Last week I joined a group of chasidishe and Litvishe yungeleit as they made their way to London to raise money. But this wasn’t your typical fundraising trip for the olam haTorah in Eretz Yisrael; it was for a completely different purpose. These people were on their way to seek investments for the hi-tech companies and start-ups they had founded.
A week earlier, I had met the members of this talented group in Chofit, a yishuv near Netanya. All of them work out of the Bizmax hub in Yerushalayim, which consists primarily of chareidi hi-tech companies. The meeting took place in the home of Moshe (Mark) Schimmel, a philanthropic businessman who is a partner in several social initiatives intended to help chareidim with parnasah. One of these initiatives is the Achim Global Network, which helps people who need assistance to advance their ideas or businesses. One way they do this is through the Bereishit Foundation, which provides loans on easy terms. There are also two business hubs in the style of WeWork. The one in Yerushalayim is called Bizmax, and the one in Bnei Brak is called Achim. Achim Global was founded by Moshe Schimmel and Motti Eichler, the son of Yahadut HaTorah MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler.
The purpose of all of these initiatives is to help chareidim who are looking for tools for success without having to compromise on their religious standards. In fact, on our return trip from London, Motti Eichler asked me if I knew a good maggid shiur who would be able to give a halachah shiur. The business hubs regularly feature lectures and courses, and the one in Bnei Brak even has a shul on the premises.
Before the meeting, I wasn’t sure what type of people I would meet. When I arrived, I discovered that the attendees were all chashuve yungeleit from across the religious spectrum, Belzer and Lubavitcher chasidim, Sefardim and Litvaks. Throughout the trip, I noticed how each of them utilized his spare time for learning.
The purpose of the meeting in Chofit was to enable its participants to meet an important guest—British ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan—and to make their investment presentation to him. It turns out that the UK also encourages chareidi business ventures and was involved in this trip to London, in regard both to encouragement and to helping connect the various companies with potential investors.
One of the seven companies making their presentations was Autonomeye, inventors of smart glasses for the blind. “Using a cane to get around is very old-fashioned,” explains Yehuda Korn, a young Vizhnitzer chasid who is here representing the company. “So many technological advances have been made in the world, but for some reason we still don’t have real solutions for the blind. So that’s what we decided to come up with.”
The glasses combine artificial intelligence and computerized vision to provide a navigation system that can be used by blind people. “Walking with a cane requires a lot of trial and error to become familiar with an area,” he continues. “We developed a device that scans the area, identifies obstacles and charts a path, providing the person with safety and security.”
The idea is for the glasses to function as a sort of Waze for blind people. The company already has a working prototype and has carried out successful trials with users. The next step is to secure funding in order to be able to move into production as soon as possible.
Another interesting company was Healables, whose representatives walked in with something that looked like a black patch on their right forearms. I ask Melech Wosk, the Belzer chasid who is Healables’ cofounder and CFO, to explain what his product does.
“This is a wearable electroceutical device that provides pain relief for athletes and people with chronic pain, particularly in the back and joints. It has an integrated healing platform that uses wearable technology and artificial intelligence to provide pain relief without the need for medication.”
The device is meant to be worn every day for a set amount of time as determined by a doctor. Among the people involved in this project is Tamir Goodman, the frum former basketball player who was searching for something that would help his athlete friends and found what he was looking for with Healables.