Jerusalem Day: Israel's budding tech hub

Several new developments of recent months point toward the city's continued growth, explains Roy Munin, CEO and co-founder of Made in JLM.

Workers at Jerusalem high-tech companies (photo credit: RICKY RACHMAN)
Workers at Jerusalem high-tech companies
(photo credit: RICKY RACHMAN)
When it comes to hi-tech, the city of Jerusalem knows that it can’t compete with Tel Aviv, one of the top innovation centers in the world.
And it isn’t trying to. But the holy city has been making major strides in recent years to earn its own marks of distinction in the start-up nation. If tech work was once a relatively lonely endeavor in the capital, the city is now teeming with entrepreneurialism and excitement, with vibrant communities working together to push the city forward.
“You can feel the momentum driving Jerusalem’s entrepreneurs when you walk through the streets of the city. The unique makeup of Jerusalemites, fostered by the complex realities of the city, equips its residents with the muscle, creativity and ability to think outside of the box and solve problems,” says Elie Wurtman, Managing Partner of PICO Venture Partners and one of the city’s tech pioneers. “Some of Israel’s biggest exits and success stories, including Waze, Mobileye, IronSouce, Check Point and Lemonade are products of Jerusalem’s well of creativity. Several of our fund’s most promising portfolio companies were established and are based in Jerusalem and I believe that the inimitable spirit of the city’s human capital will continue to drive their success.”
Several new developments of recent months point toward the city’s continued growth, explains Roy Munin, CEO and cofounder of Made in JLM, a nonprofit grassroots movement dedicated to developing the start-up ecosystem.
First, the Abraham Accords and normalization with the United Arab Emirates have opened the doors to new opportunities for the city’s Arab residents. Among other things, Emirati investors have taken interest in the city’s plan to develop a new “Silicon Wadi” hi-tech park in the Wadi Joz area of eastern Jerusalem, which will offer hundreds of thousands of square meters of office space and create about 10,000 jobs in the eastern part of the city in the coming years, Munin says.
Second, the trend toward remote work provides an opportunity for multinational corporations to expand their presence in Jerusalem. “We are seeing more companies setting up small presences at WeWork and other co-working hubs,” says Munin. “The Jerusalem Development Authority has grants available to help encourage a company with, say, four junior employees in Jerusalem, to grow to 6-10 employees and build a team here.”
Third, Munin says, the government’s massive Nimbus project, which will move much of the government’s IT infrastructure to the cloud, is a huge opportunity for the city. “Many of the city’s government offices, like the Tax Authority and National Insurance Institute are working on these old mainframe computer systems from the sixties that have to be completely revamped,” Munin says. “This will create a lot of new jobs, and no less importantly, retrain the people working on those old systems, which will help them gain the new skills they need to stay relevant in the jobs market.”
In addition, Munin notes, the recent entry to Jerusalem of large multinationals like Nvidia and Oracle is another huge vote of confidence in the city’s economic strength. Oracle recently announced that it was opening a massive underground cloud data center in the city.
Jerusalem has been working to brand itself as a tech destination, led by strong efforts from the Jerusalem Development Authority and Made in JLM. Venture Capital funds like OurCrowd and JVP, which runs a 50,000 sq.m. innovation center to house start-ups and multinational companies, also serve as some of the city’s most visible tech ambassadors.
As Jerusalem celebrates the 54th anniversary of its unification, here’s a look at some of the technology companies that have become part of the city’s tapestry.
Mobileye: Of course, we have to start with Israel’s largest acquisition in history. The company, which develops self-driving cars and advanced driver-assistance systems, became a national source of pride when it was acquired for $15.3 billion in 2017. The company currently has about 1,500 employees in its offices in the Har Hotzvim technology park, and Intel said last week that it will invest $400 million to upgrade that unit into an R&D campus for developing self-driving car technologies.
Orcam: You may notice a theme here. Orcam, which develops devices to help blind or visually impaired people navigate day-to-day life with greater ease, was cofounded by Amnon Shashua, the same computer science professor who founded Mobileye. 
The company is said to be planning an IPO in the US for this summer at a valuation of about $3b. (Shashua, who was previously the head of the engineering and computer science school at The Hebrew University, recently announced another ambitious project, Israel’s first all-digital bank, although that one is based in Tel Aviv.)
Freightos: Designed to be the Uber of the freight industry, Freightos is working to disrupt the $19-trillion logistics industry by making it easy to ship products around the world in an industry where many of the transactions were until recently recorded manually in spreadsheets. The company’s founder, Tzvi Schreiber, previously founded other successful Jerusalem start-ups like Tradeum, Unicorn Solutions and
Ex Libris: Ex Libris started off as a library management project at The Hebrew University, and later developed additional library solutions that are used in universities in 90 countries around the world, including Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Imperial College and many others. The company has more than 1,000 employees around the world, including more than 500 in its Jerusalem office. It was acquired for $500m. by US information solutions company ProQuest in 2015.
Strattic: Launched by Miriam Schwab, an Orthodox mother of seven, Strattic automatically converts dynamic WordPress websites to static, immediately making them faster, unhackable and more scalable with the press of a button. The company maintained its office near the fabled Mahaneh Yehuda Market until the pandemic, when it went fully remote.
ModLi: Founded in 2015 by American-born Nava Brief-Fried, ModLi is a fashion tech start-up that designs, creates and manufactures modest swimwear for women of all body types and religious beliefs. The company has 20 employees in Jerusalem and 40 employees around the world.
AutoLeadStar: Located in the Talpiot industrial neighborhood, AutoLeadStar develops digital marketing solutions for the automotive industry, enabling auto dealerships across the US to get customer-centered AI-driven automation.
Intel: The global chip giant isn’t a Jerusalem company, obviously, but its fingerprints are all over the city. In addition to acquiring Mobileye, as mentioned above, the company recently acquired data science start-up for an estimated $60m., and the company’s development center in Har Hotzvim is one of the most prestigious employers in the city.