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Jerusalem Is Frothing

Former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek once half-jokingly said that Jerusalem was a city of layabouts (“batlanim”)! This was in response to a proposal by Erel Margalit, then one of his economic team, to develop Har Hotzvim (Mount Hotzvim) into a technological center.

Erel and others’ vision came true and today the technological campus there houses such giants as Intel… but that’s only where the story begins.

History has a weird habit of producing discoveries and advancements in parallel.

1. The discovery of the Americas … or rather the discoveries of the Americas for various cultures, happened from about 1000 CE to 1500, including by different European groups and Chinese.

Sir Isaac Newton     2. Newton, working in England, and Leibniz, working in Germany, simultaneously invented calculus.

    3. A variety of people working on engine-driven vehicles in parallel lead to the creation of various types of car.

    Similar stories can be found in the context of

    4. Computers
    5. Venture Capital
    6. Atomic bombs and nuclear science – The US rushed because Einstein and others warned President Roosevelt that the Germans might get the bomb first.

7… invention in general, since invention is more commonly the product of a series of incremental improvements, rather than shocking sudden change.

Which brings me back to the story of Jerusalem. Erel Margalit, the same man who early in his career served on “Teddy”‘s economic team, is today the head of Jerusalem’s best known venture capital firm, Jerusalem Venture Partners.

JVP Venture Partners“Best-known” VC firm in Jerusalem would have been a bit of a joke until recently, because truthfully VC money has broadly centered on Tel Aviv and other parts of the country
Until now.

Via the Office of the Chief Scientist’s list of VCs in Israel (bit out of date), I found that there’s also Israel Seed Partners and JGV.

More than that, I’m personally aware from happenstance circumstances of at least two more funds/incubators being developed:

1) One of my former bosses from Ice.com has moved to Israel and is developing some sort of fund.
2) When coming back from Katamon’s Shtiblach a few weeks ago, I happened upon two men planning the establishment of a new incubator based in Modiin. Why Modiin, I asked? Jerusalem would have been their first choice they said, but the real estate is too expensive – so Modiin is close enough to invest in Jerusalem startups, but far enough to get cheaper space.

Going still further – lots of people in the city are working on developing the local startup meetup scene.

– In collaboration with Miriam Schwab of illuminea, and many of the list below, Yours truly was until recently organizing monthly meetups for people in the web and startup scenes.
– Hanan Brand with Capital J, the girls behind Siftech, the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum, Charlie Kalech’s monthly web/SEO meetups and Jerusalem Web Professionals List, the Hebrew U Entrepreneurship Club’s activities, SphinnCon upgrading to be SMX Israel
– Jerusalem recently hosted its first Jerusalem Startup Weekend, thanks partly to guys like Eddy Resnick, and thanks to the guys at NewsGeek.co.il

In a week and a half on Wednesday there is Speed Dating for entrepreneurs at Hanah’leh.

Speed Dating for Entrepreneurs

In short, a lot of people are organizing a lot of opportunities for startups to meet – and it’s all happening at once. Better than with most other previous types of innovation, this is locally concentrated, meaning there’s more opportunities for cross-polination and networking. It’s fomenting!

And even more than this – the social aspects of Jerusalem keep on developing and blooming.

1. One of the most beautiful sights to see in the city, besides of course the Kotel, is the volunteers of Simcha Layeled who every Friday noon or Saturday night, go to play music to the patients at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital.

2. Something else I find remarkable is that for the past several years, you constantly see cranes developing new buildings in Jerusalem. This is obviously a sign of population and economic growth.

3. Next door, a new Ethiopian community center is being built. More social development.

4. Anyone getting married or looking to give to charity would be overwhelmed by the number of non-profits around to help all the various categories of needy in society, from brides who need affordable dresses to soup kitchens to tutors helping children with homework.

5. As home to one of the country’s two best ulpanim for new olim, Ulpan Etzion, the city welcomes and integrates a regular stream of fresh energetic blood in its 20s-30s.

These are all examples of like-minded people developing and redeveloping social welfare on various scales and degrees, and it’s both delightful and mind-boggling to watch and participate in. It’s notable that JVP’s head, Erel Margalit, emphasized this integrative-overlap of the twin forms of entrepreneurship (social and commercial) in his talk at the inaugural Bira-Tech event. (Also the source of my Teddy Kollek quotation.)

I grant you these are lots of examples on a micro scale … but it’s true– Many good things are happening in Jerusalem, and I for one, feel the excitement!

The city is frothing.

p.s. I have to say that while I obviously realize many people are responsible for the startup side developing so quickly recently, I think a prime mover in developing the community here, who deserves lots of credit for his efforts, is Hanan Brand. Kavod.

Posted in Business, Judaism.


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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Jerusalem Startups Get Schooled By Shlomo Kalish and Emma Butin linked to this post on November 28, 2012

    […] about the goings on in Jerusalem, whose “City of Gold” nickname is an increasingly literal term. Local tavern Mike’s Place last week played host to a standing-room-only crowd who came […]



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