To change the face of Gaza Envelope society, strengthen its population, and reduce the distance from the periphery to the center of the country in all life areas.
For dozens of years the kibbutzim of Sha’ar HaNegev (a Regional Council in the Gaza Envelope) have experienced growth, this despite the ongoing security crisis. New families along with native born kibbutzniks have begun re-populating the kibbutzim after completing their academic studies, seeking a social and economic change in the modern kibbutz of the 21st century.
The return to the routine after Operation Protective Edge was a traumatic one. The general feeling was that the state of war had not ended, but rather stopped in an arbitrary manner, the same way it began. Moreover, the idea of terrorist tunnels was only a rumor until the outbreak of that military operation. Now these tunnels have become a key element in the sense of danger that remains in the country in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.
To deal with this situation, inhabitants faced two alternatives in dealing with the situation:
1. Complain over their fate and grow weaker.
2. Roll up their sleeves, produce and grow stronger
SouthUp is the materialization of the second alternative, of production and strength. It is an alternative that strengthens and firms up all levels of the population.
Educators and hi-tech professionals from the region together with businesspeople from San Diego initiated the establishment of the SouthUp nonprofit organization. The aim and vision was to build a technology incubator that brings the world of innovation to Sha’ar HaNegev and strengthens local inhabitants at all levels – in terms of employment, education, and the local economy.
SouthUp has already established two technology incubators in the region, one in Sha’ar HaNegev and the other on Kibbutz Nir Am. The central goal its founders set themselves: to bring the world of innovation to Sha’ar HaNegev and infuse vigor and inspiration into a variety of life areas.
During the course of a year and a half, we’ve succeeded in bringing 16 startups to the Gaza Envelope—with assistance of the Israel Innovation Authority, which awards preferential conditions for such companies, thus enabling them to join incubators in the region.
Following establishment of the incubators, three task forces were set up – an economic task force, social task force and educational task force.
defined the nature of the companies we’d like to see in the incubator. One of their key criteria for such companies is feasibility for growth and for remaining in the region for at least five years. A second criteria is the ability to enlarge the circle of employees from the Sha’ar HaNegev region, and a third is the possibility to integrate projects and entrepreneurs with the local education system.
examined the region’s cultural and social needs. The task force presented options for integrating the companies’ employees into local society in terms of residence, education, and culture.
sought ways to connect between the ever-developing world of technology and the region’s educational space, combining humanistic values and contemporary technological development.
Currently we are in the midst of accelerated growth stages and are preparing additional buildings to serve the incubator. We’re working to establish a new school that matches our values and is in line with 21st century technology and culture. With the help of investors from the San Diego community we’re in the process of establishing the SouthUp Impact Investment Fund—a venture capital fund for investing in startups. Since the Fund will invest solely in projects that have been awarded grants from the Israel Innovation Authority, it presents a unique investment opportunity in the world of startups and will enable us to generate more significant commitment among the companies.
If you have any ideas or resources to contribute, we’d be happy to hear from you. We’re always interested in enlarging our circle of friends and partners.
SouthUp is a highly innovative project which has taken time until fully developing its model. The initial idea came during Israel’s Independence Day in 2015. This was followed in March 2016 by establishing the SouthUp Association, after understanding the needs and methods for growing startup companies in the region.
Although still in our early stages, we grow and strengthen from day to day – accumulating additional partners and developing further capabilities, with more in store for the future.
We wish to extend our immense gratitude and thanks to our founding donors who helped us establish SouthUp and who have accompanied us all along—our friends from San Diego, some of whom were here to celebrate that historical Israel Independence Day with us in 2015.
Acheatel Larry & Janet
Bielas Wolf & Brend
Kornfeld Rick & Carol
Lew Bill & Shana
Levitt Gary & Sheryl
Michan Carlos & Esther
Viterbi Alan & Caryn
Ellman David & Claire
Carnick Dan & Debbie
Feinswog Ira & Andrea