Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a start-up

An event at The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo is hoping to produce great start-up partnerships.

Entrepreneur Gil Shai says that finding a business partner is like finding a spouse. (photo credit: NIV ELIS)
Entrepreneur Gil Shai says that finding a business partner is like finding a spouse.
(photo credit: NIV ELIS)
There was a heightened tension in the room, as nametagged participants shyly made eye contact with one another.
Is this the one? Will she be my match? Like other speed-dating events, the one that took place this week at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College aimed to produce great partnerships.
These partnerships, however, were for business rather than romance.
In the Start-Up Nation, people with great ideas need help turning their visions into companies. For many, finding a partner who will help them develop their ideas and work for free now in hopes of cashing in when the company makes it big, is key.
The similarities to regular dating are closer than one might expect.
“I think that founders are basically married when they’re together,” said Gil Shai, chief operating officer of CloudEndure, at a lecture opening the event. They need to communicate well, work together well and share similar values, he noted.
“My co-founders aren’t necessarily friends, but they are all like brothers to me,” he added.
Yet budding entrepreneurs looking for the right person to make their dreams come true face similar challenges to singles in the dating pool. For one, it seems like everyone is already “taken” – if not by another partner, then by another idea.
“Everyone is looking for their other half,” said Yuval Tzipori, a mechanical engineer looking to develop his ideas into products for a business. “I have ideas and am looking for someone to complete the business side, but I don’t see a lot of business people here. I don’t like that people come with an idea and say, ‘Okay, come join me.’ It doesn’t help.”
In other words, finding an ideal partner may require an entrepreneur to give up the very idea he or she hoped to pursue in the first place.
“I think that people, especially at the beginning, come with their idea, and they’re really in love with the idea,” explained Erez Ram-Lev, one of the event organizers.
“The idea is very important in the business world, but it’s not enough. You need a staff to help you, you need a manager, you need the business side. What I told a lot of people is that [you] have to get feedback on your idea,” he continued. “The No. 1 objective is to find a partner. And also, perhaps, to be open to other ideas.”
Another problem seems to be the supply and demand. In a room full of business aspirants with great ideas, often relating to hi-tech and Internet, there are not many people with the technical know-how to bring the plans to fruition.
“I need to find a technical co-founder, so I joined this meet-up, but everyone is here looking for the same thing!” said Pauline Majer, an immigrant from Belgium who wants to build a website to help new arrivals in Israel find apartments.
“Tech people are in short supply,” lamented Yuval Arbitman, whose website Edupedia is a marketplace for teachers to buy and sell lesson plans.
Some people at the event weren’t even on the start-up dating market. Like married men at a singles bar, they were looking for a brief – if enjoyable – affair.
One touted his company’s services to help start-ups with their programming. Another enticed the crowd with talk of investment grants.
Ella Yerushalmi, the friend who brought this reporter along to the event, was there to pitch her nascent dating site, which lets friends set up dating profiles for their friends.
Maybe she should consider a version for start-up founders.