Cologne Mayor tours Tel Aviv, prepares groundwork for startup and entrepreneur exchange
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Convexum Co-Founder and CEO Gilad Sahar (C) demos his company's drone-jamming tech to Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker (L) in Tel Aviv at SOSA on February 21, 2017 (Image: Gedalyah Reback/Geektime)

Germany’s fourth-largest city wants to borrow a bit from Tel Aviv, and maybe recruit some new residents along the way

Tel Aviv has hosted a number of delegations over the last few years, mainly looking for guidance on how to build their own cultures and ecosystems of innovation. Cologne, Germany is the latest to take this road with the visit of Mayor Henriette Reker Tuesday to southern Tel Aviv coworking hub SOSA.

SOSA, which also houses Australia’s Tel Aviv Landing Pad and the Junction accelerator program, was the perfect place to look for setting up Cologne’s own base for its innovators to learn from the Israeli startup center. The center also happens to be months deep into a relationship with Germany’s fourth-largest city and one of several business centers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).

The event was teeming as all the startups in the building and seemingly in the neighborhood were invited to meet and greet the German delegation and get a chance to hear what they were hoping to do. But the learning element was critical for this trip.

Drone-blocking startup Convexum, a resident of The Junction and which boasts it can intercept the signals controlling drones in mid-air, treated Reker to a demonstration of their technology on the SOSA rooftop.

SOSA, where Australia’s Landing Pad in Tel Aviv is situated and which has hosted visitors like Cologne’s mayor (SOSA)

Overlooking the rest of Tel Aviv and sister city Ramat Gan, with the Mediterranean off in the distance, it was certainly an inspiring view. To see in the foreground the mayor of a major far-off financial hub watching patiently as a company with an artful technology showed off their hacking technology, all while in the background stood the neighborhood’s sea of older buildings and skyscrapers under construction.

The city has sent its representatives before, even attending an Australia Landing Pad event last fall with Australian ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma. The Landing Pad is one of five hubs around the world the Australian government has established and financed to host Aussie companies for three-month tours of and networking within the Israeli ecosystem. That idea is a tantalizing one, the delegation told Geektime.

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker listens to Convexum Co-Founder and CEO Gilad Sahar talk about his company’s drone-jamming tech atop SOSA in Tel Aviv (Gedalyah Reback/Geektime)

The two main industries in Cologne, at least on the minds of the visiting team, are media and insurance. There is no shortage of social and video media startups in Israel, while insurtech has become one of Israel’s most bullish sectors of 2017.

While replicating the Australian model is one option, the plan is to eventually turn the recruiting around. Pitching the western German city’s hub of media and insurance companies, Reker wants to see Israeli ventures landing in Cologne and setting up their own European headquarters. Cologne will boast some advantages, such as the lower cost of rent and a young population relative to the rest of Germany. But is Reker hoping to return to NRW with some Israeli CEOs looking for office space?

Reker told Geektime, “First we have to understand the situation in Tel Aviv before recruiting people to Cologne.”

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