Influential Israelis Blonde 2.0 Boston bound

blonde_bostonNotwithstanding the sparkly element of the picture and that we are obviously superstars, the adjacent picture is at a recent event in London’s Soho House, with Mike Butcher, editor-at-large of TechCrunch, some bloke in the background, my good self and Blonde 2.0 founder Ayelet Noff .

Blonde 2.0 is an award-winning tech-focused communications company and was founded by Ayelet eight years ago in Tel Aviv. Almost a decade on, it has decided to open its first office outside Israel in the rarified city of Boston, Massachusetts. They are very good at their job.

The company’s clientele includes tech giants such as Viber, StoreDot and Yo, as well as more than 70 other clients and will focus on providing services to startups and technology-focused companies in the US. It also works for VCs such as Rhodium, Singulariteam and Shaked Ventures.

“Expanding overseas is the next logical step for us. For several years now, the majority of our clients have come from outside Israel, so we wanted to add a location that will boost our ability to service and communicate with clients from around the world. We chose Boston since we already have great clients there, and good ties to the business community in the city,” said Blonde Co-CEO Motti Peer.

Blonde 2.0 is headquartered in Tel Aviv and employs 25 people and you may have noticed from the picture that Ayelet is a brunette, not a blonde, a fact that has no relevance at all to the rest of the content of this piece.

The Gaza Sky Geeks bring hope to the Strip

sky_geeksOne of my highlights of 2015 was a visit to Ramallah and Jericho in the West Bank to speak at a conference and meet some of the amazing startups in Palestine.

Under extraordinary conditions, how these companies exist is difficult to believe. Israel has control over the spectrum and still refuses to grant 3G licences to mobile operators who have already paid for them, but Palestinian tech companies are not only thriving, they are also doing business with global companies in Israel itself.

The tech boom across the border in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities is impressive. Some are spawned out of the Israeli Defence Force, especially in Beersheva and a significant cluster is forming in Jerusalem, but this is all achieved with the help of 4G, a technology Palestinians can only dream of accessing.

Conditions in the Gaza Strip are even worse. Here, operators with 2G licences are still being blocked by Israel and with blockades on all sides, this territory of 1.8 million people is more like a refugee camp than the ‘pene-exclave region of Palestine’ described by Google.

Understandably these people are seething, but while some turn to anger and extremism, others are turning to technology to give themselves an identity. One initiative is Gaza’s only startup accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks. In December a crowdfunding campaign was launched by global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps means to secure its future and at time of writing, it had raised $142,325, 203% of its original $70,000 goal.

This campaign has now been extended to January 8th, with the hope of raising this amount to $500,000, money that will be spent to keep its co-working space open for all of 2015, expand support for female startup founders, arrange an international hackathon, and coordinate the first Silicon Valley visit by Gazan startups.

“Although humanitarian assistance is critical in Gaza, most youth are craving opportunity, not food. Youth in Gaza are among the Arab world’s most educated young men and women, and they are hungry for the chance to prove themselves in the global marketplace,” said Iliana Montauk, Director of Mercy Corps’ Gaza Sky Geeks program.

Gaza Sky Geeks was launched in 2011 by Mercy Corps with a generous grant from Google.org. Subsequent financial and program support from Google for Entrepreneurs has enabled Gazan startups to connect with more than 30 startup communities globally, including in Silicon Valley.

Over the last year, GSG has progressed from providing technology entrepreneurship training and facilitating competitions, to bringing in the first private startup investment to Gaza and promoting women’s leadership.

“Mercy Corps has created a vibrant technology hub in Gaza that we’re proud to have supported over the last few years,” says Bridgette Beam, Senior Manager at Google for Entrepreneurs. “We’re thrilled to see this exceptionally talented and passionate community receive the boost it needs to continue growing.”

That boost that Beam refers to is that crowdfunding campaign that lasts until January 8th. While the story of Israel’s startup nation is one of great innovation, perhaps it’s time to even things up and support the ‘startup pene-exclave region’ story of Gaza.

As the song goes, if they can do it there, they can do it anywhere. Good luck to them all…

FIVE GOLD GIFTS… #5 – Brentford FC half season ticket

beesticketMuch has been made about a certain star crossing the Sinai desert and an alleged Christmas miracle more than 2,000 years ago.

Be that as it may, the past six years have seen a real miracle occur at a certain meeting-point in West London called Griffin Park as Brentford FC failed to ever succeed.

After biblical traumas that would have tested any saint, let alone a religious adept, this Christmas will see Brentford FC challenging for promotion to the Premier League.

Griffin Park is destined for demolition in two years’ time as Brentford move to a bigger ground, but a Christmas present of a ‘half season’ ticket would enable you to join 12,000 other lucky souls to watch the miracle unfold. This may be the best thing you may ever do. I implore you to do so.

FIVE GOLD GIFTS… #4 – Panono Panoramic Ball Camera

panonoChristmas is the best time of year for those who are normally too sensible to throw away their money on cheap electrical gadgets.

The Panono Panoramic Ball Camera is neither a gimmick, nor is it cheap or throwaway… even if it can be thrown and when it is, takes panoramic images using 36 embedded camera modules at various angles. This produces a 360° spherical spectrum, composed of 36 joined pictures.

The camera costs $549, a ‘premium’ Christmas present, not one for the stocking unless you happen to be in the higher echelons of our unbalanced capitalist society. But if you have the budget and you like unusual pictures, this is one for YOU.

FIVE GOLD GIFTS #3… – Maui Jim Waterways

WaterwaysAt first look, the European winter isn’t the best time to buy sunglasses, either as a present or for a personal style statement, but think again.

Think of the time between Christmas and New Year, let’s call it the seasonal perineum, the awkward gap between Christmas’s genitalia and the New Year’s arsehole, an unknown place where anything could happen.

Those long nights of excess and those mornings of very bright sunshine; the perfect time to cover your eyes… and the Maui Jim Waterways are the nuts. While the name itself may sound like it is trying to describe the aforesaid perineum, these sunglasses are still a recommended buy.

Depending on good your search skills are, price is between £109 and £140, but this is a better link than most. This is probably the most emotive review I’ve ever made, now I can’t stop thinking about my perineum.