Meshing home with work in Modi’in

A technology hub opens in suburbia.

MESH Modiin startup (photo credit: DANIEL MORRIS)
MESH Modiin startup
(photo credit: DANIEL MORRIS)

Modi’in-Maccabim- Re’ut is a popular b e d r o o m community because of its central location within easy commuting distance of Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Jerusalem. But business people who live in this planned “city of the future” are striving to make it more than a place to lay their heads.

The January 15 grand opening of MESH – Modi’in Entrepreneurs’ Startup Hub ( – is the newest grassroots initiative aimed at enabling more Modi’in residents to work where they live.
The hub’s state-of-the-art office facilities in the Ligad industrial area offer access to mentors, investors and professional services – and perhaps most importantly, the dynamism of a shared workspace that did not exist there before. Despite its name, MESH welcomes even established businesses like that of cofounder Moshe Porat, a hi-tech veteran and recent entrepreneur who has lived in Modi’in for 16 years.
“We have amazing human capital here, but a lack of employment especially in hi-tech,” says Porat. “No one is nurturing small businesses from the tech side. Three years ago, I started Modi’in Ventures, an accelerator for technology innovation, to assist preseed entrepreneurs.”
A city council member and board member of PresenTense Jerusalem (a local branch of a global community of innovators, entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators and educators investing in revitalizing Jewish communities), Porat also launched networking events such as BeerTech Modi’in.
“Through this, I created a community of about 550 people in the area and I discovered my five partners in MESH” – Aaron Zucker, Elisha Kuchar, Yossi Yaari, Daniel Morris and Itzik (“Isaac”) Sachs.
Sachs says he had stopped commuting to Tel Aviv so he could work from his home and be more available to his family. But he found it difficult to define professional and personal boundaries with two little ones at home, and discovered that his friend Kuchar faced a similar problem.
“We sat down for a cup of coffee and suddenly came up with the idea of creating a hub,” Sachs says. “They’re popping up like mushrooms all over, and we found out from speaking to other people that Moshe Porat had been dreaming of this for the past few years. Some friends and I met him by accident at a BeerTech Modi’in event about six months ago. We all clicked and decided to join forces.”
Porat had already spent nearly a year searching for an affordable place to house the hub of his dreams. The high rental prices posed a potential pitfall for the partners, who were funding the initiative out of their own pockets.
Turns out, Office Depot’s bad luck was their good luck. When the company declared bankruptcy for the second time in October 2013, lots of office space in its Modi’in building suddenly became available at an attractive price. The site is 15 minutes from the airport and five minutes from the railway station.
“We started with 400 square meters, services – NIS 800 for open space and NIS 3,000 to NIS 3,700 for offices. Or they can purchase a multiuse ticket, NIS 500 for five entrances or NIS 1,000 for 10.
Five start-ups and two established companies have already moved in.
Russell Rothstein, CEO of the twoyear- old IT Central Station, was the first occupant. He’s planning to add two more employees to his team of five. The Modi’in resident said he chose MESH partly because of the city’s central location and easy access to public transportation and major arteries.
“We can attract talent from all parts of Israel as well as locally, where there is a huge professional talent pool. These people often spend hours commuting to Tel Aviv and Herzliya,” Rothstein says. “Now they have the option to commute five minutes from home and be a part of world-class start-ups and hitech companies.”
No less critical, he continued, is the coworking atmosphere in which business relationships and personal friendships flourish naturally.
“We’re familiar with this model because we have a presence in New York City and work out of a similar environment, and there are huge benefits to working in a shared, innovative tech hub,” says Rothstein. “We share information and knowledge with other companies that are sitting in the office next door or in the space next to us. We are a B2B [business to business] social network, and we love the opportunity to learn from other B2B and social networking start-ups.”
As a father of five, he adds, “It’s a plus to be near home. We work morning, afternoon and evening, so the fact that we have a shorter and more predictable commute means we can be home when we want to be home.”
Sachs says when he worked in Tel Aviv – where his wife still works – “it was a serious schlepp” to run back home to pick up a sick child from preschool. Since he started working at home, he gets those emergency calls because he can get there much more quickly than his wife can. Being out of the house, but still close by, is to him a perfect solution.
Though he admits that he enjoyed the quiet time on the train to and from Tel Aviv, Sachs has repurposed those hours to go to the gym.
“In this generation, everything is global and cross-boundary, and you can work on the train, but it’s so much easier to balance life and work when you are working close to home,” he says.
And, he points out, the savings in terms of gasoline and air pollution are significant.
“In terms of our vision, we are trying to change the culture,” says Porat, who hopes to attract municipal financial support for the project.
“The idea is to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurs inside this place.”
Like other entrepreneurial hubs – which include a growing number in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as in cities such as Ashdod, Ra’anana and Rishon Lezion – MESH is planning a full schedule of networking events.
The first speaker was Daniella Perlstein, CEO of JDate Israel and Europe, talking about online dating trends. Another night, Izhar Shay of Canaan Partners discussed the difference between venture capital and entrepreneurial approaches.
Venture capitalist and MK Erel Margalit (Labor) is to appear at MESH on February 2, followed in succession by a Super Bowl night and a lecture on fund-raising for NGOs by Israeli Fund for UNICEF executive director Jonny Cline.
“We are actually selling the people of Modi’in, a high social-economiclevel population,” says Sachs. “The aim is to be a sort of university for entrepreneurs to introduce their goods and knowledge and promote their businesses. There is no other one-stop shop in Modi’in for entrepreneurs and people with ideas who want to hook up with others just like them.”