Israel’s northernmost hub for promising hi-tech start-ups opened its doors yesterday in Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanese border.Located in a once-abandoned office space in the peripheral city, the launch of the city’s first space for start-ups follows a collaboration between the local municipality, the Economy Ministry’s Small and Medium Business Agency, Jerusalem Venture Partners founder and chairman Erel Margalit and Maof Tech.The hub will welcome start-ups participating in the XLR8 start-up program, an acceleration program operated by National Initiative (ii2020) – also led by Margalit – in collaboration with technology giants including Cisco, Amazon and Facebook. In addition to welcoming start-ups, the center will also represent a facility for hi-tech companies based in central Israel but which are interested in expanding operations to northern Israel, based on the success of remote work operations during the coronavirus outbreak. Resident entrepreneurs will gain access to workspaces, advanced video conferencing technologies, workshops and connections to potential investors and customers.
“I welcome the opening of the first start-up hub in Kiryat Shmona,” said Ran Kaviti, director of the Economy Ministry’s Small and Medium Business Agency. “It is an important project that, over the years, will become a greenhouse for start-ups and local entrepreneurs. The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the importance of a strong local economy, making the opening of the hub at this time highly significant.”Among the first start-ups to make the hub their new home will be two agritech companies from MIGAL (The Galilee Research Institute), and 10 other local start-ups from fields of innovation including foodtech, healthcare, tourism, remote commerce and artificial intelligence. The previous round of the XLR8 start-up program resulted in the establishment of 19 local start-ups who have raised a total exceeding NIS 6.6 million ($1.9m.) in funds to date.“An entrepreneur in the North deserves the same conditions and connections as entrepreneurs in the center,” said Margalit.“The talent and knowledge that exists here in the Galilee are the foundation for establishing local start-ups. After the success of the previous round [of the accelerator], together with the Small and Medium Business Agency, we decided to set up a home for them, which will enable them not only to grow, but to connect to the national ecosystem.”