With more than 600 startup companies in early stages in Tel Aviv and 1,500 in thelarger metropolitan area, the Israeli city is forging ahead with plans to become anentrepreneurial and technological hub of the Middle East. New Cities Foundationspoke to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai about the drive to create a vibrant technologycenter.What short-term and long-term incentives were used to attract more startupbusinesses to the city?At this stage the city has expressed its vision, and we are currently leading a careful analysis inorder to identify the needs and formulate the correct and optimal strategy to attract more foreigncompanies. The city of Tel Aviv-Yafo already has a strong and well developed startup ecosystem,which is highly attractive to foreign entrepreneurs.We deal with a fair number of emails from entrepreneurs around the world, especially Europeand Asia, who are interested in coming to Tel Aviv for a wide variety of reasons, ranging fromentrepreneurs interested in connecting with the local talent and community to startups wantingto establish their companies in the city.What are the “co-working spaces,” which were built for entrepreneurs to help themmeet different challenges for early-stage businesses?Startups are extremely high risk and fast paced. Unlike a traditional business, the early-stagestartup is not always keen to enter a long-term lease on offices or to invest in office furniture.The co-working space is great solution, providing a startup with office facilities it can rent for amonth or two, or a year – until it’s ready to rent its own space. Furthermore, the co-workingspace provides a synergetic community, which is crucial at this stage.What was it like convincing entrepreneurs and businesses in Tel Aviv-Yafo that theinitiative was more than simply a marketing drive?Within a short period after the formulation of the vision to promote the city of Tel Aviv as aglobal innovation hub the municipality already launched operative initiatives toward this end.In October 2011 the city hosted the DLD conference in Tel Aviv-Yafo – the first conference of itskind in the city. The conference proved to be a great success with over 500 guests from abroad.During the DLD conference the city also opened The Library – a center for entrepreneurship andinnovation, which includes a co-working space for startups and space for technology- andinnovation-related meetups and events.How have mentors helped nurture entrepreneurs in the project? Were their skillstaken up by many new businesses?The Israeli high-tech industry is a relatively mature industry, having made its true global leap inthe early 90s. Since then the Israeli industry has become a global leader – over 50 percent ofIsrael’s export is technology, and the country has the highest number of startups and the highestVC investments per capita.As a result, the local ecosystem enjoys highly experienced and connected industry leaders whoserve as mentors. Due to Tel Avivs laid-back and non-hierarchal culture, these mentors aregenerally very accessible.
Do you have any more information about the Tel Aviv –Yafo competition for besturban application? It seems an interesting way to foster new ideas and innovation.This summer the city will launch its Tel Aviv Applications competition. In this framework the citywill make some of the citys databases accessible for programmers and developers to create newand exciting apps for the city.New York and London are mentioned as cities that have focused on tech startups.Has Tel Aviv looked to these cities for inspiration and ideas for its own plans?Each innovation hub has its own unique pros and cons, and we certainly look to othercommunities for inspiration as we warmly host delegations that come to us in search of thesame.The Tel Aviv –Yafo project is envisaged as a long-term drive to create a tech-ledindustry in the city. What future expectations do you have for the project?Global leaders such as Google, eBay, Microsoft, and many more all have centers in Tel Avivbecause they recognized the importance of having presence in Israel and accessibility to thetalent and innovational spirit.We believe that in the next five years the city of Tel Aviv will become a magnet for foreignentrepreneurs who will bring a new perspective to the industry.Tel Aviv –Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai will be speaking at the New Cities Summit in Parison Wednesday, May 16.