US Supports Ethiopian-Israeli Techpreneurs In Bringing Their Dreams to Life (Photo Essay)

By BJLife/Sharon Altshul
Posted on 09/10/16

Jerusalem, Israel - Sept. 10, 2016 - In 2002, there were only four Ethiopian-Israelis working in the Israeli high-tech scene. Even more surprising for the Start-Up Nation, none of them were trained in Israel.

Realizing that entree into the world of high tech could be a game-changer for young Ethiopian Israelis with no access to the professional education and connections that could help them break into the field, entrepreneur and social activist Asher Elias, with colleague Glenn Stein, initiated Tech-Career. They established the NGO on Kibbutz Nachshon in Central Israel to provide courses in tech-training for young Ethiopian-Israelis recently released from military and national service. Today, over 400 professionals trained by Tech-Career are pursuing careers in Israeli high-tech firms.

On the evening of September 7, at his official residence in Kfar Shmaryahu, near Tel Aviv, Thomas Genton, the U.S. Counselor for Press & Cultural Affairs at the US Embassy, hosted the Closing Ceremony for Tech-Career’s Entrepreneurial Incubator Program.

Last year, with a grant from the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which offers assistance, training, and support to groups and individuals to create positive change in society in the Middle East and  Africa, Tech-Career  implemented a pilot program/ The new initiative was designed to enable its most promising graduates to gain skills and knowledge, pairing with mentors to pursue their dream of establishing a start-up. 

The candidates were chosen for the program on the basis of their experience and motivation, and worked in teams to develop their dream start-up. Over the course of a year, they took part in weekly Friday morning meetings at the Tel Aviv office of Bynet, Israel's largest integrator company. High-tech executives shared their expertise in business, legal and marketing aspects of launching a start up.

The evening in Kfar Shmaryahu gave the participants the the opportunity to pitch their start-up ideas to high-tech leaders, media personalities and supporters and friends of tech-Career. The presentations were made after after a buffet of traditional Ethiopian food and music in the residence gardens.

Team 1: My Business Helper, brings enterprise-grade management capabilities to independent business owners at an affordable price. Haim Atalai, Moshe Maharat, and Baruch Ishmeni, worked with mentor Gil Eiges, founder of Canico.

Team 2: ZA-ATOOT, is a goods exchange, freecycling marketplace for baby and children's products. Tomer Auera, Tal Akalo, and Erez Akale, were mentored by Guy Spira.

Team 3: Service Locator, is crowdsourcing platform finding recommended tradespeople and technicians in real-time, which utilizes using GPS and technology, to get list of people currently available. Oozy Bitew, Oren Elazar, and Asher Talala worked with mentor Lior Nabat.

Each team offered power-point presentations and personal stories to accompany their pitches. They responded to probing questions by their audience, and at the conclusion of the evening were presented with certificates by Cultural Attache Genton on behalf of  MEPI.

Naphtali Avraham, executive director of Tech-Career since 2015, shared his personal history: As a teenager, he made the perilous journey through the Sudan to reach Israel. After enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces, he pursued a career as an officer, and also earned degrees from the Technion and Tel Aviv University.  He is proud that his children are now serving in the IDF and believes that in the not-too-distant future, NGOs dedicated solely to Ethiopian-Israelis will not be necessary. He looks forward to the day that the Tech-Career model can be expanded to serve a full range of Israelis in need of a boost to advance their careers.In the months ahead. Tech-Career plans to move to a new locale in the city of Lod and begin the next chapter in its growth and expansion.

Michal Herzog of Wohl Foundation, Orna Alshech of the Glencore Foundation, Gerald Frim of Friend of Ethiopian Jews, Nissim Zvilli, and Maayan Priluk of Israel Chanel 10 were among the invited guests impressed by the evening. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is a long-time friend and supporter of Tech-Career.