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Forget the Milky: Berlin and Tel Aviv grow tech relationship

The city that emerged as a symbol of the good life in Israel’s election campaign is more than just a foil for party propaganda

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai surfs the Internet under a roof of 600 colorful umbrellas decorating Rothschild Boulevard, announcing the new 'Wi-Fi cloud' in the city in 2013. (photo credit: Kfir Sivan)
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai surfs the Internet under a roof of 600 colorful umbrellas decorating Rothschild Boulevard, announcing the new 'Wi-Fi cloud' in the city in 2013. (photo credit: Kfir Sivan)

More than just a tourist destination to Israelis, Berlin in the months before the country’s recent election campaign became a “divided” city — to some, a symbol of the good life abroad, where everything from milk to chocolate-pudding snack Milky was cheaper and better; to others, a never-changing symbol of the Nazi destruction of European Jewry.

But beyond the stereotypes, there’s another side to Berlin — and an opportunity for greater cooperation and understanding between Israel and Germany.

At a recent tech event, Tel Aviv Global, the municipal agency in charge of promoting the city as a tech and tourism capital, announced a collaborative deal with Berlin’s tech hub, Berlin Partner for Business and Technology, in order to promote future start-up innovation and technological ties between the two cities.

Although smaller and less experienced in the start-up business than the Tel Aviv area — including the city and its suburbs — Berlin is considered, along with London, one of the two hottest start-up scenes in Europe. Almost 750 start-ups call the city home, in areas such as media, music, games, e-commerce, and financial technology, among others. The city also has 16 tech hubs and numerous venture-capital firms.

The deal will allow entrepreneurs from both places to access work space in the other location for free, as well as visa process assistance and one-on-one mentoring with experts.

The announcement took place today at the Axis 2015 event at the Peres Center for Peace, during a dedicated panel honoring the 50th anniversary of Israeli-German diplomatic relations and the flourishing, internationally recognized start-up ecosystems of both Berlin and Tel Aviv.

This partnership is part of the Berlin campaign initiated by Berlin Partner in order to develop global cooperation between Berlin’s start-up ecosystem and other innovative cities including Washington DC, New York, London — and now, Tel Aviv.

While the new start-up deal is the first time German and Israeli municipalities have worked out such a deal, there are plenty of German companies that have built relationships with start-ups. Among them is Deutsche Telekom, which last year opened the hub:raum accelerator, an extension of its Berlin-based accelerator that recruits promising Israeli companies in the networking, mobile, and ad-tech spaces, said Min-Kin Mak, senior vice president new business Deutsche Telekom and head of hub:raum.

“We know the start-up ecosystem and the in-depth technological know-how here in Israel, and hold this in high regard,” he said. “We are able to open doors for the start-ups within Telekom and partner companies, giving them a further push towards success. In this way, we want to make use of synergies and bring products to the European market together.”

Ed Frank, CEO & founder of Axis Innovation, said: “We are pleased to host this year’s annual event with Berlin Partner and Tel Aviv Global in order to promote technological ties between the two countries. The partnership between Tel Aviv Global and Berlin Partner will allow for increased expansion and exposure of Israeli start-ups, both in the European as well as global markets.”

Hila Oren, CEO & founder of Tel Aviv Global, said: “Tel Aviv is quickly arising as a key player in the global start-up arena. Recently ranked the world’s leading city for start-ups, outside of the US, Tel Aviv is now focusing new policies to promote and facilitate innovation. With free Wi-Fi throughout the city, reduced city taxes for start-ups and city-subsidized coworking spaces, Tel Aviv is the place for start-ups.

“Leading our start-up development is Yael Weinstein, head of economic development. We consider Berlin as a key strategic partner in this process,” added Oren.

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