Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why They Come to Tel Aviv? Boutique Hotels & Designer Shops

Tel Aviv beaches, nice weather year around, boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants... the hidden secrets of the city get lost among overwhelming media coverage of the Palestinian security stories. / © 2010

A cousin of mine in Boston once said that Tel Aviv does not have any upscale boutique hotels. It is not a cosmopolitan destination like New York, Paris, London, Berlin or even Prague. She wants Tel Aviv to attract world class designers, investors and tourists. That is what makes a city a boutique tourist destination, both image and reality. She was riding that boutique life "wave" of the 1990s and 2000s. When the Internet was fresh and the housing boom was driving construction of small hotels in the US and Europe. Boutiques were the next thing in America. Everybody wanted more than the just polished big brands. Hilton and Sheraton were for conventions and for the "old school" traveler. The cool young executives were creating a new style, boutique was in. Half of the driving force for the trend came from these new designers and retail entrepreneurs. The other half came from travel spending. This is a very American, even a New Yorker way of looking at things. But the good times in boutique hotels in New York, Boston and London did not last long. In Europe and Asia it has slowed down. In Tel Aviv it is still going, slowly, but still going.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Racing in Tel Aviv: Road Cyclists Go for Speed

Main event. pack is tight chasing the leaders. Tel Aviv road cycling competition, September 2010 / © 2010

On a Friday morning during the Succot holiday, while Tel Aviv was still half asleep, hundreds of slick dressed road cyclists converged on Kikar Ha'medina. Tel Aviv's annual road cycling competition was about to start. Some arrived as early as 7:00 AM to practice and stretch. Some arrived from as far north as the Gallil at the Lebanon border and as far south as Arab Bedouin village. Everyone had speed in mind. Most of the contestants belong to cycling clubs with cities like Haifa represented by about 20 cyclists. Some clubs are sponsored by the big bike stores on Ha'cheshmonain street or Igal Alon Boulevard in south Tel Aviv. Some are local clubs associated with the large sports groups Maccabi and Ha'poel. The main event was a long race around the circle. