SifTech – The Jerusalem Entrepreneurship Center
What is SifTech?
SifTech, the Jerusalem Entrepreneurship Center, is a non-profit organization established in March 2012 under the sponsorship of the Students Union at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in cooperation with a variety of organizations and professionals. The center's vision is to develop Jerusalem's economy through elevating the young, educated, creative and diverse population of the city. SifTech aims to develop business initiatives in the geographical surroundings of Jerusalem and create links between them and the solid foundations of the Hebrew University and other academic institutions in the city.
What is the connection between entrepreneurship, industry and academic institutions?
Around the world: Many universities around the world have become focal points for the development of industry and high-tech initiatives and companies. Two successful examples are Silicon Valley near Stanford University and Route 128 in the surroundings of Harvard and MIT. The reasons for the development of these connections are the ability to share knowledge and ideas, the existence of solid foundations, and the presence of a large population of educated, professional and creative people who can take part in both the academic and the business worlds.
In Jerusalem: Despite the existence of a high-quality population and the presence of many academic institutions, Jerusalem has not become a center for industry and entrepreneurship. Two main factors account for this situation: a small market for business entrepreneurship and a lack of incentives for young people to develop their business initiatives in Jerusalem. Therefore, many students who complete their studies in Jerusalem decide to leave the city, creating a negative migration trend which holds back the development of the city's economy.
What makes SifTech unique?
SifTech, the first center of its kind in Greater Jerusalem, makes a point of being attuned to the special nature of the city and connected to the diverse population living in it. SifTech will work in cooperation with leading institutions in Jerusalem that share our vision and are the most relevant for developing business initiatives.
SifTech will assist young entrepreneurs in coping with some of the major challenges they will face in the early stages of developing their initiatives – isolation and a lack of knowledge about the stages that need to be followed in the startup process. We do this guided by two beliefs:
1. Emphasis on practical rather than theoretical work: The programs in SifTech are based on hands-on learning and are personally tailored to each participant. The participants are required to meet deadlines and to complete action items for each meeting.
2. Emphasis on team-work: We believe that a good idea and a first-class entrepreneur are not enough to build a successful business initiative. A skillful team and an enabling ecosystem can make the difference between a failing startup and a thriving one.
What do we do at SifTech?
1. Entrepreneurship Workshop – SifTech's Prestigious Program for Entrepreneurs:
An intensive 4-month program for entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of building their start-ups. The first program is planned to begin in October 2012 and end in February 2013. The selection process already started in the beginning of August 2012 and is being conducted in joint cooperation with a professional committee led by JVP (Jerusalem Venture Partners). There will be a preference for accepting teams of entrepreneurs to the program (as opposed to individual entrepreneurs). In the first program, 5 to 10 teams, each composed of 2 to 4 team members, will be accepted. Eligible teams will need to be based in Jerusalem or have at least one team member a graduate or student of a Jerusalem-based academic institution. Participation in the workshop will include a 500 NIS fee and no equity will be taken from the entrepreneurs in the first program.
The guidance and mentoring in the program will be implemented in three levels:
- Professional Working Sessions: Once a week, a 4-hour professional working session will be held. The topics that will be covered in the meetings are: presentation skills, business model, financial and legal aspects of start-ups, branding and marketing models, technical features of start-ups. These sessions will be conducted by professional instructors that specialize in each of these fields, such as: JVP, Yigal Arnon & Co. Law Firm, IniTech Software Consulting and Outsourcing, and more.
- Personal Guidance from Mentors: The teams that will be accepted to the workshop will receive a list of mentors that are willing to guide them for the whole 4-month period of the program. The teams will then need to pick the mentor/s they would like to work with. The matching process between mentors and entrepreneurs will be conducted based on the field of interest that the mentor has specified and the time he stated that he is willing to invest in the guidance of the teams.
- Demo Day: The program will end with a Demo Day, in which all the participating teams will pitch their start-ups in front of a panel of potential investors.
2. Assistance in Connecting between Partners: We have identified a great difficulty to meet potential business partners in the entrepreneurship world. It is especially challenging to find people who come from different fields.
In order to assist people to form a start-up team, we are active in three domains:
- Speed-Dating Events: The first event was held on August 15th, 2012, and was aimed at connecting betwee entrepreneurs with ideas for start-ups and people who wish to join a start-up and specialize in marketing, designing or programming. The event was conducted in joint cooperation with Capital-J and The Jerusalem Center for Young Adults and was a big success. Similar events are planned to be conducted throughout the year.
- Experts Database: SifTech will have a vast database of people who are experts in a certain field and are interested to be partners in a start-up. This way, entrepreneurs who are looking for partners with specific expertise could turn to SifTech and we will offer them a few relevant options from our database.
- Internet Platform: SifTech will provide the services of an internet platform, named PartnerChase, that aims to connect between founders and co-founders on the basis of professional and personal classifications.
3. "Off the Record" – Exclusive Meetings with First-Class Entrepreneurs:
These monthly intimate gatherings will provide an opportunity to meet leading entrepreneurs and hear their stories of success, and more importantly, their stories about the challenges they had to face and failures they encountered along their professional roads.
4. Business Consultation: Entrepreneurs will receive personal consultation in the inancial, legal, and marketing fields with professional mentors. For instance, on fixed days, entrepreneurs will be able to register for legal consultation with lawyers from the Yigal Arnon & Co. Law Firm or for financial advice with accountants from Yehudayof Accounting Firm. Entrepreneurs will need to pay a symbolic fee for the consultation they will receive.
5. Professional Courses: SifTech will offer courses in fields that interface with the entrepreneurship world, such as digital marketing, fund raising and presentation skills. The courses will be given by professional bodies and lecturers, such as Emma Butin, Donna Abraham, MATI and MT Web. The courses will be designated for anyone who wishes to widen horizons and for businesses that are interested in acquiring professional skills for promoting their firms.
6. Events and Conferences: SifTech will initiate events and conferences in Jerusalem that will deal with different aspects of entrepreneurship. Additionally, the center will assist in the production of existing events in this field.
We are already involved in planning two major events in Jerusalem:
- Global Entrepreneurship Week: In the past three years, the Global Entrepreneurship Week has been noted in over 100 countries around the world and in several cities in Israel, but has never been hosted in Jerusalem. SifTech decided to initiate the participation of Jerusalem in this special week and we are now in the midst of planning a series of events that will be called "A Beer with an Entrepreneur", in which lectures with leading entrepreneurs will be conducted in numerous bars around Jerusalem and will be open to the public.
- Public Demo Day: Throughout the year, SifTech will organize open demo days, in which anyone with an idea for a start-up will be able to present it in front of a panel of leading entrepreneurial figures.
7. Community Entrepreneurship Programs: In the broad vision of SifTech, we aim to become a center that is involved in the community of Jerusalem in a variety of different sectors.
- Youth Entrepreneurship: We plan to implement the knowledge and skills of SifTech in programs aimed at developing entrepreneurship among youth populations in Jerusalem.
- Programs for Populations with Special Needs: We wish to plan and conduct professional courses for populations with special needs. For instance, the first program we are developing in collaboration with PresenTense is a digital marketing course for the deaf community, in which unique services will be provided in order to suit their needs.
- TED Talks: Throughout the year, SifTech will conduct Ted Talks regarding different aspects of entrepreneurship. The events will be open to the public and broadcasted both on TED and on a special YouTube channel.