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How Israel and the Arab World Connect Through Technology

One of the greatest missed opportunities in Middle East business is no longer going to be missed.

Back in July, I wrote an essay in Geektime on “The Anti-Israel BDS Movement Will Fail“. Little did I know how quickly that would prove true!

Many Israeli companies build technologies which could be very valuable to the broader Middle East region, particularly in water tech, agriculture technology, and cybersecurity.  However, Israeli companies historically did not focus on marketing to their immediate neighbors.  However, Israel and the United Arab Emirates recently announced that they will normalise diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship. Other Arab countries are rumored to be working on similar initiatives.

The MENA region has a population of nearly 500 million people, with a growing young population. The average GDP per capita is approximately $35,000. It’s a major opportunity.

I have a longstanding interest in this nexus. Back in early 2017, I worked with ABANA (network of financial professionals with ties to the Middle East/North Africa); Harvard Arab Alumni Association; and Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of NY (which I founded) to launch an annual Tech Summit in New York focused on the Middle East/North Africa region (“MENA”) .  I previously lived in Israel for 3 years and was CEO of an Israeli startup.

I’ve identified a wide range of organizations who are working on bridging the economic, cultural, and political gap between Israel, the Arab community, and the Middle East/North Africa region (“MENA”) through technology. I thought others might be interested in my list. If I’m missing any, please contact me. I also suggest look at the UAE-Israel Technology & Finance Community/Mailing List.

INVESTMENT ORGANIZATIONS FOCUSED ON THE ISRAEL-MENA AXIS

Abu Dhabi Virtual 2020: Cooperation between The Nest – הבית ליזמים צעירים & Founder Institute UAE Abu Dhabi Virtual 2020. Pre-seed startups (all vertical) are welcome to register to world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator, the Founder Institute Final Admissions Deadline: October 04. Apply here.

Amelia Investments – “Amelia Investments is a private equity fund creating economic opportunities throughout the Middle East region.  Founded by Nechemia (Chemi) Peres and Assaf Shariv, Amelia is uniquely positioned to leverage Middle East markets amidst a dynamic political environment.  Amelia spurs growth and development by providing capital, professional support and mentoring to entrepreneurs and joint ventures that further regional collaboration and economic opportunity.  Located throughout the Middle East, Amelia-supported initiatives are diversified by geography, industry sector and stage. Our investment focus includes infrastructure, agriculture, communications, financial services, health services etc. Markets include Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, the Arabian Gulf among others. “

Phoenix Capital, a tie-up between OurCrowd and Abdullah Al Naboodah’s business development unit. “Phoenix will act as a platform to channel Gulf investment into OurCrowd’s 220 portfolio companies, building on the pent-up demand in the UAE for opportunities in the thriving Israeli start-up scene. The Israeli company, a $1.5bn fund that deploys capital on behalf of small and medium-sized investors, hopes to launch its companies into the UAE, capitalising on the diversified nature of the Al Naboodah Group conglomerate, which spans from the automotive and construction industries to travel and real estate.”

INVESTMENT ORGANIZATIONS FOCUSED ON THE NEXUS BETWEEN ISRAEL, ISRAEL’S ARAB MINORITY, AND/OR THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 

50/50 Startups – “We’re an incubator for equally owned tech ventures by Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs.”

Siraj Capital.Siraj Fund Management Company (SFMC) is the first Palestinian private equity fund manager. SFMC’s first private equity fund, Siraj Palestine Fund I, was launched in 2011, with a value of $90 million USD. SFMC is currently raising capital for its second fund, Siraj Palestine Fund II, with an initial closing expected in Q3 2019, also valued at $90 million USD.”

Hybrid “is the most far-reaching, in-depth program for early-stage ventures led by Arabs in Israel. We are the go-to program for Israel’s most promising startups, acting as their gateway to the core of the Israeli Hi-tech sector and worldwide. We are passionate about finding the next generation of leaders and companies, who will reshape how we perceive the most trivial of things. We are entirely equity and profit free.”

NGT3VC  “NGT3 brings new opportunities while remaining rooted in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel’s Galilee. We start and fund early-stage companies, primarily in innovative medical devices and life sciences, and encourage Arab and Jewish entrepreneurship.”  

Our Generation Speaks – “Our Generation Speaks (OGS) is a Boston-based three-month summer fellowship program and incubator where emerging Israeli and Palestinian leaders create high-impact ventures. In OGS, fellows can expect to build for-profit and non-profit ventures. The journey begins with idea development and team formation and culminates in seed funding allocation for a select group of teams. The fellowship includes a world class seminar program and top-notch mentorship program. OGS has already supported over a dozen of such ventures since its inception and invested over $1.2 million in them. Our ventures, in turn, have raised over $2 million in external funding.”

