Given their location, temperament – and perhaps, especially, their history – Tel Aviv and Berlin wouldn’t seem to have too much in common.
But they do, according to Andrea Joras, managing director of Berlin Partner, a high-tech group that seeks to attract start-ups to the city. “The issues of culture and history might have been important to the older generation, but in today’s Berlin they are much less relevant,” said Joras.
“The two cities have a great deal in common – they’re both international cities that are more outward-looking than inward-looking. In Berlin, we have people from 180 countries, and many of the people working there are from abroad – in fact, only half of the city’s residents were born there. You don’t have to speak German to be a Berliner,” Joras added.
In a gala ceremony Sunday, Tel Aviv and Berlin signed an agreement to collaborate on tech issues, and to provide assistance to start-ups in each city. The agreement was signed between Berlin Partner and Tel Aviv Global, a city-run project to help Tel start-ups connect with their counterparts around the world.
“This is a really exciting time for both German and Israeli entrepreneurs and startups,” said Hila Oren, CEO and founder of Tel Aviv Global. “Tel Aviv is the Start-up City of the Start-up Nation, and we see a huge amount of foreign companies looking to be part of the amazingly innovative culture we have here.”
Under the agreement, both organizations will provide a slew of services, assistance, and contacts for companies from the other city, including exchange of co-working desks at public or private co-working hubs; “soft landing” support for start-ups that open offices in each others’ cities; support in providing visas to entrepreneurs to visit each city; mentoring and advice on how to succeed in each city’s ecosystem; and access to pitching and start-up events.
Israeli companies in Berlin will be offered co-working spaces with partners like T-Labs, Rainmaking Loft or the Betahaus, while Berlin start-ups can work in start-up space The Library, located in Tel Aviv’s Shalom Meir Tower. The companies will get the opportunity to get a free seat in one of mentioned hubs for two to four weeks to test the Berlin or Tel Aviv market to connect with the start-up ecosystem in either city.
That Israel is the Start-Up Nation is no longer a secret – and delegations, government officials, and multinational companies come to Israel to seek top tech talent. In particular, there is a “friendly competition” between European cities, countries, US states and cities, and corporation-sponsored accelerators and incubators (like those run by Microsoft, IBM, and many others) to rope in the best Israeli tech – which means that start-ups with good ideas have a lot of options and a lot of choices.
But Berlin can compete with the best of them, said Joras – and the city offers a lot more than many others do.
“We have become the European capital for start-ups,” said Joras. “They find everything they need to succeed here, including contacts to expand and grow in the rest of Europe. It’s easy to get to anywhere in Europe from Berlin – we’re centrally located geographically, financially, politically, and in other ways. Companies that want to grow their footprint in the rest of Europe will find Berlin an ideal fit.”
When it comes to issues involving Germany and Israel, history has a way of rearing its head – and for Israelis, many of whom have relatives who perished in the Holocaust, that history can be painful. But if it is, said Joras, Israelis are very good at hiding the hurt.
“I’m not aware of any start-up that has refused to work with us because of the Holocaust,” said Joras. “Young entrepreneurs on both sides acknowledge history but they do not let it immobilize them. The young entrepreneurs in both cities want to leave a positive mark on the world, and in that they find they have a lot in common.
“When I was a student I lived in Jerusalem for three years,” said Joras. “My nationality was known to all my Israeli friends, and I do not recall anyone ever bringing up the Holocaust with me. We do not ignore history – we acknowledge it and move on together.”
During the event, Berlin Partner and Tel Aviv Global held a pitch competition and chose the first start-up from Tel Aviv that will be going to Berlin throughout the agreement. Pzartech is a distributed 3D printing service that enables manufacturers to provide end parts, spare parts and customized parts, locally to their customers. It enables customers to quickly source end parts and customize the items they purchase.
“Following a test with a leading Israeli manufacturer, Pzartech is looking forward to work with German manufacturers,” says Jeremie Brabet-Adonajlo, co-founder of Pzartech. “We’re enthusiastic about spending time in Berlin high-tech ecosystem and hopeful that it will provide us with the opportunity to collaborate with German companies.”
Besides Berlin, Tel Aviv Global has signed an agreement with Paris, “and we are in advanced discussions with New York City, London, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Warsaw, Buenos Aires, Munich and Prague,” said Oren. “As a city maker, I am always looking for ways to enhance the city and globalize it — We’re thrilled to sign this agreement with our partners in Berlin and are looking forward to welcoming German entrepreneurs to our non-stop City.”