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High-tech giants will create a technology center in Sderot

The main idea, born following the attack of October 7, is to bring to the Western Negev a physical presence of high-tech companies. High-tech companies, venture capital funds, together with local authorities in the Western Negev, are setting up a project to create hundreds of high-tech jobs in the area that was hit hardest by the war.

Led by the social high-tech enterprise Place-IL, a high-tech complex will be built in Sderot with an investment of NIS 15 million (approximately $4.1 million) that will house the workforce employed by leading international companies such as Google, Nvidia, Salesforce, Palo Alto, Cisco, and Cadence, as well as Israeli unicorns including Armis, Melio, Axonius, Imperva, and HiBob. American venture capital fund Insight Partners, which is one of the most active VCs in Israel in recent years, entered as a strategic partner in the venture.

The main idea, born following the attack of October 7, is to restore the Western Negev and bring to it a physical presence of high-tech companies. The understanding is that each company on its own will not rush to open a branch there, but the creation of a kind of common workspace that will carry the logos of several companies will create a foothold for them in the area and at the same time will transmit power and confidence to the residents who will return to their homes.

The program is supposed to create about 400 new high-tech jobs in the Western Negev within three to four years, and later another complex is planned in Ashkelon and possibly in one of the surrounding kibbutzim, with the intention of employing 800 or more workers. The main target population is the graduates of colleges from the area such as the Sapir and Sami Shamoon colleges, whose graduates to date have had difficulty integrating into the high-tech industry, most of which is located in the center.

According to Place-IL, and based on data from the CBS and the colleges, as of today, there are over 3,000 graduates with relevant degrees, including engineers, living in the Western Negev, who have entered the job market in the last three years and will be able to integrate into the core professions and growth of the tech industry.

According to the emerging plan, Place-IL, which has already established a screening and placement system, will locate, through its volunteer system, including entrepreneurs, CEOs, CTOs, heads of development teams, and recruitment and human resources personnel, talents from the region. At the same time, Place-IL is working with high-tech companies to identify specific needs for different types of jobs. The local authorities from the Western Negev as well as the municipalities of Sderot and Ofakim are also partners in the project.

Place-IL was established in 2022 by Idan Tendler, senior vice president at Palo Alto, and CEO Keren Halpern-Musseri, with the aim of creating a technological platform for creating screening processes for the high-tech industry that would allow for the integration of underrepresented populations, primarily ultra-Orthodox and Arabs. In the year and a half of the association's activity, the platform managed to introduce several hundred workers to high-tech companies from among the populations in question.

The south has historically suffered from underrepresentation in the high-tech industry, despite the attempt over the past decade to develop an ecosystem there at the same time as moving some of the IDF's technological units to the Negev. Currently, the relevant companies active in the region mainly include defense industry companies such as Elbit and Rafael, a branch of Wix, offices of foodtech companies, and a branch of Amdocs in Sderot.

Sophie Shulman