Confetti, grasshoppers, and why Tel Aviv is the heart of ‘Startup Nation’

“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

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“The first time I tasted grasshoppers was also the first time I ever touched one,” remembers Dror Tamir, co-founder and CEO of Hargol FoodTech—the world’s first commercial grasshopper farmer. “It was at a tasting event we held three years ago with representatives from Uganda and Japan. A CNN crew filmed the event, so I tried […]