Creating Pathways for Youth in StartUp Cities
By Guy Spigelman, CEO of PresenTense Israel September 15, 2016 08:00 AM
A group of young PresenTense entrepreneurs at their demo day presentations
Tel Aviv–Jaffa, a bustling city on the Mediterranean with beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife and world-class food and culture, is also a leading hub for StartUps. The 2015 Compass report, a survey that rates international entrepreneurial ecosystems, declared Tel Aviv the number one place for tech StartUps outside of the United States. Many multinational companies, including Citi, have set up Innovation Centers and Accelerators in Tel Aviv to take advantage of the energy and talent on tap.
One of the greatest advantages of Tel Aviv–Jaffa is its comparatively high proportion of youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 35. According to the Young-Adult Authority of the city council, over 30% of the local population are young adults, who come from all over Israel and the world to enjoy the lifestyle and work in the bustling tech scene. This matches the trends found by Accelerating Pathways, the global research initiative established by the Citi Foundation and the Economist Intelligence Unit, which found that close to half of today’s youth – globally -- have shifted residences in the past 5 years, while 77% are looking to work for themselves or to start their own business
Like other cities that boast a significant StartUp/Creative Class, a major challenge that Tel Aviv-Jaffa faces is that not all of its neighborhoods are benefiting from the progress and prosperity that the entrepreneurial ecosystem has to offer. One of the side effects of a robust tech scene is that prices rise for everyone – especially housing – while wages in non-tech jobs remain stagnant. Recently the City of San Francisco debated a proposal to levy a payroll tax on tech companies to fund affordable housing in what has become the US’s second-most unequal city, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution. And while the proposal was roundly rejected, it nevertheless highlighted the deep divides that continue to exist in the city.
Jaffa – the picturesque port-town at the southern end of Tel Aviv -- is home to 58,000 residents, one third of whom belong to Israel’s Arab minority. 14,000 of Jaffa’s residents are young adults. Out of this population, only around 10 individuals are known to be working in the tech scene. And if we look at what’s going on inside local high-schools, we find that not one of the three state schools in Jaffa offer higher levels of math study, while very few Jaffa-born youth go onto seek higher education.
While Jaffa couldn’t be closer to the capital of “StartUp Nation,” as Israel is widely known, the local tech scene couldn’t seem farther away for many of the young people in Jaffa.
That’s where the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, and support of PresenTense Israel, a leading innovation organization that promotes inclusive and impactful entrepreneurship, comes in. PresenTense Israel helps to prepare urban youth with the career readiness tools and opportunities they need to thrive in today’s tech-centered economy. Every year over 100 tech, business and social enterprises are launched through the PresenTense Israel accelerator network.
In partnership with the Citi Foundation and Tel Aviv-Jaffa Council, PresenTense Israel is launching “StartUp Bridge” – a multi-layered program to promote entrepreneurship and build skills for hundreds of youth in Jaffa that will culminate in an accelerator for 10 innovative businesses. An integral component of StartUp Bridge is the engagement of five leading tech companies – including the Citi Innovation Lab – which will act as change agents by offering staff as mentors and trainers.
StartUp Bridge follows a successful collaboration in 2015 between PresenTense and the Citi Foundation, which founded two accelerators for Arab entrepreneurs in Israel that helped to launch 20 small businesses. One of the entrepreneurs, 19-year-old Sally Hadra from Baqa Al Gharbia, together with her partner Aseel Khaba, developed “FeelAgain,” a bracelet equipped with sensors for people who have lost nerve endings in their hands and feet due to diseases like diabetes.
For Sally, a real highlight of the accelerator program was standing up in front of 300 people from the local community and pitching her initiative in just 30 seconds! The company has now completed a prototype that has been piloted by patients with great success, and they are now applying to the Chief Scientist’s Office to further develop the product.
After the accelerator, Sally was chosen by Israel’s largest business paper, Globes, as one of the 50 most influential women in Israel. Sally says that beyond developing Feel Again, she also wants to empower others: "I was able to make changes in the lives of patients. I told them that for the first time there is a solution to help them, and I saw the enthusiasm in their eyes. In addition, I give lectures to young Arab women, and show them that you can integrate into the country's science scene, although it is a male domain, and that you can dream and dare to think outside the box, as I did. "
Stay tuned to this space as we report on new initiatives led by young entrepreneurs who are not just receiving their own pathway to progress but creating pathways for others to follow.