You may have heard a rumor that Apple was secretly developing iPhone8 in Israel. Some may have heard that some advanced technologies were developed in this country. Others may recall that Tel Aviv is one of the world’s technology centers. But how many of us see clearly how Tel Aviv is? Until we had a chance to attend the “DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival 16” from 25-28 September 2016, a global exhibition of the world’s advanced technologies and startups as well as a forum for all technology companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, to share new learnings, knowledge and experience, then the picture of Tel Aviv became clear.
This trip started with my Israeli investor friend’s short invitation: “If you don’t come and see it with your own eyes, you will never understand.” How can I reject that offer : ) Of course, when I saw it with own eyes, then I realized that what was in my mind was far different from reality. Before the trip, some people warned: “Oh, the war is on there.” “That’s scary!” Once I landed in Israel, I found it a very peaceful and interesting country. Jerusalem, the capital city, is rich of culture and stories and places related to many religions. Tel Aviv is no less interesting.
Tel Aviv is where DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival 16 was held. Unlike the capital city, Tel Aviv is a very modern port town with a nice sea view. Living in Tel Aviv is like a combination of Bangkok and Pattaya or Hua Hin. If you compare Jerusalem with Washington DC, then Tel Aviv is more like New York. What’s more is that Tel Aviv is the center where many startup entrepreneurs are and the environment here is very much in favor of startups.
Tel Aviv – Financial District
Superior ecosystem is startups’ heaven
Arriving in Tel Aviv, I went to Rise, the Fintech Accelerators operated by Barclays Bank. Rise Accelerator’s goal is to support FinTech startups. After the screening process, startups with good team and products that are ready for market testing or Minimum Viable Production (MVP) will be selected. Those recruited for through the Accelerator program will win a chance to receive funding and also to work with Barclays. This is a really win-win program that create excellent ecosystem that helps nurture startups.
Rise is located at Rothchild Boulevard, an area similar to Siam Square in Thailand. It offers full facilities for startups, like co-working space, event space as well as big and small meeting rooms, everything startups would want. On the day we arrived, I was invited to join a seminar on “How big corporations Innovate Like Startup” with highly experienced speakers sharing their direct experience.
“Mindspace” is what the co-working space there was called. Something special about this program is that once a startup team completing Rise Accelerator program and already receiving funding, the team can immediately move into Mindspace. In addition, as Mindspace is not limited to only startup under the Rise Accelerator program, any company, including marketing consultant and graphic design firms, also occupy the space. This really creates community of diversity that also benefits one another.
A good ecosystem supporting innovation is not only the job of private sector. The Israeli government has also paid high importance to the research, development and creation of core technology innovations, including Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber Security. With the support from both public and private sectors, the Israel has become the center of quality technology which makes a good starting point for new entrepreneurs. Tel Aviv therefore becomes the country’s innovation center and was ranked the world’s No. 2 city with the best startup ecosystem in 2015 after the US. This is significant considering that Israel population is only 8 million.
DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival 16 – Day Time
As I told you, DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival is where all startup technology and showcase from different countries are exhibited. From the moment we entered into the event, we can experience the uniqueness. This festival is held outdoor despite the heat of the sunny days! I had to take off my suit right away. More than 100 entrepreneurs were invited to join the festival.
The first zone, called Startup Alley is the space where startups have their booths and meet with investors. Bigger booths are those by embassies, such as French, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. In each embassy booth, there were several startups. This really underlines Israel’s position as the connecting point of Europe and Asia.
The event also featured various stages activities, especially interesting seminar, such as “Next Step of Blockchain” that covered Internet of Things and supply chain. In addition to talks and discussions, those activities also included showcase to demonstrate how those technologies are used at local and national levels. There were many interesting Fintech entrepreneurs who are working on pure mobile bank or digital bank, fund platform and security.
Robotic technology has been applied to the Internet of Things, making new fantastic product. This was a new trend there. Other imaging technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) were also in the center of attention.
DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival 16 – Night Time
In addition to daytime activities, Rothschild Boulevard was turned into an open exhibition at night where general public can also joined. It’s more like walking street in Thailand where people set up small tables to sell handmade products. The only difference is that here it was the startup walking street where innovation and technologies are showcased and funds were raised on street! We could see robots, 3D printed-hand for the disabled, interactive media and VR. It is really an event that anyone can closely experience technology 24 hours. Technology and innovations are integrated into their daily life. Rothschild Boulevard became even more active late night. Friendly conversations were opened. Once we learned that people there think that everywhere in the country is their own home, we no longer wonder why people sat down on the ground and talking as if they were sitting in the living room.
In this first part of the story, we were surprised with Tel Aviv’s great offering for startups and lifestyle of the people in this city of technology and innovation. In the next part, let’s discover why this city is called “Startup’s Heaven”.