Reut Group’s Impact Labs Launches as Digital-Age Playground for Israeli Developer Community

Photo courtesy Reut Group

By Maayan Hoffman
eJewish Philanthropy

Reut Group’s new Tel Aviv-based Impact Labs is an adult playground where anyone could build the next big thing.

Located in what used to be an underground parking lot in the WeWork office space, Reut Group expects Impact Labs – a combination of startup incubator and hardware manufacturer – to quickly be at the forefront as a national hub for Israel’s hardware community.

“It all started with a focus on how do we do tikkun olam in the 21st century,” said Reut Group CEO Eran Shayshon. “We tried to understand how one-quarter of a million people could impact one-quarter of a billion people … and we think that this is the opportunity. So many Israeli companies are inventing solutions relevant to some of the direst needs humanity is facing.”

Photo courtesy Reut Group

According to Shayshon, much Israeli IP is never developed or disseminated. Further, Shayshon estimates that between 90 and 95 percent of ideas that come out of makeathons or even hardware-oriented hackathons stop at the events. Impact Labs opens its doors to developer groups to take these “very, very cheap” but creative prototypes and turn them into products, and then disseminate them to the world.

For Reut Group, it’s a logical next step.

Reut founded and runs the popular TOM (Tikkun Olam Makers) program. TOM – based on the core principles of scalability, community integration, collaborative competition, affordability, smart development and innovation – brings together strategic thinkers, engineers, designers and project managers to solve unmet social challenges in disadvantaged communities.

This system allows people who are paralyzed from the neck down to turn pages in a book. Photo courtesy ZOA Productions; TOM TLV 2015.

In 72 hours, TOM participants do exactly was Shayshon describes, they come up with affordable, open source solutions to real-world challenges facing people with disabilities and build prototypes. A developer needs to transform those prototypes into products that could go to market.

It’s going to happen in Impact Labs new makerspace. Shayshon said Reut is already working with teams of developers and he expects them to move in within the next few weeks.

Impact Labs provides developers with everything they need to manufacture their products, from sophisticated, state-of-the-art 3D printers and a wood and metal workshop to a robot room and a textiles and smart wearables space. Modular classrooms create opportunities for meetups and makeathons. Brightly painted conference rooms allow makers to work together to assumable parts. There is also a multimedia recording studio.

About 80 people can use Impact Labs at any given time, according to Idan Keisar, Impact Labs COO and head of business development. Even when the space is at capacity, it will be organized chaos, because of Impact Labs smart digital booking system. Impact Labs participants are required to input their daily machinery and space needs into the system and they will only have access to the machinery for which they signed up. A card reader system approves usage. Without approval, the machines won’t turn on.

A smart vending machine allows users to order the parts they need and have them delivered to their booked workspace. When inventory runs low, this same machine knows to alert suppliers it is time for a refill.

Part of Impact Labs expected effectiveness is from its collaboration with WeWork. Keisar says that as a rule, startups and R&D folks only need to be around machinery about 30 percent of the time. With the collaborative WeWork office space, teams will be able to meet and talk upstairs and just come down to the lab when hands-on work is required. Moreover, WeWork is occupied by business, branding, investors and venture capitalist, making it fertile ground for collaboration.

Shayshon noted that while Impact Labs is launching as one of Reut Group’s nonprofit initiatives, by January 1, 2018, the team plans to transition it to the Reut Mountain Movers portfolio of for-profit businesses.

“We have created a development campus and a solid business model,” Shayshon said.