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Akron scores home run in luring new international business

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: April 16, 2015

It’s among the latest home runs for Akron officials in their longtime campaign to get international businesses to set up shop in the city, and in the case of Tel Aviv, Israel-based Timocco, the company has chosen to make Akron its U.S. headquarters.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic announced the news on March 4.

Timocco, which creates technological learning games for children with special needs, is expected to complete its move into the Akron Global Business Accelerator by the middle of April.

“We think Timocco has a unique learning tool that will make a difference in the lives of our children who have special needs, their therapists and parents, and we are pleased that Akron will be the U.S. center for this technology,” Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said in a press release. 

It was back in 1990 that Plusquellic first accompanied former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Bowman to the Hannover Trade Fair in Germany. At the time, Bowman was working for the predecessor to the Greater Akron Chamber, the Akron Regional Development Board.  

The city’s efforts have continued to grow. Since 1994, Akron and other officials have been regular exhibitors at international and domestic shows in an effort to spread the word about Akron’s various market opportunities.

“People don’t realize that Akron is so well positioned in a multitude of markets like high technology, advanced manufacturing and bioinnovation,” said Sam DeShazior, deputy mayor for economic development in Akron.

“Over the years, we have really made an effort to visit different businesses worldwide and learn their specialties, and now we are bringing these international companies back to Akron,” added Plusquellic. “It takes a lot of time and effort, but it is starting to make a difference for our community, through new jobs, income tax revenue and other business attraction.”

Timocco is making major headway in the child teletherapy gaming environment, with over 5,000 children around the world using its learning system. The company employs interactive motion-based software to make games entertaining for children so they will continue to use them, strengthening their motion, cognitive and communicative abilities in the process.

“The platform is designed to be used as part of the child’s occupational, physical or speech therapy regimen to address developmental disabilities,” said Timocco Founder and Chief Executive Officer Eran Arden. “We believe that Timocco can become a worldwide hub where millions of children with special needs can play and practice skills every day.” 

Arden said he first learned about Akron from other chief executive officers at startups located in the Targetech Innovation Center, a technology incubator in Netanya, Israel, of which the city of Akron is a chief shareholder.

“We are the only city in the United States that has ownership in an incubator in another country,” said DeShazior. “The deal is that after many of these startups release new technology in Israel, they want to bring it to the European, Canadian and U.S. markets.

 

“If they are looking to enter North America, Akron is their first portal since we provide so many resources,” said DeShazior. “We have entrepreneurs-in-residence and our accelerator has nine floors to accommodate startups that receive help meeting key people, securing funding and gaining traction in the U.S. market.”

“The goal of all of our efforts is to create jobs here in Akron,” said Bob Anthony, director of entrepreneurial services-life sciences for the Akron Biomedical Corridor, who has been assisting Timocco in making connections and getting set up in Akron.

“I think that Timocco’s software development, which is aimed at helping children with learning disabilities, fits in with our biotechnology outreach program,” said Anthony. “Timocco is known globally in this space.”

Initially a senior manager and four of Timocco’s 17 Israeli employees will be stationed at the accelerator, but Timocco plans to hire about four more people from the Akron area by the end of 2015.

DeShazior said his team met with Arden in person in 2013 at ‬ the IATI (Israel Advanced Technology Industries) Biomed Conference in Tel Aviv.

“We never go to those shows empty handed,” said DeShazior. “We have preset meetings with people from companies that we have corresponded with or met beforehand who are looking for opportunities in a new market.

“Mr. Arden met someone in the Targetech incubator that told him about Akron and he left that person his business card, which was later shared with us. We wrote Mr. Arden a letter to tell him that we would be at Biomed in Tel Aviv and we set up a meeting.

 As a consequence he came to Akron, where we introduced him to some of our biotechnology partners and the relationship developed from that point,” said DeShazior.

Arden said one of the main motivators for selecting Akron was the access and resources available in the city’s BioMedical Corridor. Established in 2006, it includes high-powered institutions like Summa Health System, Akron General Medical Center, Akron Children’s Hospital, the Austen BioInnovation Institute, the Akron Global Business Accelerator and the National Polymer Innovation Center at The University of Akron. The corridor also has connections to Northeast Ohio Medical University.

“There are many institutions in downtown Akron that would be key strategic partners in our goal to bring our product to the U.S. market,” said Arden. “The accelerator is not only providing us the space and support to expand our market, but its people are making the introductions that we need to form key partnerships.”

Arden said he’s currently working with The University of Akron and Cleveland-based BioEnterprise, which seeks to grow healthcare companies and commercialize bioscience technologies. He is also exploring partnership opportunities with other Northeast Ohio organizations.

“We are talking to Akron Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital about our product,” said Arden. “Our office in Akron will allow us to be more accessible so that we can take advantage of all the opportunities that come our way.”

Timocco’s 56 online games work to improve a host of motor and cognitive skills ranging from bilateral coordination, posture and balance and hand-eye coordination to visual perception and discrimination, attention, short-term memory, early learning, communication and teamwork.

Arden said Timocco is responsible for developing the games, designs and the technology.

The games work via a webcam by tracking the arm movements of the child who is wearing Timocco’s gloves or holding any of the company’s rounded red, green or blue objects.  

“Kids learn and develop skills through play and the brain is more flexible to learn new abilities when body movements are involved,” Arden said. “The basics of what we are doing can help children as well as adults.”

While the concepts behind the products are the same for all consumers, he said every market works in a different way.  

“The way occupational therapy is used to help special needs children is different in Israel than it is in Europe and the U.S. We need local partners to help fine-tune our products for these new markets,” he said.

In addition to the Ohio institutions, Arden said Timocco has formed a partnership with Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence as well as CEW (Connect Experience Write) in Denville, New Jersey, which works to help students with alternative learning styles develop handwriting skills.

 Even though we already have clients using our products, we want to accelerate our growth with a new market strategy, which our Akron partners will help us put together,” Arden said.


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