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A-Wa performs Tel Aviv Creator Awards

“Let’s throw inspiration around like it’s confetti!” read the gigantic poster, the last message people took in before heading home after a surprising night at the Tel Aviv Creator Awards. An hour earlier, confetti had rained on all of our heads as Dror Tamir bagged the grand prize in the Scale category, for—get this—growing grasshoppers.

In his one-minute presentation, Tamir, co-founder of Hargol FoodTech (“hargol” means “grasshopper” in Hebrew), the world’s first commercial grasshopper farmer, convinced the judges and the audience that this seemingly disgusting insect is the protein source of the future.

“Grasshoppers are the most widely eaten insect in the world, being considered a delicacy in Africa, Asia, and Central America,” Tamir told the crowd of 3,500. Be that as it may, convincing the Western world to digest grasshoppers is no small feat, and for this, Hargol FoodTech received $360,000.

Tamir laid out two goals he intends to achieve with his winnings: to increase production capacity to meet the demand and to accelerate the development of grasshopper farms across Africa. Tamir’s vision is far-reaching, and he hopes to “provide a healthier and more sustainable protein while providing employment and additional income to locals.”

Hargol and the 19 other winners took home more than $1.3 million Thursday night at the sixth regional Creator Awards event. The global competition, which started this year when WeWork committed more than $20 million to fund innovative projects around the world, heads to New York City next on Nov. 16, and the global finals will take place in January 2018.


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Even though Hargol was the evening’s big winner, the international fare served at the Tel Aviv Creator Awards did not include any insect products. Once the doors of the Tel Aviv Convention Center opened at 5 p.m., the casually dressed crowd happily nibbled on Thai chicken, Indian curry, Italian bruschetta, and British fish and chips, before the ceremony started. On the left—a pop-up market full of handmade wares, offering everything from Dollka’s handmade cushions inspired by Russian Matryoshka dolls to Kalimba’s ethnic musical instruments. On the right—a job fair where you could potentially find high-tech employment or a job at the US Embassy. In the middle—many culinary options as well as stalls serving beer that is inspiration in itself: behind Israel-based Jem’s Beer lies the story of an American expatriate who realized his own personal dream.

And in the large back hall—a series of masterclasses, including a futuristic keynote from the man who became synonymous with electric cars, Shai Agassi, and a discussion on contemporary design with Danish celebrity architect Bjarke Ingels, Israeli fashion designer Sharon Tal from Maskit, and Nir Zohar from Israel’s cloud-based web development platform Wix.

Excitement grew as the visibly pregnant Israeli model Adi Neumann—WeWork Co-founder Adam Neumann’s sister and greatest champion—took the main stage in a white evening gown to host the ceremony. Soon she invited her famous brother on stage. “Israel is special,” he said of his native country as he delivered his speech in Hebrew. “We’re called ‘startup nation’ for a reason. Everybody here has energy. Everybody here has love. People here do things from the heart.”

“We’re called ‘startup nation’ for a reason. Everybody here has energy. Everybody here has love. People here do things from the heart.”

Neumann spoke of his childhood in Israel, one of moving around a lot and always being the new kid in class, as well as his first five years in New York City, in which his sister supported him financially.

“But I always felt part of a community, and that community is called Israel,” he said. “We are so lucky to have this. Sometimes we don’t even know it.” With this sense of community, Neumann built WeWork. The theme of community was also prevalent in the intimate discussion about family and creativity that Neumann held on stage with Israeli rock star Aviv Geffen.

WeWork Co-founder and Israeli Rock Star in conversation
Adam Neumann and Aviv Geffen

Apart from the grasshopper sensation and Neumann and Geffen’s one-on-one, the evening’s favorite was undoubtedly a fresh-faced entrepreneur named Yasmin Dunsky. Together with Noga Mann, Dunsky founded the nonprofit QueenB, an organization that teaches young girls hardcore coding. QueenB uses a teaching method created especially for Generation Z girls, with lessons taught by female computer science students that act as mentors for the teenage girls and achieve a deep personal connection with them. The whole crowd fell in love with Dunsky, who delivered her pitch wearing shorts and a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “I teach code.” Her impressive pitch earned QueenB a $72,000 prize in the Launch category.

Yasmin Dunsky of QueenB

“We recently completed our first year of activity in which we operated in Jerusalem, reached hundreds of teenagers in the city and offered scholarships for students from the Hebrew University,” Dunsky said with a beaming smile. “The Creator Awards prize will allow us to expand to other areas in Israel by opening activity centers in each of the four big universities.”

Her partner, Mann, added: “What I love about QueenB is that we don’t only teach girls how to code but also teach them how to take on challenges and face them, something that we believe will give them an advantage, no matter what they will do later in life.”

