Entrepreneurial workspaces burst out of the city, into the ‘burbs

New facilities break the mold of standard Tel Aviv start-up coworking solutions, appealing to those who need something different

PowerBall Workspace, Ness Ziona (Courtesy)
PowerBall Workspace, Ness Ziona (Courtesy)

Despite stereotypes, the Start-Up Nation is more than just latte-guzzling 20-something Tel Aviv app developers. There are entrepreneurs working in all sorts of industries, and in all parts of the country – and they need places to develop their ideas, said Tal Delman, an entrepreneur herself who decided that Ness Ziona would be the perfect place to establish a new shared workspace.

PowerBall is not a typical workspace, and it is not a in a typical location. It’s an example of the rising tide of entrepreneurial workspaces that are cropping up outside the country’s business and cultural center of Tel Aviv.

The Ness Ziona workspace does not strive to compete with the workspaces in Tel Aviv. “Most of those are aimed at a younger, more with-it crowd,” said Delman. “The vibe here is much more mature. The entrepreneurs here are older, and more involved with projects that deal with science, manufacturing, and other more ‘mature’ areas of work.”

The deal at PowerBall is typical of workspaces, where entrepreneurs can for as little as NIS 1,200 a month rent a desk in a modern building (PowerBall is located in a refurbished factory that was upgraded and a redecorated at a cost of NIS 6 million), with kitchen and meeting room privileges. The facility also offers value-added services, like mentors, introductions to investors, etc. The rates at PowerBall are significantly lower than at equivalent facilities in Tel Aviv.

In-Vent is another “atypical” workspace that caters to entrepreneurs who have a good idea, need space to work, but can’t schlep to Tel Aviv. In-Vent, located in downtown Haifa, an area the city is hoping to turn into “the Rothschild Boulevard of the North” – a reference to the Tel Aviv neighborhood where many start-ups are located – was opened last month, with great fanfare and enthusiasm by city leaders.

Speaking at the site’s grand opening, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said that he was very happy about the efforts of entrepreneurs to find a home in his city. “This facility will help thousands of young talented people living and studying in Haifa to thrive here. We are making great efforts to open up the city to young people, and we see entrepreneurship as a key to the economic and social development of the city.”

In-Vent workspace, Haifa (Courtesy)
In-Vent workspace, Haifa (Courtesy)

Unlike private-enterprise PowerBall, In-Vent is a project of the Haifa Municipality, via its Youth Department. “We believe in a community of young entrepreneurs, who are creative,original and hungry for success that dream’s of changing the world… all done in our city,” according to the group. “In-Vent is based in Haifa’s downtown harbor – a renewing area of commerce, business, leisure and culture.”

Tal Delman (Shai Epstein)
Tal Delman (Shai Epstein)

Located in Tel Aviv but still of the beaten path in terms of whom it aims to serve is the TechCode Israel China Innovation Center, inaugurated last month by Chinese Deputy Premier Liu Yandong on a recent visit to Israel. TechCode provides enterprises with office space, business mentors, financial support, financial services, brand promotion and other services – but it aims to work with entrepreneurs who are developing projects with Chinese partners. According to Zheng Xiaoxing, general manager of TechCode, the center has a strict screening criteria and review processes for start-up candidates – and is looking to accept only entrepreneurs or projects aimed specifically at the Chinese market.

TechCode is part of a global network of a dozen such workspaces in the US, Europe, and Asia. “We offer unlimited access into the Chinese market, in every level,” according to the group. “Whether you need links within the administration, connection to a major company, a new office space in China or an investment, TechCode Tel Aviv is your best chance to make the best out of the huge Chinese market.”

According to Delman, the atypical workspace phenomenon will continue to grow (PowerBall itself is planning on opening more facilities in outlying areas).

“I’ll admit that Ness Ziona does not have the cachet of Rothschild Boulevard, but we also don’t have the traffic and hassle of the big city,” said Delman. “There’s plenty of parking here, and we are a short train ride from Tel Aviv. We are not trying to compete with workspaces like WeWork. There are some entrepreneurs whose businesses require that they be located in the midst of the glamorous city – but there are many others who don’t fit in with the youngish Tel Aviv crowd, or who eschew the glamour and want to concentrate on getting their work done. That’s who we are here for.”

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