KamaTech DemoDay NYC.
(photo credit: COURTESY KAMATECH)
While many of the world’s business and hi-tech leaders have studied at Harvard, not many can say their time at one of the world’s most prestigious universities was preceded by six years at the Hebron Yeshiva followed by almost 12 years at the Hazon Ish Yeshiva.
Yet this was the path – including a degree in philosophy and law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – that Moshe Friedman, the founder and CEO of the Haredi accelerator and tech incubator KamaTech, took before throwing his (black) hat into the hi-tech and entrepreneurial world.
Today, Friedman is a man on a mission.
Like many socially motivated founders and entrepreneurs, he is focused on bringing his product to market and making the world a better place. Yet for Moshe, his product isn’t a new piece of hardware or some revolutionary software.
His product is people, and he is redefining what it means to be part of the global hi-tech industry while simultaneously erasing the typical stereotypes associated with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Israel.
Founded almost five years ago with the mission of integrating ultra-Orthodox Israelis into the local tech ecosystem, KamaTech has both an accelerator program that helps entrepreneurs build and grow their companies as well as an educational program that helps prepare participants to join the local hi-tech workforce.
The program now counts hundreds of alumni among its ranks, and it has launched dozens of companies across a range of industries.
In fact, Friedman is currently leading the class of eight companies across a US tech tour, where they held a very successful Demo Day in New York last week and will be presenting this week at the Israel Dealmakers Summit in San Francisco.
When deciding on the selection process for KamaTech accelerator companies, Friedman and his group of advisers – including executives from some of the most successful Israeli and global companies and venture-capital firms, such as Cisco, Mobileye, JVP, Ourcrowd, Wix and Outbrain – look for companies that have a solid business model and will have a positive social impact on the world.
This year’s class of start-ups includes: DoctorPedia, a video-based website that educates and connects online health-care seekers with doctors and fellow patients; Muzy, a company aimed at democratizing musical learning. Graduates of the accelerator include: Work Capital, which provides immediate working-capital relief for millions of underserved and overcharged small- and medium-sized businesses; English On, a platform for English learners to improve their language skills.
In addition to the opportunity to present their start-ups to world-class investors and business leaders, KamaTech companies also are given office space, working capital, mentors, access to law and accounting firms, workshops and individual meetings with investors.
While KamaTech is making waves abroad this week, its impact is clearly being felt at home as well. At the recent Geek Awards (Israel’s version of TechCrunch’s “Crunchies”), Friedman and his team were given the award for having the greatest contribution to the Israeli start-up community for the second consecutive year.
Friedman has become somewhat of a celebrity in the local tech ecosystem, appearing alongside Israel’s tech illuminati almost weekly – either on his weekly podcast or at one of the myriad number of events dotting the Israeli tech calendar – in his trademark dark suit and white shirt.
Despite his success, Friedman is clearly focused on the future, working tirelessly to bring more haredim into the tech community while also changing the way Israelis think about the local haredi population.
One doesn’t need a Harvard degree to see the value in Friedman’s mission.The writer is the founder and managing director of Tel Aviv-based GKPR. Follow him on Twitter @mattkrieger1. His semimonthly column, Minority Report, will focus on telling the stories of the “other side” of “Start-Up Nation.”