Hub in the Holy City

Raising the volume on Jerusalem’s hi-tech culture.

The Hub team: (from left) Aaron Mendlowitz, Shalom Makowitz and Yaron Pacht. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Hub team: (from left) Aaron Mendlowitz, Shalom Makowitz and Yaron Pacht.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Individually and collectively, the three co-founders of the new Jerusalem Hub – not to be confused with the Jerusalem Hub co-working space for religious women on Jaffa Road – give off a raw, under-30 energy.
Cofounder Yaron Pacht calls the team “inspired and driven.”
What is the Jerusalem Hub, and how did it emerge? The story starts when co-founder Shalom Makowitz called his friend, college roommate and business partner Aaron Mendlowitz and told him to buy the domain name
Mendlowitz told In Jerusalem, “We were always discussing what Jerusalem Hub could be. Is it a hangout, a workplace or something else? But it never clicked. On December 15, 2017, I had a light-bulb moment and called Shalom and told him ‘Jerusalem Hub is a network of entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors. The sector is wide open in Jerusalem. Let’s make this happen.’” The pair arranged a meeting the following week with Yaron Pacht and the entrepreneurial triumvirate has barely stopped for breath since.
If the Tel Aviv area is the heartbeat of the Start-Up Nation, why are three young, Anglo olim focusing on Jerusalem? “Jerusalem is a growing city in every way, shape and form,” Pacht told IJ. “With the addition of the [fast] Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line quickly approaching and the development of the city entrance, it is easy to see that Jerusalem is going to be a seat for growth in business, tech and industry. These new start-ups and businesses will need our help. We want to make Jerusalem the next business hub of Israel.
“Jerusalem is not just a remembrance of the old. It’s also an innovative city for the new. I think that gives Jerusalem a fresh, new and dynamic look in the eyes of the world. I believe that once Jerusalem starts to flourish on a business level, a solid community of young and veteran entrepreneurs will begin to emerge and there will be a need for strong leadership in this area. Our mission at Jerusalem Hub is to assist in building up the economy of Jerusalem and, ultimately, greater Israel.
We aim to do this by assisting those with the right ideas to get started and develop their business.”
“We want to show everyone that with a little bit of elbow grease, anything can be achieved. We are working to find the ambition in this city and turn Jerusalem into the new Silicon Valley of the world. Jerusalem will not only be known as a religious and spiritual hub, but as a business powerhouse as well,” added Makowitz.
With his characteristic high energy, Mendlowitz said, “It’s Jerusalem! It is the ultimate start-up city. There is so much history that runs through the streets and walls of Jerusalem. There is something special walking down Jaffa Road and seeing all the economic growth. There is a definite vacuum of tech growth here and I can understand why people would be drawn to the merkaz [center]. [But] just wait until the new high-speed train opens up.”
THAT VACUUM is exactly what the Jerusalem Hub team is focused on changing.
Mendlowitz explained, “There are many accelerators already in existence, and we don’t aim to compete with any of them. We want to add sizzle and ‘personability’ to the system. We saw that a lot of start-ups and entrepreneurs get caught up in all the small details, which, in turn, prevent them from making forward steps – or even causing them to take a step back.
“We sit down with start-ups and find out what they need and how we can help them take action. We help people find jobs in the sector. We bring awareness to the Jerusalem tech scene with highly active social media strategies, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.
“As of now, we are spreading our net wide around different technologies and disciplines, including Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, blockchain, cybersecurity and hopefully into space tech. We hope that by being the ultimate push for these start-ups, the culture will grow and [Jerusalem will] be known as the start-up central of Israel and the world.”
Pacht pointed out, “There are actually certain business benefits that the government grants to start-ups that are based in Jerusalem. [That’s] a sign that Israel wants Jerusalem to become a business hub and proof that people like us need to be here. The truth is that Jerusalem is relatively young in the start-up scene and therefore lacks the market and resources of the merkaz, but I also look at that as a strength. It helps me look at Jerusalem as a place of opportunity with much room to grow.”
Each of the team members is an oleh. Pacht, currently living in Nahlaot, made aliya in 2013 and served as a Lone Soldier in the Paratroopers. Finishing his service in 2016, he went back to the US for a year and, on a whim, bought a plane ticket and flew home.
“Where some may look at Israel and see a lack in lifestyle quality compared to places like America, I see nothing but growth and raw potential,” he noted.
