How Israeli, Jewish Ventures are Expanding their Impact

by Barry Camson

What is being done to support start-up ventures in expanding their reach and impact and strengthening their organizations? What are three well-regarded organizations focused on supporting these new start-up ventures doing to expand their own reach and impact? This post looks at Bikkurim, PresenTense Israel and UpStart as incubators and accelerators and at the ventures they are guiding. This post will explore six different practices that these organizations are using. A detailed description of these three organizations can be found here.

Have a solid foundation

Guy Spigelman, CEO of PresenTense Israel, says that “we expand based on having a solid foundation. First, we do our core brilliantly. We maintain the core, including quality, as we expand.” Aliza Mazor, Executive Director of Bikkurim comments, that “Bikkurim stays true to its methodology. We do hands-on, customized organization development consulting, working one-on-one with the client.” These organizations clearly manifest their identity both conceptually and in practice. They know who they are and remain true to who they are. Toby Rubin, CEO of UpStart points out that the core of UpStart is its accelerator. Many of its efforts derive from that.

Having an evolving model for the enterprise

While remaining clear about its core, the organization must also be flexible, adaptable and open to experimentation so as to allow its model to evolve. The process of ongoing experimentation applies to the overall business model as well as to the product and service models of the enterprise.

Guy Spigelman comments that the model of PresenTense Israel has changed. “PresenTense Israel has iterated its mission, beyond developing “social enterprise” to developing “enterprise for social good”. This has resulted in more and more programs that focus on economic empowerment for periphery populations in Israel resulting in more pure for-profit businesses. The social side of this equation is that the participants in the accelerator are developing jobs and new services for poorer, less developed communities.”

Bikkurim is embarking upon working with second stage ventures. In doing so, Bikkurim is breaking new ground. Aliza Mazor says “we are figuring out our model for doing Stage Two.” Bikkurim is taking an iterative approach to figuring out the second stage model. This reflection and hands-on experimentation has led to clarity as to the areas of focus for Bikkurim’s second stage work with organizations. For example, first stage work with ventures included a focus on fundraising. Second stage work includes work on measures and dashboards.

UpStart is evolving into a national organization that works locally in communities across North America. By the end of the year, UpStart expects to have all of its programs running in two locations, the Bay Area and Chicago, with interest developing in other communities.

Have a compelling, far-reaching vision that describes the desired impact on society

The organization must be able to see out into the horizon to what can be compellingly different within the organization and in the larger society which it serves. It must reach in order to have impact.

According to Toby Rubin, the vision of UpStart starts with the recognition that the accelerator work is core to the mission of UpStart. UpStart moves beyond this to working with mature organizations based on the belief that existing organizations need to transform their way of working from the patterns and practices of the late 20th century to the rapidly changing world of the 21st century. UpStart envisions the Jewish community of the future being characterized by organizations and workplaces that embrace the values and practices of renewal and innovation. The result is a vital, vibrant and connected community which is then able to translate Jewish tradition into modern life.

Aliza Mazor describes the future direction of Bikkurim commenting that Bikkurim will “focus on exemplary game changers in the larger community to bring forth new models and ways of doing business that are stronger and stable over time.”

Guy Spigelman says PresenTense Israel will “bring skills and methodologies to communities across Israel to solve core problems in Israel society.” He adds, “we want to be spark plugs to innovation in Israel.” PresenTense Israel “wants to encourage local leadership to constantly innovate for their own economic development, enrichment and problem solving. It will be constantly innovating as a way of improving their local communities.”

Develop strategies for distribution

Part of having an evolving model is to further develop strategies for distribution. Aliza Mazor comments on the challenges facing second stage organizations. “Our ventures have the content at the first stage, but they may not have a good distribution model for their content.” The original idea is what captures the attention of funders and leads to the creation of the organization. Over time, a process of experimentation is necessary for the further development of how this content is distributed. This becomes the focus for the second stage.

As these three organizations themselves look to expand their offerings, reach more people, and have greater impact, focus is necessary on the channels of distribution. The actions of Upstart are a good illustration of this. In expanding its reach, Upstart is partnering with JCC’s and other mature organizations. The JCC’s will serve as distribution channels for UpStart’s programs as well as for programs of its UpStarters. This provides enhancements to the distribution channels by which UpStart provides its value.

Maintain a strategic focus

Clarity of its core foundation and its vision provides a basis for having a strategic focus. The organization must maintain a focus on what is important to its customers and what adds value.

Bikkurim sets out its current focus for its second stage work as falling into four areas: financial stability; building a sound business model; working on metrics and measurement; and board development.

Guy Spigelman notes that “there is a big awareness of Start-Up Nation (referring to the popular book on Israeli innovation) and that the focus at PresenTense Israel is to take this amazing side of Israel and bring it to all of Israel.” The work of PresenTense Israel with both nonprofits and for-profits in Israel with a social purpose is a niche that it has cultivated as its role in Israeli society. Mr. Spigelman says, “We have a particular role in something considered desirable by our audience… Having a resonating message is key.”

Expand the capacity and reach

The organization must continue to reach inward to develop itself and outward to have impact – both in a strategic manner.

PresenTense Israel is continuing to develop content, use of the internet, training of trainers and consultants, educating its staff, and increasing the number of volunteers and programs.

PresenTense Israel is also expanding the populations being served. It is currently focusing more on the population of Ultra-Orthodox and on municipalities. It also recognizes its current challenge to spend more time and effort getting its learning out and on to the public agenda.

Bikkurim is expanding by recruiting ventures for its second stage work. It is helping ventures focus on important details of operation and infrastructure such as measures and board development.

UpStart is looking to expand its reach by opening UpStart Labs in communities with significant Jewish populations and one or more JCCs with which it can partner. The partnership will result in JCC staff being trained to co-create innovative programming with its constituents while assisting in the development of a pipeline of applicants for the Lab’s accelerator program.


As is obvious from this sub-set of innovative providers to the Jewish entrepreneurial community, the practices being utilized are useful both to the providers and to the ventures that they guide. Experimentation and learning occurs on the part of the provider in understanding their own progress as well as on the part of the ventures being developed.


Barry Camson consults with Jewish institutions, businesses and networks. He can be reached at BCamson@aol.com.