Sadara VC – “The only VC focused on investing in Palestinian-linked tech companies.”

Takwin Labs. “Takwin is a venture capital fund and incubator, making early-stage investments in hi-tech companies run by Arab entrepreneurs in Israel. We nurture the startup spirit in the Arab Israeli communities and empower Arab entrepreneurs to build successful companies. Founded by Imad Telhami, Takwin is a unique and first-of-its-kind cooperative venture between Israel’s two largest funds – Pitango (run by Chemi Peres) and JVP (run by Dr. Erel Margalit). We are the first VC located in the northern region of Israel, and Takwin Labs is the first venture infrastructure created for northern entrepreneurs and startups.”

TECH NONPROFITS FOCUSED ON ISRAEL, ITS ARAB MINORITY, AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

AppleSeeds Academy – “Appleseeds is an Israeli nonprofit that was founded in 2000 with the aim of bridging Israel’s growing Startup Nation to underserved communities in Israel’s social and geographic periphery.  Appleseeds promotes digital equality in Israel by developing and implementing programs in the areas of technology, employment, and life skills. Through its team of 250 professional instructors, Appleseeds works across Israel, from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat, reaching some 80,000 beneficiaries annually. “

MadatechLocated in Haifa, MadaTech, Israel’s National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, is Israel’s largest science museum.  Madatech is systematically involved in promoting STEM education for Israel’s Arab minority and also has set up projects in Morocco, Ethiopia, and elsewhere

Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow. “Founded at MIT in 2004, Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET) brings together young Israeli and Palestinian leaders to create positive change through technology and entrepreneurship. MIT student instructors teach computer science and entrepreneurship over the summer and during the January winter session (IAP).” 

MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) is partnered with several organizations building business, educational, science and technological bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, as well in and between other regions. 

MooNa “ trains and empowers young children, youth and teenagers with the aim of increasing the pool of opportunities available to them to integrate into quality employment.”

Palestinian Internship Program (PIP). “The Palestinian Internship Program (PIP) provides young Palestinian professionals with work experience placements at leading Israel-based companies, especially in the fields of tech and finance. Founded by Yadin Kaufmann in 2014, PIP has so far completed five cycles of internships comprising 39 interns and 25 companies including leading multinationals such as Intel, Thomson Reuters, HP Indigo and Teva, as well as a number of start-ups and venture capital firms.”

Tech2Peace “is an independent initiative, created and conducted by a young staff of students and volunteers. Our aim is to run High-Tech and peace-building seminars, focused on creating a lasting positive relationship between young Israelis and Palestinians.”

Tsofen High Technology centers is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the integration of Israel’s Arab Citizens into the hi-tech industry as a means of promoting economic development, reducing poverty, high value job creation in Arab urban centers and integration of Arab citizens into Israel’s civil society. 

Unistream was founded by businessman and entrepreneur Rony Zarom in 2001 to help Israeli teens from underprivileged areas realize their potential, by teaching them entrepreneurial skills, so they can change the courses of their lives, and Israeli society, for the better.

Abu Dhabi Investment Office’s first overseas bureau…which is in Tel Aviv.  “The office in Tel Aviv will focus on facilitating connections between innovation-focused companies.”

ISRAELI COMPANIES WITH SPECIFIC FOCUS ON RECRUITING LOCAL PALESTINIANS FOR TECHNICAL ROLES

I’m just highlighting here a few companies who have made recruiting Arab engineers a focus.  Israeli tech companies are typically looking to hire high quality engineers on an ongoing basis, regardless of race, religion, or gender.

Babcom Co-founded in 2008 by Imad Telhami and Dov Lautman, the company was created to meet the pressing need of many companies to find a partner to recruit, train, and manage top professionals and service representatives able to meet their long-term needs just as well as company employees.

Galil Softwarebig software company hiring people from all sectors, with focus on Arab engineers in Israel

SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING

(Note all these resources predate the recent Israeli-UAE deal.)

Can the BDS movement hinder Israeli Innovation? These two CEOs don’t think so.

How Do Israel’s Tech Firms Do Business in Saudi Arabia? Very Quietly

Can Israel Expand Its Startup Culture To Nearby Regions?

Top Israeli VC Says Startup Nation Drives U.S. Economic Growth 

The Weapon Wizards: How Israel Became a High-Tech Military Superpower

This Palestinian Woman Has a New, High-tech Plan for Forging Mideast Peace

Israeli Arabs Looking for High-tech Success in ‘Start-up Nation’

Startup Rising Book

Special Report on Business Ethics: Business for Peace

 

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