Jerusalem techies show each other, and the world, a little love

Jerusalem techies show each other, and the world, a little love

Firgun Day, July 17, is an opportunity to tell others how you appreciate them, and to appreciate one of the world’s emerging tech hubs

Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat (left), with Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, at a MadeinJLM event on May 21, 2014 (Courtesy)
Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat (left), with Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, at a MadeinJLM event on May 21, 2014 (Courtesy)

What started out as way for entrepreneurs in Jerusalem to provide positive feedback to colleagues who made good is set to go international on Friday. Firgun Day, dedicated to spreading positive thoughts and good karma, is celebrating its second year by going public, with organizers encouraging everyone to say something nice about someone else at a special website.

Firgun, say the folks at MadeinJLM, the group behind Firgun Day, means giving someone “a compliment, a kind word, or a proverbial pat on the back,” according to Hanan Brand, chairman and founder of MadeinJLM, an organization that works with and promotes the start-up community in Jerusalem.

“The city was recently named the number one emerging tech hub in the world by Entrepreneur Magazine, recognizing us as an important place for tech development,” notes Brand. The story was picked up by Time magazine as well, which echoed Entrepreneur’s enthusiasm.

According to the magazines, Jerusalem “has become a flourishing center for biomed, cleantech, Internet/mobile startups, accelerators, investors and supporting service providers,” with top research centers such as Hebrew University supplying the brainpower to match the enthusiasm and creativity of entrepreneurs.

“Everyone knows Tel Aviv as the center of Israeli tech, and we certainly join in giving a firgun to our brothers there,” said Brand. “But Jerusalem has its own ecosystem – more connected, more like a mishpacha,” which, like firgun, is a Yiddish/Hebrew term (meaning family).

Firgun Day started last year when Brand, along with fellow Jerusalem entrepreneurs and MadeinJLM heads Roy Munin and Uriel Shuraki, noticed on Twitter one start-up sending its good wishes to another for its recent success in raising and investment. Others picked up the trend, with the idea hitting home when dozens of good wishes rolled in to a start-up at the Jerusalem SifTech accelerator, which had just launched a new product. From there, the idea of a special day dedicated to saying nice things to others seemed like a natural, said Munin.

The idea of a Firgun Day seemed to fit the Jerusalem tech ecosystem, said Munin. To “fargen” – the Hebrew verb used to describe the giving of a firgun – is very common in the Jerusalem tech community. “We feel like we’re all in the same boat. When one company succeeds, we see it as the success of the whole ecosystem. It makes no difference whether the entrepreneur is secular, ultra-Orthodox or Arab, or focused on design, software or bioengineering. So we sat down and thought about how we could spread the good vibes beyond Jerusalem. That was how Firgun Day was born.”

Last year, FirgunDay mainly targeted the tech industry, but this year, the organizers have decided to turn the day into a global celebration – hoping to attract tens of thousands around the world to giving and getting some firgun on Friday. If you aren’t the complimentary type, don’t worry; MadeinJLM has developed a special machine called the Firgunator to automatically generate a positive thought directed at a specific person in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Portuguese, Hindi or French.

“Of course it’s a fun event, but we really do believe that Jerusalem offers the tech world something they can’t get anywhere else,” said Brand. “Especially here, in a city with so many differences and potential for hate, it’s important to foster unity and understanding – and I think that we in the Jerusalem tech community, which embraces Jews, Arabs, ultra-Orthodox and anyone else who cares to join, have an important message for the world.”

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