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    Israelis shop before the Jewish holiday of Passover in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda food market.

    Tech Ecosystem-Friendly Jerusalem: The New Silicon Valley of the Middle East

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    The city of Jerusalem, Israel is full of ancient history, however religions tensions have meant that it is sometimes associated more with conflict than anything else. It appears that that is about to change as the city starts to grow and become a real technological hub.

    Associated now with craft beer and tech incubators, the city of Jerusalem is full of surprises. With its cobbled streets and buildings that date back to the dawn of civilization, Jerusalem is harboring a powerful secret; it is the world's top emerging technology hub. 

    Nir Barkat, the mayor of the city, is a venture capitalist and has engaged entrepreneurs to develop digital tools, enterprises and initiatives. 

    There are 600 tech companies in Jerusalem and the number is growing at a fast rate.

    One such app that is helping tourists find the best places to dine and buy good food is called Bite Mojo. It acts as a tour guide to the city's gastro scene and nightlife. The app can be used to tour Mahane Yehuda — one of the main markets in Jerusalem — which offers visitors over 250 vendors selling fresh food, spices and drinks.

    ​Once night comes, the market changes from a food hotspot to a mecca for hipsters. The app allows you to buy food, wine or beer and it offers over 100 different Israeli-born brews.

    Why Jerusalem?

    In 2012, Tel Aviv was the hotbed for start-ups, with entrepreneurs rushing to the city and investor's seeking to find their fortunes there.

    Things started to change in 2015; When Time magazine picked Jerusalem as the world's top emerging technological hub, the city's hi-tech scene seemed to have suddenly secured international attention overnight.

    Tel Aviv is famous for its start-ups, but Jerusalem is the new kid on the block and the city is increasingly dwarfing Tel Aviv's tech ecosystems.

    ​Once overlooked and forgotten, Jerusalem's untapped potential started to grow rapidly, innovating and gaining global notoriety. According to Helen Wexler, who works for the Jerusalem Development Authority — an organization that encourages and promotes economic development — one of the reasons for this growth is that city always held the infrastructure for a good tech ecosystem.

    "We hold all the ingredients necessary for a good tech ecosystem," Wexler said in a recent interview. 

    Jerusalem
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    Jerusalem

    "We already have a well-established industrial sector to build upon and a very large pool of talent coming out of some of the best academic institutions in Israel. Hundreds of top-notch scientists, engineers and designers graduate in Jerusalem every year, but the vast majorities quickly move on to Gush Dan to build their future there. For a long time, all this talent just flowed out of Jerusalem entirely, instead of setting up shop her," she added. 

    ​A city of tradition is now a place of technological expansion, and the number of new companies setting up shop in Jerusalem, according to experts, has increased from 24 percent to 110 percent in 2016 alone. Investment in the city has also increased, since 2012, growing from US$50 million to US$250 million.

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    Tags:
    tech hub, app, ecosystem, emerging markets, startup, growing economy, Silicon Valley, tech companies, innovation, technology, economy, Israel, Middle East, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem
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