On the surface, the capitalist business world of high-tech start-ups has little in common with the socialist kibbutz lifestyle – but they’ve bridged that gap at Kibbutz Revivim, where the old “red” guard has given its blessing to the development of a new entrepreneurial class with the help of definitely un-socialist organizations like Microsoft, Wix, Deloitte, and others.
In fact, say the directors of the “Madgera” (Hatchery), as the kibbutz start-up incubator is called, entrepreneurs are better off living in the kibbutz environment if they are serious about developing a world-class product. To entrepreneurs, the kibbutz promises in 2015 what it promised to the pioneers who established it in 1943 – isolation from the noise of the big city and an opportunity to do something important without distraction.
“If you need to work at another job other than your start-up, it means your venture is not getting your 100% focus it needs,” say organizers Lion David and Elad Yeori, both seasoned veterans of the Israeli high-tech scene. “If you need to drive 2 hours a day and get aggravated in traffic almost each day, then your venture is being held back and costing everybody hundreds of dollars a month.”
The time saved in not having to commute, not to mention the money saved on gas and rent, amounts to a nice chunk of change – as much as $57,750 – for those who choose to start their start-up at the Madgera.
Of course, the kibbutz stands to get something out of the deal as well – an 8% to 15% stake in the company. However, start-ups will get a great deal out of the program, David and Yeori promise, including room and board, leisure activities (i.e., a gym and pool on-site, as well as weekend trips around Israel), mentors and business advice, assistance with developing a business plan, marketing, consulting, and legal help, and more.
The idea, according to David and Yeori, is to remove every possible roadblock preventing entrepreneurs from putting their all into their project. “Some entrepreneurs try to survive while simultaneously working two jobs, struggling with the cost of living and battling countless distractions. We created the Madgera because we strive to help entrepreneurs focus their venture, solve problems, build their company the right way, manage agreements and finally of course, reach investors,” they said.
The only proviso: That the idea be sufficiently developed to be turned into a product, service, algorithm, etc. within the three months of the program’s operation. The first round of the program begins October 11, and applications are being taken right now. While David and Yeori are willing to consider any good ideas, they believe that “digital (web & mobile) ventures are most likely to reach a product that proves feasibility within a time frame of 3 months.”
Among the sponsors of the program are Microsoft, which is providing free use of its cloud software platform for participants; Wix, which is providing mentors; accounting firm Deloitte, which will provide financial services for member firms; WeWork, which has promised to provide facilities for participants when they graduate the Madgera; FogelIP, which will help with the patenting process; Shenhav, a law firm that will provide legal services; and ActiveTrail, which will provide six months of mass email services to participants.
For the kibbutz, the Madgera is an opportunity to bring Revivim, in the Negev Desert south of Beersheba, into the 21st century, said David Ben Lulu, business manager for Revivim. “The contribution of the kibbutz movement to the Israeli economy is well-known. The kibbutz has been one of the engines of economic growth. We see the establishment of an incubator as a great example of synergy with the values of the kibbutz, which is an entrepreneurial concern in and of itself. We have no doubt that more kibbutzim will start their own accelerators, as they seek to become part of the Israeli tech ecosystem.”