Located in the country with the highest number of startups per capita, Tel Aviv is known as Israel’s startup capital. Situated along the country’s central coastline, “the city that never stops,” as it is dubbed, has the best startup ecosystem outside the US, thanks to its techie environment and talent pool, according to a recent report by data firm Compass.
But beyond the headlines about acquisitions of Israeli startups for billions of dollars each year, people don’t often hear about Tel Aviv’s behind-the-scenes. Its programs for sustainable urban development and increased civic engagement recently gained Tel Aviv the title of “World’s Smartest City.” Furthermore, Tel Aviv – one of a handful of cities to host the annual DLD innovation conference – is a leader in the nurturing of entrepreneurial spirit, and is home to collaborative workspaces, investment firms, and global innovation conferences.
“Tel Aviv is the Startup City of the Startup Nation,” Gilad Uziely, director of economic development at the city-sponsored program ‘Tel Aviv Global,’ tells NoCamels. “Innovation is part of the basic DNA of the people of Tel Aviv.”
City-wide digital services for residents
Among Tel Aviv’s techie solutions for residents is the city-wide Wi-Fi Access (Tel-Net), a system launched by the municipality about two years ago. It now covers 3.7 million square meters (including the city’s beaches, boulevards, coffee shops, and startup hubs), and has seen over a quarter of a million unique users since its inception.
Another smart city solution is “Digi-Tel,” a unique personalized service that provides city information via email and text messages. The information offered by this mobile application ranges from discounts for events, to alerting residents of neighborhood road works.
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In addition to its overall digital atmosphere, Tel Aviv also supports young creatives by establishing subsidized working hubs that connect entrepreneurs and artists in various fields. Among these are “Mazeh 9,” which focuses on the growth of startups through providing stimulating working conditions, events and various services free of charge.
Shared workspaces inspire creativity
Tel Aviv is also home to several workspaces that are based on the sharing economy, offering tiny offices (with shared services such as copiers and espresso machines) to tiny startups, on a monthly basis. In Tel Aviv, the stereotypical success story which dictates that companies that “make it big” started from a garage or a basement, is slightly different: Many startups are simply born in the minds of young entrepreneurs working in shared workstations. The city’s startup ecosystem, thus, enjoys inspiring environments, with many seed-stage startups choosing to set up shop in collaborative workspaces such as WeWork, which operates two office buildings in Tel Aviv.
According to WeWork’s Ronnie Ceder, “Israelis know how to take the entrepreneurial spirit to a whole new level. We come from community-based backgrounds, and we know what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself, whether it’s a sports team, family, or the army – we work together to succeed,” she tells NoCamels. “WeWork is part of the solution to bring people and businesses together.”
WeWork provides work stations to hundreds of members, only asking that they come with their laptops and creativity. All other services, including bills, refreshments, conference rooms, lounges, and inspirational meeting spaces such as rooftops and gardens – are all provided by WeWork. Members are encouraged to take advantage of both the local and global startup networks, and are invited to a variety of events from inspirational talks, to yoga and TRX classes.
Mindspace is yet another pioneer in the emerging trend of collaborative workspaces, located in the heart of the city – on the elegant Rothschild Boulevard. If time is money, the idea is to save time and money, and allow startups to focus on their creative work. Everything from internet access, to fixing the air-conditioner if it fails, is all covered for members. The concept is to create a beautiful, comfortable environment for a community that is diverse and includes high-tech and design professionals.
“At Mindspace, 50 percent of the members work together. Everything is in-house and accessible. You walk across the corridor, and you meet your graphic designer, and on the other end you have a project developer,” Mindspace’s Dari Shechter tells NoCamels. “There is something lovely and friendly here, it’s family.”
The number of startup accelerators more than doubled in recent years
Tel Aviv’s startup ecosystem is also filled with investors of all kinds and many nationalities – venture capital firms, private equity investors, institutional investors, incubators and angel investors. According to IVC Research Center, Israeli startups set an all-time record in 2015, raising $3.2 billion in the first three quarters, compared to $2.3 billion at this time last year. Some of this money was funneled to companies in startup accelerators, which are quite easy to find in Tel Aviv.
According to the City of Tel Aviv, there are currently 50 active startup accelerators and incubators in the city, more than double the number three years ago. Whether sponsored by the city, a multinational corporation or a local venture capital firm, accelerators give seed-stage startups financial assistance and mentorship.
Among the local accelerators is CREATE Tel Aviv, backed by Terra Venture Partners, the Tel Aviv Municipality and corporate sponsors. It provides startups with a six-month program, during which it connects individuals with multinational corporations, and works to establish new tech ventures.
Another accelerator focused on seed-stage startups is Elevator, connecting Israel’s innovators with international markets and investors primarily in the US and Europe. Nautilus, a local accelerator established by AOL (now owned by Verizon), aims to support startups for up to a full year. Nautilus offers fundraising, strategic support, as well as product support. In addition, startups receive full access to AOL’s network of talent and resources.
So, if you’re looking to set up shop in a creative, techie community, Tel Aviv could very well be the place for you!