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Meet Asaf Toker, winner of the 2nd place at the Startup World Cup in San Francisco

Back in 2020, Tech It Forward, in partnership with Pegasus Ventures, organized the first Israeli edition of the Startup World Cup. It consisted of 70+ regional startup competitions in more than 20 different countries around the world, leading up to the Grand Finale in Silicon Valley. The top startups from each regional event flew out to the USA to compete for a $1,000,000 prize.

We had the pleasure to interview Asaf Toker, CEO of Matricelf, who won 2nd place!

It was a great opportunity to revisit this amazing journey, talk about innovation and Matricelf’s adventure to improve the lives of millions of patients.

Do you recall why you decided to participate in this competition?

SWC is a very big, global and prestigious competition. It is after all the largest startup competition around the world and it was the first time that it was coming to Israel. As we were still a small and private company, we decided to go for it as we were looking for exposure.

What are you taking from this competition and this whole journey?

First of all, when we enlisted in 2020, we were a small startup with only 3 people. We were a private company at the beginning of our road. This competition gave us the chance to pitch globally what we were doing. I think it’s a great competition for small startups looking for exposure. It's the opportunity to network with top tier investors, to develop corporate partnerships and hear from top industry experts.

What were the highlights of this competition?

I think that making it to the Grand Finale and hearing our name as the final 10 and then the final 3 was extraordinary. The crowd was very enthusiastic, people were amazed by our work and what we are achieving. They wanted to know more. Although we didn’t bring 1st place, it was a huge honor to represent Israel and to be one of the three most promising start-up companies in the world.

I believe that for every startup willing to go global, this competition is a big opportunity.

For the next edition, you set the bar quite high by winning 2nd place. Do you have any tips for the future participants of SWC Israel 2nd edition?

Go for it. It’s a great and huge competition. 17000 companies from all over the world, out of which 70 proceeded to the final, and only 10 made it to the Grand Final. It’s crazy!

Matricelf won many awards. When I have to do a presentation about what we give, I show this slide with the many awards we won. I don’t put them all but SWC is definitely there. It’s an award we’re very proud of as it’s such a major competition. I believe that for every startup willing to go global, this competition is a big opportunity.

Also, don’t forget to practice. Practice your pitches very hard because they are timed and when you exceed the time they shut your microphone. You should practice in front of different audiences.

CEO of Matricelf, Asaf Toker at the Final in San Francisco, 2022

Would you mind sharing with us what is coming for Matricelf in the future?

We are a tissue organ production platform. The problem that we are trying to solve is the fact that every 30 minutes, somebody in the world dies while waiting for an organ transplant there are millions of patients suffering from tissue related diseases, in which a tissue damage leads to a disease that is usually a chronic disease and has a huge economic, social and medical burden.

The holy grail of those diseases is tissue engineering.

When you have a problem with your car, you go to the garage and replace the damaged part. Matricelf is a bio garage. We produce and print tissues and organs.

There are many companies in the world that are doing tissue engineering, most of them use synthetic materials or cells from a different person. This triggers an immune response and eventually an organ and tissue rejection.

What is unique about Matricelf is that we are building tissues in which both the cells and the matrix are coming from the patients themselves so there is no immune response. It's a complex procedure but we already know how to create cardiac tissues.

In 2019, for the first time in human history we printed the first ever human printed heart. And what we are currently doing is that we teach those hearts how to function. It will take years for it to function properly but we are getting there.

We do the same process for spinal cord injury, we create neural implants. Injured mice that were treated with our implant regained the ability to walk.

A first human try is planned for 2025.

That’s very impressive! Thank you very much Asaf for sharing with us this amazing experience. It will definitely inspire the participants of the coming edition.

We wish you and Matricel a lot of success in this journey and we can’t wait to hear more about this clinical try!

Tech It Forward is excited to announce that Startup World Cup Israel 2023 is now officially open!

Apply here.

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