A Panorama of Jewish Venture-Based Organizations
by Barry Camson
There are a number of exciting organizations that utilize innovative approaches to create and support entrepreneurial start-up ventures in the Jewish world. In a previous post, I made reference to a number of these.
These organizations do one or more of the following:
- Incubate or accelerate the actual ventures
- Support connections and the sharing of knowledge among people working on start-up ventures
- Educate or train people to prepare them for working in this area
- Develop leadership competencies
- Sensitize people to the potential of being innovative in responding to contemporary Jewish challenges.
These organizations focus on external entrepreneurs and in some cases intrapreneurs who are working within established organizations. In addition, there are the funders who support these efforts and those supporting the funding process, e.g. Slingshot.
The Jewish innovation ecosystem also includes many significant efforts going on in Jewish education, within worship communities and within established organizations.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of organizations that exist in the Jewish venture-based world. In a following article, I will discuss some helpful practices of these organizations.
UpStart describes itself as a “social venture and innovation consulting firm.” It partners with entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established organizations to redesign the experience of modern Jewish life.
UpStart employs a two-pronged interconnected approach. One part is to serve as an accelerator working with Jewish entrepreneurs who are bringing fresh ideas to meet unmet needs in the Jewish community. The UpStart Accelerator Program helps social entrepreneurs accelerate their development and implementation of their vision, build their infrastructure, attain fiscal sustainability, adapt to changing needs, and gain access to resources needed to achieve maximum impact. The Accelerator is a three year program. Small grants are provided of up to $5,000 a year.
UpStart also serves as a consulting practice for established Jewish organizations. UpStart is hired by established organizations to help them learn from proven practices of the innovation sector.
PresenTense and PresenTense Israel provide venture accelerator fellowships in 18 communities around the globe. The accelerators enable the development of solutions to core societal needs that enrich communal life. In North America, the fellowships are designed to build more vibrant Jewish communities and develop lay and professional leaders. In Israel, they focus on driving economic empowerment for all parts of Israeli society, including Arab Israelis and the ultra-Orthodox.
The accelerator programs provide training to build a business plan. They also provide coaching and mentorship delivered by community volunteers and access to funding. Programs in Israel can deal with things like healthcare, jobs, arts and education or spiritual life. For example, the Ruderman Foundation is partnering with PresenTense Israel to support the A3i Accelerator which is helping to launch fourteen enterprises to improve the lives of people with disabilities. In North America, PresenTense partners with local institutions such as federations to help drive innovation in their key priority areas, for example caring for those in need. Each accelerator supports between 10-15 ventures.
PresenTense also runs a platform of training workshops called PTSchool tailoring offerings from its core curriculum to help organizations innovate from within and providing critical tools to their professionals and lay leaders.
The focus of the Joshua Venture Group is to support and cultivate Jewish social entrepreneurs who are working to transform the Jewish community. It is to reinvigorate and expand Jewish community by cultivating leadership and management capabilities of Jewish social entrepreneurs.
At the core is the Dual Investment Program where the approach is to invest equally in emerging leaders and in their ideas and vision. This program brings a cohort of 8 people together over two years to retreats and national gatherings to build a supportive cohort of peers, develop their skills and grow their organizations. The program provides ongoing coaching and support, brings in experts and supports peer problem solving. The cohort meets virtually every month.
Each person in the cohort receives $94,000 in stipends over the two years which is designed to enable participants to work on their venture full time or grow their venture as needed.
Bikkurim describes itself as “an incubator for new Jewish ideas (that) energizes and enriches the North American Jewish community by finding innovative Jewish ideas and nurturing them to organizational sustainability.” Bikkurim has provided support to a total of 29 new Jewish organizations.
Bikkurim participants receive free office space and professional support while in residency in the incubator which may last up to five years. Bikkurim also provides consulting from experts in the field. The assistance includes helping start-ups appoint a board of directors, institute governance measures, draft personnel policies and ensure their accounting books are set up correctly.
Support grants are under $10,000 and on occasion additional sources of funding are available.
ROI Community is a global network of young Jewish leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs in the 20 to 40 age bracket which is collectively connecting people to Jewish life. ROI provides “crafted gatherings” that provide safe spaces where participants can get to know one another and identify complementary skills and interests of others. There is peer led skill-sharing. ROI also offers a micro grant program to invest in the personal or professional development of participants. Community members can take courses and attend conferences among many other opportunities. ROI Community is part of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network.
Jumpstart is a philanthropic research and design lab based in Los Angeles. Jumpstart is a catalyst and support organization for philanthropic and nonprofit innovation in both established and start-up organizations.
Jumpstart inspires and equips visionary leaders of Jewish and interreligious causes around the globe offering them the knowledge, relationships and hands-on support they need to achieve measurable impact, build stronger communities and transform the world.
In a following article, I will continue by discussing some of the significant characteristics of these organizations that make the venture-based arena an important one in the Jewish community.
Barry Camson consults with Jewish institutions, businesses and networks. He can be reached at BCamson@aol.com.