This summer wasn’t easy on Israel- that includes its startup ecosystem. But as they’re apt to do, Founders found ways of turning adversity into a positive
Siren, three loud booms, quiet.
The entire city of Jerusalem has stopped for five long minutes. Slowly, people leave shelters and safe rooms, cars start moving, and the dreadful silence is broken by the noises of one of the most busy and multiethnic cities of the Middle East.
A BOOMing startup ecosystem
In a co-working space located behind City Hall that houses a number of startup companies, several young entrepreneurs return to their laptops. A rocket fired from Gaza was just intercepted by the Iron Dome over their heads, but the entrepreneurs, after a quick glance at their iPhones, go back to their routine. Or maybe the siren-boom-quiet is their routine by now.
Among these entrepreneurs is Itzik Yarkoni, founder and executive director of BOMAH: The Brand of Milk & Honey, a branding firm that specializes in storytelling, mainly through social media.
Every startup could use a bit of Yalla
“Yalla,” says Itzik, who helps a number of startups in the area and has no time to waste.
“Yalla” is a middle-eastern word that means “let’s go!”, “time to move!”, and you’re supposed to say it with one of those warm, optimistic smiles that Israelis love to wear. The term “Yalla”, though, happens to be also one of the four main points of BOMAH’s strategy for startup companies that dream of jumping to the next level in the world of entrepreneurship and marketing.
“That’s what makes Israeli startups so special,” Itzik explains. “We take every challenge as an opportunity. Just think of the water issue in Israel.” Itzik refers to the gallons of water that Israel takes from the Mediterranean Sea and purifies every year, not having enough natural water springs to rely on.
According to Itzik, Israelis are more willing to take risks, and therefore have more chances to succeed in their work.
Itzik’s vision was inspired while he was studying at Sapir College, in Sderot, down south, where Gaza rockets have been falling for the past thirteen years. While the world was ignoring the issue, Itzik started thinking of a way to speak out, and found a solution in social media. The same solution he suggests to the entrepreneurs who knock at his door looking for help.
“Storytelling should be personal, relatable, and should always take into consideration the audience that’s going to receive the message”, he explains to his clients, “If you have a good story, you have the answer to all your problems, such as creating buzz, getting funds, or gathering users and clients.”
The ‘Why’ element – why should I buy your product or use your service? – is the first, big step that BOMAH helps its clients with.
“Before meeting Itzik, I didn’t know much about storytelling,” says Maxx Blank, 26, who moved to Israel from the States and co-founded Bizrael, an organization that connects American students and young professionals with Israel’s business and entrepreneurial landscape. “After we started working together, Itzik kept on yelling at us; ‘How are you guys different?’ and, ‘You gotta tell a story!’ was his special way of saying ‘Yalla!’.”
Itzik continued encouraging and assisting his clients this past summer, which was a tough one for the Middle East.
Clearing the mind of cobwebs
As rockets continually rained down on Israel and the IDF responded with Operation Protective Edge, local entrepreneurs had to balance between work and their deep concern about the situation.
One of Itzik’s clients, Avraham Orbach, 25, says that during the war their routine was interrupted. Avraham is the founder and CEO of Webbing, a social network that creates connections among users from all around the world based on their shared interests, was working in Jerusalem for the entire duration of the conflict.
With seven foreign interns in the office, the Webbing CEO says it was not an easy time. Running to the shelter, reassuring the interns, as well as their parents abroad, didn’t make the working environment a relaxed one.
However, as an authentic Israeli, Avraham turned the fear into an opportunity to give the company a boost.
“I told myself, if life doesn’t go on regularly, the Israeli economy will get destroyed by the war. So I felt the responsibility to work hard and make sure that the economy is not affected,” he explained. “BOMAH helped us turn our vision into a story. Itzik focused on the social media aspect, setting a content calendar. Now we’re able to convey a message,” says Avraham.
Despite the war, one thing has remained unchanged – Itzik’s customary “Yalla’s”.
Instead of siren-boom-quiet, the young entrepreneurs adopted a siren-boom-quiet-yalla kind of routine. Armed with dedication and focus, now they are ready for the next challenge.