If Israel is a startup nation of 8 million people, its diaspora in New York seems no less keen on entrepreneurship. A year after launching Israeli Startups NYC—the firm helps Israeli tech entrepreneurs with immigration issues, business development, legal paperwork, and the like—founder Lior Vaknin estimates he has fostered one of the largest Israeli communities in New York City, with more than 5,000 members.
Vaknin says part of the city’s appeal to startup types outside of Silicon Valley is that “entrepreneurs and angel investors are in New York City more than in other cities. It’s not just bankers and old money here anymore.”
As for the appeal of startup life to Israelis, well, that’s just a natural phenomenon, he says.
“We don’t fear authority and question everything. I think this is inherited in Jewish life,” Vaknin tells Quartz.
Guy Franklin, who’s been mapping the scene at IsraeliMappedInNY, counts 268 Israeli startups, plus four accelerators, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and along the other side of the Hudson River in New Jersey. One of these firms, StartApp, in Soho, was recently named the fastest-growing company in New York by Crain’s New York Business.
StartApp makes software for inserting ads into mobile apps. It was founded in Tel Aviv, where its engineers remain, but the company moved its headquarters to New York to be closer to clients and advertising agencies, co-founder and CEO Gil Dudkiewicz tells Quartz.
CUPS, a subscription-based coffee app, is another Israeli transplant. The service lets users prepay for their caffeine fix, which they can then obtain from any participating cafe. Co-founder Gilad Rotem first piloted the app in Tel Aviv in 2012, but says the business “reached the market ceiling just based on how many coffee shops there are in that city. We wanted the business to be huge or not do it at all.”
Rotem believes that Israel’s relatively tiny size (its entire population is slightly smaller than that of New York City) is one reason so many Israelis have predicated their businesses on technology, because it can help them transcend their home market.
Being in New York also has been beneficial to Yaniv Makover, the Israeli founder and CEO of Keywee. His content marketing app raised $9.1 million earlier this year in a funding round that included investments from Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and The New York Times Co.
Makover argues that the success of any tech startup depends on “standing in luck’s way. By luck, I mean the potential partners, investors, M&A offers, and employees.” Thanks in large part to the proximity he now has to the media and consumer base his business depends on, Makover has found more luck in New York than in Tel Aviv, or anywhere else.