About his journey, Makowitz said, “I made aliya about five years ago on my own with about $600 in my pocket. I was drafted into the army and served for two years. I currently live in Jerusalem where I work a fulltime job in marketing as well as building and developing Jerusalem Hub. In my free time, I play football for the Judean Rebels in the Israel Football League.”
Of the three, Mendlowitz has been in Israel the longest.
“In the summer of 2004, when I was 16, my family moved us from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Beit Shemesh.
Currently I am living in Beit Shemesh with my wonderful wife Ariella, our son Simcha and our pup, Sophie.”
Officially, each has a designated role. Makowitz describes his role as being “in charge of operations and our SEO development. I also produce our weekly podcast.
Part of my responsibility is to organize all of our documents and create a system that allows us to be better organized and function at our optimal level.”
Pacht is officially the CFO and Mendlowitz says about his role, “Coming from a strong technical and marketing background, I take responsibility for leading the growth of our internal technical needs and marketing strategies.”
But in practice, they feed off one another. As Makowitz said, “Official titles aside, I believe that, as a team, we work very well to get things done.”
Jerusalem Hub’s top start-up picks
Team members: Gabriel Laster, Shira Rozen
Vidalyzer analyzes videos in real-time, using deep learning technology and artificial intelligence to compare behavioral patterns and predict outcomes and situations.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it: “Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) as a means to automate systems has proven very effective. This is the marriage of psychology and technology in a deep way. The applications can be vast and have a big effect on the economy.”
Team members: Michael Assraf, CEO, Roi Cohen, VP Sales & Research and Yossi Zeev, CTO
Summary: Vicarius protects clients against exploitation of yet-to-be-discovered software vulnerabilities. The Vicarius powered platform, called Topia, enables companies to predict, prioritize and protect against software vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by hackers.
This new mind shift allows organizations to protect any software without involving the vendor or even their own IT teams.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it: “If we told you that you could develop any software and it won’t be hacked because there is a solution out there, wouldn’t you take it? This can save organizations and companies millions of dollars. Keep an eye out for this one.”
Team members: Yotam Elal and Ilia Rapoport
Summary: With the technology and platform provided by TourVR, any store will be able to create its own virtual reality store app. All TourVR-generated stores will then be intuitively accessible on its TourVR app.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it: “Sure, you can shop online at any store, but how about shopping at your favorite shop as if you are there, as you relax at home. Immersive technology is creeping up on us and you will see many applications. Virtual Reality and shopping will hit a huge market.
Team members: Reuven Bakalash and Yosef Bensadon
Summary: Adshir redesigned the algorithm for ray tracing (highend realistic graphics used on films), making the process to generate such images possible in real time. With Adshir’s breakthrough, it is possible to generate true-to-life realism on your mobile device, allowing deeper immersion in an augmented/virtual reality environment.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it: “Augmented reality is a new field that is ever-growing. Adshir is raising the bar by bringing in high-end graphics to the mobile market.”
Team members: Maria Ilinsky, CEO, Alex Ilinsky, CPO, Dmitry Bodakov, CTO
Summary: Beautilit is a marketplace for searching for beauty salons and specialists and booking their services online. We are building Beautilit to help women find great beauty services without wasting time and getting frustrated and to help beauty salons and professionals promote and schedule their services online.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it: “The beauty market is already big. This team is filling the void by making the industry accessible with the touch of a screen.”
Homey Swap
Team Member: Pinchas “Ilya” Budik, founder
Summary: Homey Swap is developing an innovative marketplace in the alternative low-cost lodging sector enabling secure home sharing through the exchange of tokens. The company was founded by Budik and led by a core team of motivated marketing and Web development innovators with a passion for building communities and businesses that help people grow their potential.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it: “We have seen many innovations with the Blockchain. Democratizing the Airbnb market will be a real win. Look out for this one. It will be incredible.”
Team members:
Zvi Fogel and Michael Kariv
Frank accompanies survey creators step-by-step and helps them build a professional, effective and designed survey – easily and quickly, without any need for prior knowledge or experience.
The system utilizes AI, machine learning and data mining technologies, as well as interfacing with social networks in order to reach phenomenal response rates, generate detailed statistical reports and increase sales. Finally, Frank enables the survey creator to conduct an advertising campaign for a potential target audience based on the survey results.
Why Jerusalem Hub likes it:
“Surveys don’t need to be for statisticians anymore. You can easily create a well-targeted and effective survey without being an expert. The tech involved is your expert.”