Photos by Eyal Marilus

 

Winners of the 2017 Tel Aviv Creator Awards

Scale

Hargol FoodTech (for profit) – $360,000

She Codes (nonprofit) – $180,000

Tovanot B’Hinuch (nonprofit) – $180,000

 

Launch

Eyefree Assisting Communication (for profit) – $130,000

ReSymmetry (for profit) – $72,000

Voiceitt (for profit) – $72,000

QueenB (nonprofit) – $72,000

Itworks (nonprofit) – $72,000

 

Incubate

Blue Fairy Med (for profit) – $18,000

Collective Onya (nonprofit) – $18,000

Eyegetby (for profit) – $18,000

FT Fashion Tape (for profit) – $18,000

HackJLM by Made in JLM (nonprofit) –  $18,000

Nationlab (artist) – $18,000

RenewSenses (for profit) – $18,000

Siraj Technologies (for profit) – $18,000

Synesthesia (artist) – $18,000

 

Community Giver Award

Adopt a Safta – $36,000

Assaf Luxembourg – $36,000

Elevation Academy – $18,000

 

Your child’s daycare is closing. Your car needs a new carburetor. Your elderly father is suffering from a terminal illness. Your home improvement project has morphed into a money pit. The relentless news cycle makes you want to pull the covers over your head and stay there until Saturday.

Yet even as these types of ongoing stresses are occurring in your life, you must still go to work and try to perform at your best. While pulling that off isn’t easy, it is possible. Those who work in the mental health field say there are tools that help a person stay productive at work even when their personal life threatens to dominate their thoughts.

A main component, they say, is being honest with yourself and others about the stresses and your personal needs.

“Anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high,” says Poppy Jamie, the 28-year-old founder of the meditation app Happy Not Perfect. “We all understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed.”

Jamie, a member of the board of advisors for UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, says that if those stresses are personal ones, they can spill over into work performance if time isn’t taken to acknowledge and process them.

“When you suppress emotions, you activate the emotional center of your brain,” Jamie says. It’s the opposite of what many are hoping for at work, where maintaining a calm and rational demeanor is often helpful to make the best decisions.

Earlier this year, Jamie’s app debuted a five-minute exercise called Refresh that uses science-backed steps to help you approach your day in a more centered way. The app asks how you are feeling, with choices ranging from “sad,” “heartbroken,” and “anxious” to “excited” and even “magical.” The program then moves through a breathing exercise, noting when you should inhale and exhale.

On World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health, Jamie led a breathing exercise at London’s WeWork 138 Holborn. She discussed how people aren’t stuck with the way their mind works—it’s possible to be less stressed if you retrain yourself to handle it better.

But Jamie’s approach is about more than breathing. On her app you can vent by typing in what’s on your mind and then “burn” the whole screen in a symbolic manner to let go of negative thoughts. You are prompted to list things you are grateful for, doodle on the screen, or pass along a compliment to a friend.

In times of high stress, Jamie says, it’s paramount to identify what will help you relax. This “radical self care,” as she calls it, includes basics like proper sleep and hydration, but also requires that you consider things that specifically calm you down and then commit to doing whatever that might be. It can be as simple as drinking more hot tea or leaving a few minutes early to make a yoga class.

“When we are struggling, we forget what we need to feel better,” Jamie says.

If something beyond the simple stresses of daily life is weighing you down, Jamie says you should not hesitate to seek professional help or take some time off. If you have personal days, it’s wise to take advantage of them.

“Allowing yourself to recover is really important,” she says. “And being able to then, when you’re recovered, go back to work [at] full steam. You wouldn’t keep training on a sprained ankle—you’d take a couple of days off to make it rest.”

Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, co-founders of Shine, send an inspirational text daily to their 2 million community members across the globe. They advise that when stress becomes something that impacts your work, it needs to be brought up to a supervisor.

“A good rule of thumb is if you feel your struggles are impacting your ability to get the job done, flagging that to your boss will hopefully get you the proactive support you need,” says the 35-year-old Hirabayashi, who works from Brooklyn’s WeWork Dumbo Heights. “What we always find helpful in that scenario: Come with a few ideas or solutions for how they can best support you, not just the problem, for the most productive conversation.”

Jack Jones, founder of Australia’s The Banksia Project, which works with men to develop practices to implement positive mental health strategies, says putting in the time to build a positive office environment will pay off when stress threatens to impact work performance.

“When outside stressors are significant, we have to put on a facade as to how we really feel when we get to work,” says Jones, who is based at Sydney’s WeWork 333 George Street. “We therefore spend the majority of our day pretending we are okay, when at times, we aren’t. It is extremely important to create relationships with people in your workplace that allow you to be honest, open, and vulnerable.”

