How Pandemic Lockdowns Changed My Start-Up World in Tel Aviv

What I’ve seen over the last year is an astonishing change in the culture of the start-up ecosystem that surrounds me.

On March 7, Israel’s economy finally reopened. More than an entire year has passed since the country reported its first case of coronavirus; three lockdowns, over 5,000 deaths, and a remarkable vaccine campaign later, here we are.

So much has changed over this past year, for literally everyone. But what has changed for Israel’s world-renowned start-up ecosystem?

I work for a tech company based in Netanya, north of Tel Aviv, called Revuze. We help eCommerce companies get insights on the market based on our automated analysis of online customer reviews. What I’ve seen over the last year is an astonishing change in the culture of the start-up ecosystem that surrounds me.

At the end of the first lockdown, I left Tel Aviv after nine years I lived there, and I moved up north with my girlfriend to a small village in the Galilee. I was not the only one. Many people who were forced to live in the Tel Aviv area due to their jobs, during this pandemic year, realized they finally could relocate to other areas of the country. The Tel Aviv area is prohibitively expensive, and now that many of us are able to work from home, we can finally explore and support other parts of Israel.

Another way the pandemic changed the start-up culture is in the definition of a good company to work for. When people had to show up at the office every day, office amenities were an important component of the benefits package employers offered. In-house chef? Ping pong table? Ice cream on Thursdays? These were some of the perks tech companies used to offer to attract talent.

That’s no longer the case: office amenities are less important, and workers are more focused on their overall salary, the work-from-home flexibility, and the work-life balance the workplace offers.

For start-ups, the pandemic has changed the day-to-day operations. It’s easier to recruit talent (because of the lack of geographic limitations), and companies can save a lot of money they would usually spend on expensive office spaces in Tel Aviv. People have learned to schedule less meetings, which I believe to be a great thing: I personally tend to schedule a meeting only if there are no other ways to handle the situation.

However, the pandemic has also shown us the limitations of working remotely. When workers operate separately from their own homes and interact via videoconferences, creative thinking can be negatively affected. There are no more “kitchen meetings” or standing coffee breaks, which I believe generate a lot of creative thinking, and drive innovation.

I’ve recently received my Green Pass, which certifies that I have received the COVID-19 vaccine and allows me to attend large events and do all sorts of social and fun activities I was not able to do until now. Slowly, life will be returning to normal.

What I can hope for is for the tech start-up ecosystem to find a balance between the advantages of both in-person and remote work. There are perks on both sides, and while we are all craving a post-pandemic world, we cannot deny that the lockdowns have allowed us to see things from a different perspective.

About the Author
Alon Ghelber is the Chief Marketing Officer at Revuze. He also works as a marketing consultant for VC sand is a member of the Forbes Business Council. He is also the founder and manager of the LinkedIn groups “Start Up Jobs in Israel” and “High Tech Café.”
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