Israel would not have become Startup Nation without the hard work of a great many people who helped new companies get off the ground and Israeli entrepreneurs realize their visions. This work was not performed solely by the venture capital firms or by the innovators themselves. It was done by hard-working, dedicated, and idealistic young people like Jennifer Elias and Jessica Rosner who established Tech It Forward.
The VC funds, angel investors, governments, and large corporations around the world may already know about all of the success which Israeli startups have had over the years. But they still need someone to act as a bridge between them and the local entrepreneurs and startups.
Founded in 2016, Tech It Forward is that very bridge. It acts as sort of a travel agency for business people looking to invest in Israel. The firm does all of the leg work in putting together the trips, conferences, networking events, pitching events, mentorship programs, and meetings, connecting international startups, large corporations, technology consultants, and private investors with Israel’s startup ecosystem.
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The success of any new company or venture is determined largely by its founders and their vision. Tech It Forward has two women at the helm who have a strong vision and who are surely going to succeed: Jennifer Elias and Jessica Rosner.
The duo call themselves ecosystem “bridgers” in that their goal is to aid Israeli startups to get off the ground through the partnerships and collaborations which Tech It Forward makes between Israelis and people from outside of the country.
The partners say that their goal is to, “help Israeli startups to take off and grow internationally. More practically, we are working with VC and corporates in the US, Brazil, Europe, and Asia, interested in Investing or buying Israeli startups, and we are their foot on the ground. We scout, filter, interview, accelerate relevant startups, and help them grab the opportunities.’’
Jennifer Elias was born and raised in France and graduated with a Double Masters’ Degree in Strategic Management and Business Law from EM Lyon Business School, in France. After working at Ernst and Young Paris she moved to Israel.
While Jennifer admits that the lure of Startup Nation for her was the knowledge that the country would offer greater opportunities than in France, she made the move to Israel primarily to make an impact.
“After having understood that I wanted to have a professional life where I could create an impact, it was obvious to me that it would be in a startup or by me having my own business, where I could really have more to say about decisions and company’s directions,” she explains. “I knew that in Israel, thanks to the culture and ecosystem, everything was offered to you to get the tools to do whatever you want to do.’’
Jennifer recounts some of her experiences back in France which led her to make Aliyah – immigrate to Israel.
‘’I’m from Rennes, in Brittany, France, which is an average-sized city but where there is almost no Jewish community. Although I grew up among educated people – I have always seen how much people were highly intrigued about me being Jewish and my connection to Israel. And I wished that instead of having in mind right away a religious or political conception of Israel, people would actually think first of its innovation,” says Jennifer Elias.
“I systematically had to answer comments such as: ‘Have you been to Israel?! Doesn’t it bother you?’ and many more judgmental statements regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It developed in me a strong identity and a desire to educate.”
This is certainly something that the average Jewish college student in America can relate to, especially if he or she is religious. Today it seems like students at American universities care as much about attacking Israel as they do about their educations.
So what does Jennifer Elias do about this?
“With coming to Israel, and creating my own business with Jessica, Tech It Forward, which connects Israeli tech businesses to international ecosystems, we are actually changing the concept of Israel and demonstrating that there is much more than just the political or religious issue,” she says. “Israel is a multi-layered country, with multicultural people and businesses.”
Jennifer Elias also talks about how with Tech It Forward she and her colleagues also play the role of diplomats and educators about Israel to the rest of the world.
“Our foreign business delegations experience during our tech trips and events a different side of Israel: A country where Christians, Muslims and Jews are living, working and going to the beach together, they also understand and experience what is known as the Israeli characteristic: straightforwardness and chutzpah. Beyond connecting entrepreneurs and accelerating partnerships, we aim to open eyes to the reality that foreigners cannot perceive from abroad.”
With the Corona Virus shutting down world travel Jennifer and Jessica of course continue to do this, only virtually, through telecommunications like Zoom.
The other person behind Tech It Forward, Jessica Rosner, is originally from New York and came to Israel with her family when she was young. Jessica holds an MBA in Business with a concentration on Marketing and Strategy from Tel Aviv University. After spending a few years working in the corporate arena, she decided to explore the startup world and join this exciting ecosystem as well.
A French Jew who came to Israel on her own as an adult and an American Jew from New York who grew up in the country got together to help build up new Israeli companies. If this is not the perfect example of Startup Nation and Israel’s story as a whole…
With time, the two realized that they can utilize their success not only to help build new companies with global impact but to present Israel in a better view to the outside world.
As they explain, their events and meetings “often open the eyes of non-Jews abroad in relation to Israel through the work which we do and the diversity of the technology and culture in the country.”
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As they continue to operate in spite of the Corona Virus, Tech It Forward this month launched the Startup World Cup Israel with partners Pegasus Tech Ventures. The competition offers a $1 million grand prize.
Startup World Cup is one of the largest global annual startup competitions in the world today. Created by Pegasus Tech Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based VC, the Startup World Cup team, together with Tech It Forward, has searched for the most promising Israeli startups.
The firms which pass the Israeli stage of the competition will head to the Grand Finale in San Francisco
Jessica and Jennifer were disappointed that they could not hold this competition in the traditional way in order to take advantage of the human connections made when the competitors, judges, and potential investors get to meet face to face. But as they say “the show must go on,” and the two were not about to let a small thing like a global pandemic shut them down.
“We usually love to create human relationships, but the benefits with online events are that they are more effective, a bigger audience has the opportunity to attend, and the networking is actually wider, they explain “We are proud to showcase the Israeli technological strength in Silicon Valley and are honored to run such impactful events and give Israeli startups international funding and visibility.”
This is another example of why we have chosen Jennifer Elias and Jessica Rosner as the Jewish Business Women of the month.