That means sharing struggles with colleagues and doing the same for them.

“We need to feel comfortable to talk to our colleagues about life’s challenges and know that they will also be willing to show vulnerability towards us in return,” says Jones, 25. “In order to safely do this, people need to be willing to listen honestly and openly after they ask a question like ‘How are you?’ or ‘Are you okay?’”

Taking time during the day to enjoy the simple pleasures can also improve your mood and lower stress.

“We need to slow down and stop to enjoy the first sip of our coffee,” says Jones. “Enjoy the beauty of someone deciding to wear a bright scarf on a rainy, miserable day.”

Jamie agrees with Jones that being positive affects everyone around you.

“Looking after your mental well-being is a priority not only because it’s beneficial to yourself, it’s also hugely beneficial to the business environment,” she says.

As the weather cools down, shoppers review their closets, looking to fill any gaps in their own wardrobes and preparing their children to go back to school. Direct-to-consumer apparel companies — which bypass traditional bricks-and-mortar stores — evaluate trends in shopping habits and find a way to make tasks easier on consumers.

Three startups are using technology and integrating customer feedback to do just that. One helps men buy unique, perfectly fitting shirts; another looks to easily fill what may be a guy’s most important (and most ignored) drawer; and a third assists parents in properly sizing their kids’ feet to make online shoe-shopping easier.

Every great outfit starts with what goes under it, but Laura and Michael Dweck (29 and 31, respectively) know that most men don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort shopping for socks and underwear. So in 2015, after a post-honeymoon fight over Michael’s overstuffed underwear drawer, they started Basic Outfitters, “an online destination for men to refresh their basics drawer in under two minutes,” says Laura, the creative director. For $60, customers can select a pack of socks, a pack of underwear, a pack of T-shirts and a “wildcard basic” — jogger-style pants or an extra set of socks, underwear, or tees. (The success of the company — it now has a team of 10 working out of its office at WeWork 135 Madison Avenue — landed the founders on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.)

“All couples have the same complaint about a significant other’s drawer,” says Laura Dweck of Basic Outfitters.

Basic Outfitters quickly learned customers couldn’t be grouped into “basic” or “fashion” categories, so the wares come in a variety of styles. Even if a guy initially chooses plain socks, Laura said, he’ll often go for a bonus pack of the popular “micro-conversational” prints for socks or boxers, which feature prints like motorcycles or palm trees. And sometimes male stereotypes do turn out to be correct: Basic Outfitters’ customers can’t get enough blue, but yellow regularly remains on their virtual shelves.

Laura has learned perhaps more than she ever expected to about men’s underwear preferences — Basic Outfitters followed early feedback requesting boxer briefs with a fly opening, and their popularity persuaded the company to develop more such styles.

Taking fashion risks

Woodies Clothing, which sells custom button-down shirts (starting at $85) and chinos (starting at $98) from its website, also discovered that men are willing to take fashion risks, even with  collared shirts. While Woodies’ bestsellers include straightforward no-iron blue and white button-downs, a flamingo-print shirt sold out in its first run. “That’s something we were not expecting,” says founder Jacob Wood, who works from 175 Varick Street in Lower Manhattan. Since moving into WeWork in 2014, Woodies has expanded to a staff of five.

Customers may be pleasantly surprised by how extensively Woodies has streamlined its process of ordering a custom shirt, which involves a dizzying number of options for collars, cuffs, and pockets. When Wood, a former buyer at Macy’s, founded his company in 2014, early iterations of the site suggested that customers use a tape measure and watch videos to take their measurements. Needless to say, that idea didn’t fly.

With height, weight, and average shirt size, we can extract all your measurements and send you perfect-fitting shirts,” says Jacob Wood of Woodies.

Now, the 31-year-old entrepreneur says, “we have an algorithm: With height, weight, and average shirt size, we can extract all your measurements and send you perfect-fitting shirts.” Pant sizes can similarly be determined when the customer provides his waist size.

Kicking around an idea

One startup is trying to make shopping for kids’ shoes easier for parents. Growing kids’ sizes are always changing, and it can be difficult to get those growing kids to cooperate in a brick-and-mortar store. So Jenzy‘s app directs customers to snap a picture of a child’s foot next to a credit-card-sized card (preferably one that doesn’t show financial information, like a library or store loyalty card). The app, which serves kids up to 6 years old (there are plans to extend the age range), then recommends the best sizes for the child in various brands and styles, including those from well-known manufacturers like Keen and Pediped.

“We’ve been live in the App Store for about two months and have about 1,500 downloads,” says Carolyn Horner, who co-founded the company with Eve Ackerley. The two are very pleased with their return rate.

