Walking down the normally bustling Ben-Yehuda Street, one finds the heart of Jerusalem uncannily empty (and security out in force).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In an effort to boost the capital’s anemic economy, the Jerusalem Municipality and its Jerusalem Innovation Team have launched a city-wide business- mapping initiative called “Coming Soon” to connect local supply with local demand.
The initiative utilizes a software app and crowdsourcing to determine which businesses are lacking in each neighborhood and business district, gathering invaluable data for area entrepreneurs looking for commercial opportunities.
The initiative is also supported by Maof Jerusalem – the operating arm of the Small and Medium Business Agency at the Economy Ministry – as well as Digital Israel, which is part of the Social Equality Ministry.
“Coming Soon asks Jerusalemites what it is they are missing in their neighborhoods and workplace environments and shares the data with entrepreneurs, who receive a package of referrals to municipal and government- subsidized training and incentives to help the new businesses become sustainable and successful,” the municipality said.
“The purpose of the initiative is threefold: to use digital crowdsourcing as a way to procure insights for business development in the city; to help entrepreneurs start businesses based on genuine market demand and with tools and training to help them flourish; and to promote a sense of community and impactful civic participation among residents.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said the initiative was part of his far-reaching campaign to turn around the capital’s foundering economy.
“Over 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 Barkat.
“The Coming Soon initiative integrates these two strategies through an innovative, creative, out-of-the-box model that is based in collective wisdom. Residents themselves will be able to influence what is happening in their neighborhoods.”
Barkat continued: “This will impact the city through enhanced quality of life for residents and advance the business sector – a win-win for all involved.”
Noting that small and medium- sized businesses are the central growth engines of the economy, Economy Minister Eli Cohen said it was imperative to provide such enterprises with support to help them succeed.
“Connecting the needs of residents with local entrepreneurs is undeniably the right way to achieving a stable and successful business,” said Cohen.
Indeed, one of the core missions of the Jerusalem Innovation Team, or JLM i-team, which was founded by Bloomberg Philanthropies to aid the municipality in advancing the capital’s economy, is to empower area entrepreneurs.
“Recent statistics show that approximately 50% of new businesses in the city close within five years of opening, a sobering survival rate,” the JLM i-team said in a statement.
“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.”