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“I thought I could do it better”

Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On August 10, 2009 @ 5:04 am In | No Comments

Israeli entrepreneur Yossi Gross holds 567 patents, founded 27 companies and is now CTO of a VC that’s seeding 15 portfolio start-ups.

Growing up on a cooperative farm in central Israel, Yossi Gross did his share of work in the coops and vineyards. But after hours, he devoured every word of his Young Technician book series and fashioned an array of homemade electrical gadgets.

“I was always an inventor,” explains Gross, who boasts an amazing 567 patents and has founded 27 companies based on his inventions in electronics, signal processing, nanotechnology, drug delivery and neurostimulation.

Since 2007, he has been at the helm of Rainbow Medical, a unique business dedicated to accelerating his proprietary technologies.

Israel’s foremost serial entrepreneur, the 62-year-old Gross immigrated to Israel from Budapest with his Holocaust survivor parents at age three. His parents and family still live on Moshav Mazor, where the Grosses settled on their third day in Israel.

Talking with ISRAEL21c from the Herzliya Pituach offices of VC incubator Rainbow Medical, where Gross now works as CTO, the genial individualist recalls that he never wanted to punch a clock at a large firm. Nevertheless, after earning an aeronautical engineering degree from the Technion Institute of Technology, Gross spent eight years doing just that as a designer and flight test engineer at Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI).

“I thought I could do better”

Feeling that his entrepreneurial spirit was being stifled, he left IAI in 1985 and turned his attention to Epilady, the depilatory device whose popularity with American consumers paved the way for other Israeli imports.

“I thought I could do it better,” Gross recalls, expressing a conviction that came to mark his entire career.

Counting on his easygoing affability as much as his scientific know-how, Gross took a prototype of his improvement to New York and showed it to Victor “I liked it so much, I bought the company” Kiam of Remington Products. Sure enough, Kiam liked it so much he bought it – and marketed it successfully as the Smooth & Silky body shaver.

The next product Gross decided to “do better” was a 1990s drug delivery system.

Through his patent lawyer, Gross met the manager of Ireland-based Elan Pharmaceuticals, and within a week they had a partnership. Over the next five years, Gross develop several successful products through Elan Medical Technologies.

But by 1998, he was itching to strike out on his own once again. That year, Gross’ son was treated by noted ophthalmologist Isaac Lipshitz for a bee sting in his eye.

The future is in medical devices

Before long, the two men forged a professional relationship. Their quest was to find a treatment for age-related macular degeneration, a progressive disease of the retina that is the leading cause of visual impairment in the elderly.

Their company, VisionCare, recently received FDA approval for an implantable telescope that helps to restore central vision.

“In the last 10 years I have concentrated on bringing revolutionary technology to address unmet medical needs that have a big market,” says Gross, whose inventions – mostly therapeutic rather than diagnostic – span the spectrum from gynecology and cardiology to dentistry and body shaping. “The future is in medical devices,” he concludes.

Today Gross works at Rainbow Medical, a VC-incubator-accelerator hybrid that retains full intellectual property ownership of the 15 portfolio start-ups it is seeding.

He and three colleagues manage a staff of 40 in Israel, while a Boston-based front office, OXO Capital Collaboration, handles clinical trials and provides visibility among American venture capitalists.

While both market and profits lie primarily in the United States, Gross prefers growing his business in the familiar environment of Israel, where he has easy access to a talent pool of engineers and scientists, as well as services such as prototype shops. “I never felt at home anywhere else,” he smiles.

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