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Once desolate of tech, Negev to get start-up workspace

Shared workspace provider WeWork to open facility in Beersheba, offering entrepreneurs the services — and unlimited coffee — they need to succeed

A WeWork Israel facility (Shiran Carmel)
A WeWork Israel facility (Shiran Carmel)

In a sign that Israel’s south is stepping up to become a player in the Start-Up Nation, WeWork, the wildly successful American tech workspace network, is opening up in the desert city of Beersheba.

Just a few years ago the concept of a high-tech firm in the capital of the Negev, much less a shared workspace for start-ups with Tel Aviv-style services including desks, meeting rooms, event spaces, secretarial services, high-speed Internet connections, and “all the coffee entrepreneurs and their staff can drink” — one of WeWork’s founding tenets — would have been laughable.

But the Negev has come a long way, and on December 1, WeWork will open up shop in the Gav-Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park. The park, situated opposite the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is near the soon to be established IDF technology campus and adjacent to a tech park that is home to over 35 international and local high-tech companies, including the National Cyber Bureau, Ministry of Defense, Lockheed Martin, Deutsche Telekom, Elbit, WIX, Paypal, Ness, JVP and others.

The new 2,700-square-meter (29,000 square-feet) facility will include 470 desks in enclosed offices and open desk areas, as well as seven meeting rooms, a kitchen, and unlimited coffee and beer on tap.

Although located in the Negev, chances are that the start-ups that take space in WeWork would need to do at least some business in the center of the country, whether it’s meetings with developers from partner firms, or pitches to investors and foreign visitors.

For such start-ups, a big advantage of working with the firm is the access granted to any of the company’s 50 workspaces anywhere in the world. Thus, said WeWork, an entrepreneur who wants to meet investors in New York, San Francisco, London, or even Tel Aviv and Herzliya has a place ready and waiting for them when they need it – “a real office, and not just a coffee shop,” the company said.

Another advantage for start-ups, according to WeWork, is it’s “easy payment plan.” By nature, said the company, start-ups have very erratic income streams, and in some cases, entrepreneurs and their limited staff have to suspend development while taking care of other business – like IDF service, fundraising, or working at their “day jobs.” For start-ups operating on a shoestring budget “WeWork’s pay-by-the-month lease arrangement is likely to prove very welcome,” since firms don’t have to commit to a lease and a monthly rent. Companies pay for use of the facilities by the month, with no long-term obligation.

WeWork currently has 50 locations spanning major cities across the United States, Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Beersheba marks WeWork’s fourth location in Israel, with facilities in Tel Aviv that opened in December 2014, in Herzliya in January 2015, and in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market neighborhood last month.

Benjy Singer, Director of WeWork Israel said that the firm was excited about opening two new WeWork locations in Israel.

“We are confident that our global network of entrepreneurs will not only create opportunities for young people of the south, but also enable others to move to Beersheba while having use of offices in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and soon other cities,” he said.

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