When Olim are asked what motivated them to move to Israel, they offer reasons such as Zionism, affordable Jewish education, or even, for a significant other. One reason, that is increasingly obvious, but hardly mentioned, is “because I want to start a start-up.” Yet today becoming a part of the Start-up Nation could be one of the most practical and grounded reasons for moving to Israel. The tech scene in Israel has never been more vibrant and consequently, opportunities for international citizens with entrepreneurial, business, or technological skills and aspirations are endless.
But what if you don’t want to work for an existing startup, but rather you’ve got the idea and are ready to move forward with it? How do you transform your idea into a reality, into a successful company or a successful exit? The following is a beginner’s guide to starting a startup in Israel:
1. Learn the Ecosystem
Like everything in Israel, the more people you know, the better off you are. Learning the ecosystem is important in order to meet the relevant entrepreneurs, developers, designers, media (tech bloggers), VC partners, and angel investors. Fortunately, the market in Israel is small, but the exposure and impact are disproportionately huge. Meeting the big players is an accessible networking objective. Because one can never tell what direction a start-up or team might take, meeting the key people provides a clear idea of what networks are available. Gaining accessibility to these players is within the realistic goals for ambitious Olim. Not having served in the IDF with all the connections and bonds that experience creates is an obstacle that an immigrant can overcome through energized efforts to network constantly and wisely.
2. Gather a Team
Assembling start-up members when new to the country is a challenging but critical step for Olim. Teams are the number one reason for the success of a start-up, but also the number one reason for failure. Fortunately, plenty of resources are available for finding a co-founder and team members. Key steps include seeking out relevant meetups, and networking opportunities, or going online to founders-nation.com for other possibilities. Look for relevant events such as Co-Founders Pairups. Create your own networking events with your own individual style, bringing the social skills you developed prior to aliyah.
3. Join an Accelerator or an Incubator
Although there is no one right way to start a start-up, there are many steps that need to be taken to ensure proper development, branding, legal issues, pitching, and launching. Accelerators have the formula down, and can help with offering mentors, office space, and relevant workshops. Many different accelerator programs are available in Israel, and you must find one that best suits your team and idea. I work for an accelerator called TheHive by Gvahim, which works specifically with Olim Chadashim, and aims to help Olim launch their start-ups successfully in Israel. There are many unique questions that Olim have with regards to their start-ups (how will your dual citizenship impact the company’s incorporation and taxes? etc.), which this accelerator tackles in a unique way.
4. Independent Courses or Consultations
If you don’t have the time or resources to commit full-time to an accelerator program, useful part-time courses are offered throughout Israel. The Elevator Academy‘s offerings include coding, growth hacking, and other relevant courses. If you need someone to talk to, or consult with, MATI or the Department of Absorption offer great resources for Olim in hi-tech. The program Tut offers free consultation services for immigrant entrepreneurs, and is also a government funded program.
Lastly, remember that you don’t need to be fluent in Hebrew to connect your pitch to investors. You bring a great edge with your international background and your commitment to hard work and accountability. The combination of your experience and background with a solid, innovative, and scalable idea, makes you a great candidate within the Start-up Nation. Israel was built on the premise of, “If you will it, it is no dream,” and the start-up world is built on that mantra. All you need to do now is to join it.
Ilana Hostyk is an Olah from Hollywood Florida, and the CEO of her own start-up. She is currently the Program Coordinator for TheHive by Gvahim, a startup accelerator for Olim with programs in Tel Aviv and Ashdod. She can be contacted email@example.com