsburgh-area and Israeli businesses for several years, according to Federation president and CEO Jeff Finkelstein, but it took a while to find the right person to take the reins.
Inbar was hired as a consultant last August, after the Federation secured funding from a number of foundations to get the project launched.
“We want to do this because we think we can help grow the economy in the Pittsburgh region and grow the economy in Israel,” said Finkelstein. “And as a side effect, creating economic ties between corporations and companies in Pittsburgh and Israel is one of the best ways to fight back against the BDS movement.”
Although the Federation initially sought someone based in Pittsburgh to lead the initiative, “as we looked, we definitely found the most qualified person sitting in Israel,” Finkelstein said.
“With all of his experience in start-ups and turnaround businesses in Israel, we knew he was the right guy, despite the fact that he had never been to Pittsburgh before he came on his first trip here. He is now very connected within the technology space here in Pittsburgh.”
Although the initiative is under the auspices of the Federation for now, it may eventually “spin out into a separate entity,” according to Andy Rabin, chair of the 412×972 steering committee and a former partner at the healthcare software company, Premier, Inc. Also sitting on the steering committee are other prominent Pittsburgh business leaders, including Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference of Community Development; Ilana Diamond, managing director of Hardware and AlphaLab Gear at Innovation Works; and David Kalson, chair of the emerging business group at Cohen & Grigsby, P.C.
Inbar was in Pittsburgh for a two-week stint in January, his third in five months. His plan is to come here every two months, when he is not working from his home base in Ra’anana, Israel.
With a bachelor’s and master’s in industrial engineering, a decade of experience in turning around privately owned, middle market Israeli companies, and creating his own collaborative robotics company — which he recently sold to his partner — Inbar was looking for his next challenge when a friend told him about the Pittsburgh position. After presenting his ideas to the Federation about creating a for-profit model for the initiative rather than the “chamber of commerce” model typically used by other cities in Israel collaboration initiatives, a dialogue was begun and Inbar was soon brought on board.
“It was a great fit and he’s been fantastic in this role,” said Rabin. “We’ve basically been connecting him to people in the business community, the academic community, the philanthropic community, and just exposing him to Pittsburgh.”
Through his infectious energy and palpable passion, combined with his years of experience in the business world and deep connections within the Jewish state, it is not surprising that in just five months, Inbar has already engaged with 40 companies in Israel and Pittsburgh through 412×972.
The initiative will be offering two types of services, Inbar explained: scouting and business development.
Through it scouting service, 412×972 will offer Israeli innovation to “middle market and small companies in Pittsburgh, who already have some kind of mechanism to absorb innovation,” he said.
“Once they identify the lead that can be turned into an opportunity, I start working with Israeli companies to see if they have the product they are promising, that they are ready to deliver it and I start bringing information to the Pittsburgh company.”
If the Israeli company does not yet have a U.S. presence, Inbar can help structure a deal between the parties.
In terms of business development, Inbar can help a seller who has “a great technology or a great product to offer” find clients in the other locale who might have an interest in that technology or product.
He has already introduced executives from Carnegie Robotics to people in Israel, including “homeland security entities,” who might be interested in exploring and integrating technology for vision and space perception for robots into their own products.
Expanding sales of products to Israel could also help a U.S. company interest investors who see that it “has international sales capacity and has developed global distribution,” Inbar said. “Suddenly, in terms of valuation, once you demonstrate as a start-up that you can do business internationally your valuation goes up a few steps.”
One of the reasons 412×972 is developing so quickly, Inbar said, is “the wonderful steering committee they built for this initiative,” which has helped open doors for him in Pittsburgh with local decision-makers.
“I’m very well networked in Israel,” he said. “Currently, I can say very confidently to people in Israel if I understand who you are looking to do business with, I can find the person in Pittsburgh you need to meet. This is not less than amazing.”
Inbar served in the IDF and is currently on reserve duty with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is the father of two sons, ages 18 and 15. His wife is an engineer working for a global biotech company.
“This is very exciting and we feel like we’re creating something new and innovative,” Rabin said. “The response from the business community across the board has been very supportive. All of this is really headed in the right direction.” pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at