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Jersey City fair celebrates Israeli ingenuity
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Jersey City fair celebrates Israeli ingenuity

Mayor hosts startups seeking a foothold in metropolitan area

Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni shows his cellphone apps to Israeli-born violinist Miri Ben-Ari.
Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni shows his cellphone apps to Israeli-born violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

An app for your smart phone that helps you locate a parking space. A monthly subscription app for unlimited drinks at coffee shops. A “GPS” for indoor navigation — that is, finding your way through an office building, hospital, or shopping mall.

These innovative technologies and five others developed by Israeli entrepreneurs were on display June 23 at Jersey City’s City Hall.

The Israel Technology Showcase was sponsored jointly by the city government and the Israeli consulate in New York.

For an hour and a half, young Israeli entrepreneurs and their American partners displayed their high-tech products and concepts to a crowded roomful of investors and Jewish community leaders.

The start-up companies “are a representation of the Israeli economy,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop as he welcomed the presenters and audience members. “They are doing it right on so many levels. The Israeli companies have been innovative, and at the same time, they have been a huge benefit to New Jersey.” 

Fulop said 40 companies based in Israel have offices in the state, and another 40 with NJ headquarters maintain offices in Israel. 

One by one, the innovators spoke briefly about the apps they had created and are working to market in America.

They included Pango, the parking app; SPREO, the indoor GPS; and CUPS, the coffee subscription service already operating in downtown Manhattan.

Benzi Ronen showed off Farmigo, which promises to link consumers with nearby stores and farms selling freshly grown food; it is about to open “communities” in Hoboken and Englewood. Eran Harel of AppCard likened the service to a frequent-flyer program for retail stores, providing rewards to consumers who are loyal to local merchants. 

Among the speakers was Aaron Price, founder of NJ Tech Meetup, a networking service for 150 companies whose representatives meet monthly at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

“Technology entrepreneurship knows no boundaries, no religion, no race,” he told the audience. “It is merely the will to bring a product or service to life and the ambition to make it happen that will be rewarded with the best potential success.”

Israel’s consul general in New York, Ido Aharoni, called the event “a celebration” of his country’s high-tech achievements. He and Fulop met a few months ago to talk about activities that would cast Israel in a positive light.

“We all know that Israel is not perfect. No place is perfect.” Aharoni said. “We have not done enough to introduce a conversation based on what makes us unique. Our competitive edge is the unbelievable degree of innovation [and] creativity…. The ability of Israeli society to nurture the creative mind is unparalleled.”

Mark Levenson, chair of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, said, “We have many ways to provide incentives” for Israeli companies of all sorts that wish to set up shop in New Jersey. “We believe New Jersey is the destination place for any Israeli company that wants to headquarter its operations in the U.S.” 

Even as he acknowledged that many of the entrepreneurs are focusing more on establishing a base in New York than in New Jersey, Levenson told NJ Jewish News that “everything is a challenge. We need to sell New Jersey and show these companies why New Jersey is a better place to be. We need to provide them with better financial incentives.”

At the end of the forum, Alana Weiner, the consulate’s director of media affairs, said there were more than 300 Israeli start-ups in the tristate area. “This is a glimpse of what the market has to offer,” she said.

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