Website asks Jerusalemites to mind the businesses that are missing

Coming Soon is a crowdsourced citywide mapping initiative to bring supply to demand, pinpointing neighborhoods ripe for entrepreneurs

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative photo of the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Residents of Jerusalem will soon be able to tell their municipal leaders what businesses are missing from their neighborhood or business district via a website that goes live on Wednesday and will be active for a month.

Coming Soon is a citywide business mapping initiative that plans to use crowdsourcing to find out which businesses are lacking where, and seeks to connect local demand with local entrepreneurs looking for new opportunities. Jerusalem residents and those who work in the city are invited to go to Bekarov and have their opinions heard, in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

The project was set up by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Innovation Team (JLM i-team), together with Maof Jerusalem, the operating arm of the Small and Medium Business Agency at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, and the Digital Israel project at the Ministry for Social Equality.

Coming Soon asks Jerusalemites what they believe is lacking in their neighborhoods and workplace environments and shares the data with entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will get a package of referrals to municipal- and government-subsidized training programs and incentives to help them set up new businesses that will be become sustainable and successful, the organizers said in a statement.

A screenshot of the Coming Soon app (Courtesy)
A screenshot of the Coming Soon site (Courtesy)

The purpose of the initiative is threefold: to use digital crowdsourcing as a way to get insights for business development in the city; to help entrepreneurs start businesses based on real market demand and with tools and training to help them grow; and to promote a sense of community and civic participation among residents.

“In the past few years, we have placed special emphasis on large, diverse investments in neighborhoods throughout the city, as well as making Jerusalem attractive to the business sector,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in the statement.

“The Coming Soon initiative integrates these two strategies through an innovative, creative and out-of-the-box model that is based in collective wisdom. Residents themselves will be able to influence what is happening in their neighborhoods. This will impact the city through enhanced quality of life for residents and advance the business sector – a win-win for all involved.”

About half of the population in Israel’s capital, including its East Jerusalem Arab residents and its ultra-Orthodox Jews — a community in which most men study Torah and don’t work — lived in poverty in 2014, the Central Bureau of Statistics and the National Insurance Institute said in June last year.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the central growth engine of the economy and we are here to give them the support they need in order to succeed,” said Economy Minister Eli Cohen. “Connecting the needs of residents with local entrepreneurs is undeniably the right way to achieving a stable and successful business.”

The JLM i-team, founded and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is a consulting team that reports directly to the mayor of Jerusalem and works to tackle strategic targets and problems in the areas of youth-at-risk, creative public space, fostering business opportunities, education and building active communities. Bloomberg Philanthropies is a charity organization founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg which has set up a framework for solving acute city challenges by focusing on short processes with maximum impact, and creating innovation within existing bodies.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (photo credit: Orel Cohen/Flash90)
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (photo credit: Orel Cohen/Flash90/File)

One of the core missions of the JLM i-team is tackling the challenge of Jerusalem’s economic development — a mission identified by Mayor Barkat. Recent statistics show that approximately 50 percent of new businesses in the city close within five years of opening. The JLM i-team, together with its municipal and government partners, has been working on a series of initiatives to strengthen entrepreneurs and small and medium businesses in the city.

“Coming Soon works to support new businesses while taking into consideration the traditional centrality of neighborhood clusters in Jerusalem, a function of topography, history, politics and social/communal trends,” the statement said.

“Residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods usually know what they are missing — whether it is a supermarket, a pet store, a hair salon or a locksmith — but local entrepreneurs do not have the market research available to those who spend time chatting with parents at the local playground or with seniors at their weekly bridge game,” says Sharone April, director of the JLM i-team. “Coming Soon aims to make that connection so that new businesses open up exactly where they are needed, giving residents a voice and entrepreneurs a greater opportunity to succeed.”

The initiative hopes to get as much input as possible from residents through the website. Users will have the opportunity to pinpoint specific businesses missing in their surroundings, receive suggestions based on their areas of interest, share results with friends and have an impact on the commercial development of their neighborhoods and workplace environment. At the end of the month, the data will be shared with entrepreneurs and with the wider public, the statement said.

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