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Itzik Frid: Integrate Arabs into Israel tech scene to reduce tensions



Israel Tech Takwin (2 of 4)
Itzik Frid, pictured, is a
longtime Israeli tech entrepreneur and the CEO of Takwin Labs, a
startup incubator focused on Arab-led

Jacobs/Business Insider

  • Israel is
    often called the “Startup Nation” due to the sheer number of
    entrepreneurs and tech companies in the country of 9 million
  • While Arabs make up 21% of Israel’s population, they
    currently only make up about 3% of the tech workforce.
  • Itzik Frid, a longtime Israeli tech entrepreneur and the CEO
    of a startup incubator focused on Arab-led startups, thinks
    increasing Arab participation in tech could have huge benefits
    for Israeli society by getting Jews and Arabs to work together
    towards common goals. There are many in Israel that share his
  • This post is part of Business Insider’s series
    on Better

Israel produces an impressive number of highly successful tech
companies for a country with just 9 million people, from social
navigation app Waze, which sold
to Google in 2013
 for $1.15 billion, to
autonomous driving company Mobileye, which sold
to Intel last year for a whopping
$15.3 billion.

Israelis have long lovingly referred to the Middle Eastern
country as the “Startup Nation,” thanks to the sheer number of
entrepreneurs building businesses there, particularly in cities
like Tel Aviv.

But, there’s one group in Israel that hasn’t truly benefited from
the red-hot tech industry: Arab-Israelis. While Arabs make up 21%
of Israel’s population, they currently make up 3% of the
workforce in the tech industry. 

Itzik Frid, a longtime Israeli tech entrepreneur and
venture capitalist, is trying to change that. He is
the CEO of Takwin
, a venture capital firm and startup incubator focusing
on Arab-led startups.

Frid told Business Insider that he thinks increasing Arab
participation in the tech industry and getting Arabs and Jews to
work together on mixed startup teams is “the future of

Outside of a few mixed cities like Haifa, the northern
Israeli city where Takwin is headquartered, Jews largely live in
Jewish towns and attend Jewish schools while Arabs live in Arab
towns and attend Arab schools. And, given that  Jews in
Israel must serve in the military for 2-3 years after high school
while Arabs generally do not, the two populations could have
little to no meaningful interactions well into their

“At the end of the day, all you need to do is get people
together,” Frid said. “This is the classic way of opening

Tech, startups, and entrepreneurship, Frid said, presents
an opportunity to get Arabs and Jews to work together towards a
common purpose. Many of the companies that Frid advises or that
work out of Takwin Labs have mixed Arab-Jewish teams.

“If you walk around the office … I will ask you who’s an
Arab, who’s a Jew, you will never be able to tell,” Frid said.
“They work togther and it’s not because we’re singing Bob Dylan
songs, wearing white, and playing guitars. It’s because they know
this is the best chance of their lives.”

Takwin Labs is the latest in a long line of efforts to
unite two communities through tech

Frid is far from the only person in Israel with that

Arab-Israeli Fadi Swidan has worked with tech entrepreneur
and Unit 8200 graduate Ron Aviv to co-found
, an accelerator program that helps startups with mixed
Arab and Jewish teams, in the Arab-majority city of

In August, nonprofit Tech2Peace brought together 30 Arabs,
Palestinians, and Jews for a two-week seminar that included
programming, entrepreneurship, and design classes alongside
peace-building and conflict resolution activities. 

“We want to create a collaborative network of future tech
leaders who will support each other, personally and
professionally, and also be role models of coexistence in their
communities,” Omer Segal, a medical student and the director
of seminars at Tech2Peace,
told Haaretz

Moona, a nonprofit technology incubator, brings
together Jewish and Arab students to work on emerging
technologies such as drones, robots, and 3D printing, among
others. Around 750 students graduate from its workshops every
year. Apple
partnered with Moona earlier this year
to launch an augmented
reality innovation lab.

“In Israel you don’t have many places for Arabs and Jews to
meet … There is no real interaction,” Aya Manaa, the 
head of the robotics and drone program at Moona,
told The Times of Israel

Manaa added that while politics some time come up, the need
to reach a common goal like winning a competition forces students
to work together and overcome stereotypes and fear. 

The idea dates back to the early 2000s when New
Generation Technology, the
first state-supported tech incubator bringing together
and Arabs, was founded. Another early example, Tsofen, was
founded in 2008. Based in the predominantly Arab city of
Nazareth, the nonprofit trains and helps find
for Arabs and Jews seeking to enter the tech
industry. It has helped place 30% all new Arab engineers in
Israel since its inception.

The government has similarly made moves to improve Arab
integration in the tech industry. 
As part of
Resolution 922, a $4.3 billion five-year plan for the Arab sector
passed in 2015, funding was
increased for Arab business centers and
 and the government plans to
invest $25.6 million in small and medium-size Arab businesses.

The government has also pledged to fund 30 months of salaries for
Arab employees if a company hires five or more people from that
population. The Innovation Authority, the office charged with
developing the science and tech industries, said it
was expanding
grant and support programs
 for Arab

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