From 01-07 December 2012, SEAF led a group of 20 entrepreneurs from Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Romania, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan to map the landscape and meet visionaries, technologists, financiers, and entrepreneurs in all three technology clusters.
With the help of the well-known Israeli investor, Yossi Vardi, and Dr. Glenn Yago, Director the Milken Institute in Jerusalem, SEAF was able to introduce members of the group to a Who’s Who of change makers in Israel. Erel Margalit (Founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners), Bob Rosenschein (founder of Answers.com), and Jonathan Medved (Founder of Our Crowd) were just a few of the marquee names among the 40+ people who met in intimate surroundings with our group to share their stories, compare experiences, and discuss their outlooks for the future.
A visit to Israel would not be complete without a tour of the Old City. SEAF was lucky to get a private tour of Jerusalem from noted archaeologist and star of the PBS’s miniseries “Walking the Bible,” Dr. Avner Goren. Afterwards, the group shared dinner at the historic YMCA with Palestinian and Israeli members of MIT’s Middle East Education through Technology (MEET) program. Saul Singer, co-author of Start-Up Nation, gave a key note address that evening and then dined and chatted with every member of the delegation.
In Ramallah, we visited with entrepreneurs, investors, and government officials over a working lunch at the Movenpick Hotel. While in town, we visited the grave of Yasser Arafat and had the chance to observe the difficulties of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank first hand.
In Jordan, Samer Asfour, the Senior Economic Counselor to His Majesty, King Abdullah II provided us with an excellent overview of the booming tech sector in Amman. He did so from the Hall of Pictures inside Raghadan Palace. Over the next two days, we met with investors, entrepreneurs, and industry facilitators who all made a convincing case to our group that Jordan can be their gateway to the Arabic-speaking, Middle Eastern market. Visits to Jerash and Petra added a pleasant cultural dimension to this part of the journey.
Participants left with a platinum Rolodex of contacts in all three clusters. They also acquired a perspective on the opportunities and challenges involved in doing business in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.
Feedback from the group was very positive:
“It (was) an excellent trip, comprising high level meetings and contacts and providing numerous interesting opportunities for insightful discussions and synergies. Thank you indeed.” –Elizabeth Filippouli (Greece)
“This was a fantastic event. Being exposed to the differing ecosystems in the region was very interesting. Juxtaposing the Israeli model with the Jordanian model created a very tangible and visible difference in their levels of sophistication, government support and general evolution. This was a fantastic event!”—Jon Mooney (United States)
“The message that I valued the most is how innovation should be intelligently used to leverage economic growth and quality of life. The positive energy brought by the events and by the professional people we met inspired us and we are already planning for projects in the region.”—Rodica Dimitriu (Romania)
“ It was amazing trip to Israel and Jordan. The trip allowed us to meet and learn from talented people and great companies, to exchange experiences, and to hear success stories. The variety of what we saw during the trip enlarged my horizons and deepened my understanding of startups and the investment world. It opened new opportunities for my future plans! Many thanks to CEED for organizing such a balanced mixture of business and pleasure events which has forever improved my knowledge and will always remain in my memory!”—Garik Petrosyan (Armenia)
INVESTORS WE MET
Israel: Jerusalem Venture Partners; Giza Ventures; 4-Innovation; Plus Ventures; Microsoft Accelerator; Tel Aviv University Start Up Center; Our Crowd
Palestine: Palestinian Investment Fund; Sadara Ventures
Jordan: MENA Apps; Oasis 500; IV Holdings; N2V
ENTREPRENEURS WE MET
Israel: Answers.com; Yotpo; Hoozin; Anyclip; ComQi; TOK; UIU; Wishi; CrossReader
Palestine: Futurada; Idevator; Souktel; Yamsafer; Exalt Technologies
Jordan: Shoofee TV; Nafith; Sallaty; Gallery Al Sharq; SSS Process; Experts 911; Fourth Dimension Systems; Arabia Weddings; First Bazaar; Jamalon; Khodarji; Pay Fellows; Tasmeem
FACILITATORS WE MET
Israel: Milken Institute; Israel Business Information Services; Prime Minister’s Economic Council; Israel Advanced Technology Industries; MEET
Palestine: Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies; Birzeit University
Jordan: ICT Association of Jordan (Int@j); Business Development Center; Mowgli Foundation; El Hassan Business Park; Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship