The Arab-led startups at DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival‘s Accelerator Blitz on Tuesday night simply blew away the competition. Four out of the 11 startups that presented at the pitch night were from Arab accelerators – NazTech in Nazareth, Israel and Arabreneur in Ramallah, West Bank – and NazTech’s two startups impressed this reporter the most out.
לאחרונה התקיים ערב חשיפת המיזמים החברתיים-כלכליים של בוגרי פרויקט המשותף לרשות הצעירים של עירית חיפה, האקסלרטור PresenTense ושותפות חיפה בוסטון במרכז הצעירים של חיפה. במסגרת הפרויקט, הוכשרו בחצי שנה האחרונה 12 יזמים צעירים, להקים מיזמים חברתיים כלכליים ונחנכו על ידי אנשי עסקים, מנהלים בכירים במשק ואנשי תרבות ורוח.
PresenTense helped me bring my dreams into reality by launching something to achieve my goals. However, along the way I have learned about what success truly means to me. In college I was always someone who measured success by numbers. When suffering from Anorexia I did the same. PresenTense, and the work in the field now as a milieu counselor at EDTNY and mealtime support, have taught me that success is measured by feelings. Now, a business major or any rational being would argue this point. I do not mean to say that we cannot measure success by money or performance. Rather, I believe internal success and pride comes from how we feel after we have achieved or even attempted our goals. I left Launch Night wondering if my venture had been a success. Rather than focusing on the number of people who approached my table, I have rewired my experience to measure success by the kind words of those whom I met, and the smiles of my friends and family who attended. I was a success because I am working for my goals, and if I can make a difference or support one individual, then that is all I need to know.
The devoted volunteers of Salametcom (Be Healthy) now entered the picture. The NGO was founded two years ago by attorney Ibrahim Yaqub and Rima Abu-Katish, both from the town of Abu Ghosh, west of Jerusalem, following a column published here in January 2012, about Mohammed al-Fara. This boy from Khan Yunis, whose arms and legs were amputated, had at that time spent more than two years at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, with only his grandfather at his side.
Within two days, Yaqub and Abu-Katish raised about 5,000 shekels ($1,300 at that time) for the boy and his grandfather.
The two then founded the NGO (www.slametkom.org/english), which now has hundreds of volunteers doing the little that is within their means to assist residents of the occupied territories hospitalized in Israel, cut off from home and family. Their activities include organizing outings in Israel and making kousa mahshi (stuffed zucchini) for a sick child who dreams of Mom’s food.
The project, called A3i (which stands for Accelerating Inclusion in Israel), is being conducted in cooperation with the Ruderman Family Foundation and PresenTense, a Jerusalem-based global Jewish organization with a range of programs encouraging innovation. The Ruderman foundation has made it a priority to support integration efforts for people with disabilities in Israel and the United States. Currently, 13 entrepreneurs are involved in A3i, most involving technology projects in the initial stages of development. Two of the projects aim to develop devices and services for the deaf.
ואכן, באחרונה פתחו בבית איזי שפירא את תוכנית ההאצה A3i (ראשי תיבות של מאיצים שילוב בישראל, Accelerating inclusion in Israel) בשיתוף PresenTense - ארגון גלובלי לקידום יזמות שהקים 16 תוכניות האצה לסטארט־אפים ברחבי העולם - וקרן משפחת רודרמן, קרן פילנתרופית פרטית הפועלת לשילובם של אנשים עם מוגבלויות בחברה בישראל ובארה"ב. בתוכנית משתתפים 13 מיזמים בתחום, רובם טכנולוגיים, שנמצאים בשלב ראשוני בפיתוח, המתכנסים פעם בשבוע ומקבלים ייעוץ עסקי ומקצועי וליווי. כ–90 מיזמים הגישו מועמדות לתוכנית – מספר שנותן אינדיקציה לרמת הפעילות הטכנולוגית בתחום בישראל.
Abery herself is a product of Jewish education, having gone to Jewish schools in London before attending Cambridge, where she earned a degree in education with a focus on art and the history of art. Married with two sons, ages 8 and 5, she has worked both as a teacher and at art museums. (“The museum component has been a constant throughout my life,” she said.) In 2010, she was a Global Fellow of PresenTense, an organization that fosters “the next generation of social entrepreneurs by helping innovators and entrepreneurs build new ideas into transformational ventures.”
The fellowship, which involved relocating her family to Israel for the summer, was pivotal for Abery. “It was there that I transitioned from being a teacher into being a business woman. I was able to vision where I wanted to go.”
“I think that if we fast-forward 10, 15 years, if there’s a peace agreement the Arabs in Israel are going to play a crucial role in Israel’s economic development,” says Naz- Tech’s Spigelman. “The Arab world is such a major market on our front door, and the Arab Israelis are a bridge.”
Three Israeli organizations have joined together to launch what they say is the world’s first accelerator focused on addressing the needs of disabled people. Named A3i, the accelerator is the result of a partnership between PresenTense, a community of innovators and entrepreneurs, and Israeli disability rights groups Beit Issie Shapiro and the Ruderman Family Foundation.
The three announced their intentions back in December 2013 when they put out a call for applications and the first 15 startups, all at early or pre-seed stage, have now been enrolled at the program base in Ra’anana. The batch comprises a broad mixture of venture-types, ranging from accessibility and education software to hardware and general community/social initiatives.
PresenTense has branches in 18 different cities, on three continents. “ In Israel, we work with entrepreneurs at sites all across the country,” Daniel Freidlin, director of the A3i project tells NoCamels. “Actually, just 12 percent of Israel’s population really gains from the startup nation. So, we work with different communities around Israel, trying to mobilize people from different layers of society by entrepreneurship and helping them develop their project. This is all part of building a ground up nation, from bottom to top, rather than a startup nation,” Freidlin says.