It was not the most obvious path for the two child-free 20-somethings, but as they thought about starting their own clothing company, they kept hearing from friends who were frustrated with buying children’s shoes online. They realized that they could simplify the process.

Development of the app involved a lot of trial and error for Horner and Ackerley, who met teaching in China after college and are now based at WeWork 1601 Market in Philadelphia. Well before they were ready to send it to mommy bloggers for review, they found a surefire way to entice fellow WeWork members to test-drive the app in the building’s common areas. “We’d bring doughnuts to the beta test,” says Horner. Not only did they meet parents who offered suggestions, they got acquainted with a graphic designer who ended up doing the UX for their site.

The founders of Basic Outfitters also picked up tips from the WeWork community. One particularly lucky break, Laura Dweck says, was meeting a video producer in the WeWork building who agreed to shoot a series for social media to build buzz. “He put together some incredible footage, taking influencers around the city to film people going through their life wearing our basics,” she says.

The experienced producer, who’s done work for brands such as Bravo and Chevrolet, simply believed in the product. Laura says she recalls him saying, “I’ll do this for you guys — let’s have some fun.”

Dweck says the producer gathered some social-media influencers and filmed them going about their days in Basic Outfitters attire. Soon the company was getting notes from people who loved the clothing, including some women who wanted it to expand its product line.

“All couples have the same complaint about a significant other’s drawer,” says Laura. “We started the company to help out men, but now the demand for a women’s drawer is off the charts.”

“I’ve always worked in dusty, old, unsexy industries,” says 35-year-old entrepreneur Omri Stern, who dreamed about starting his own company in a more exciting field.

So what’s he doing in insurance, one of the least sexy fields imaginable?

It turned out that when he needed business insurance, Stern tried unsuccessfully to buy a policy on five different websites from 10 different brokers. If consumers could quickly and easily buy car or life insurance online, Stern asked himself, why couldn’t small businesses take advantage of the same technology?

Omri Stern says investors have taken notice, giving Jones a hefty amount of early stage funding.

This realization led Stern and partner Michael Rudman to found Jones, an app that offers pay-as-you-go liability insurance to independent contractors. It currently focuses on construction and real estate companies, but will be moving into related industries in the future.

Jones has been flying under the radar so far, getting a few brief mentions in the business media. But investors have taken notice, giving the company a hefty amount of early stage funding.

Where they’re based: Stern and two other staffers operate out of WeWork Soho West, while the other seven employees work in Tel Aviv. That’s where Stern is from and where the company’s research and development house is located.  

Their inspiration: Stern got a broker’s license just to understand the ins and outs of the overly complicated system. “When you’re actually faced with needing insurance, it’s really expensive,” says Stern. “It takes weeks, and your client wants it by tomorrow.”

Their first big success: Even though it just opened its app to the public, Jones is already offering policies to a handful of clients through insurers like Chubb and Atlas General Services.

Their early investors: Jones has already raised $2.8 million in funding. Their investors include JLL, the second-largest commercial real estate brokerage firm in the world.

What makes them different from other companies: Because insurance is so expensive, it doesn’t make sense for most contractors to buy insurance for an entire year if they only need it part of the time. But Stern says Jones can save them a significant amount of money by turning on their insurance when a project starts and off when it’s over.

Photos by Frank Mullaney

If you think a nonprofit called Everybody Dance Now! is all about shaking your booty, you’d be right. But you’d also be wrong.

The New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

“But dance is not the goal,” says executive director Olakunle Oladehin. “The goal is reshaping what is the way to properly educate. Hip-hop dance culture can inspire and uplift. I think that’s really what we are doing.”

Oladehin and his colleagues say the loss of dance and music education in many public schools has been a tragedy.  “We have done a disservice becoming a test-focused educational system,” he says. The impact, he adds, is felt disproportionately among low-income populations and communities of color.

This New York non-profit teaches hip-hop and street-dance classes to young people across the country who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to the performing arts.

The programming from Oladehin’s organization includes professionally taught dance classes, dance-off competitions, and full-scale performances. It’s essentially the movie Step Up playing out in elementary and middle schools across the country.

If all this sounds like something a kid would love, that’s probably because it was started by one. Jackie Rotman was 14 when she launched the organization in 2005. She still serves on the board but is currently concentrating on getting master’s degrees from both the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Oladehin has always loved dance but didn’t discover hip hop until college. Up until that point he was planning to attend medical school, but he took a little time off and decided to enter public health. Then he heard about the opening at Everybody Dance Now! and thought the position was a perfect way to merge his personal and professional interests.

Winning at the Nashville Creator Awards will help with for organization-wide expansion. Everybody Dance Now! currently serves 3,500 students in New York, Portland, Houston, and other cities. Oladehin has four new cities “ready to go” to help make that expansion a reality.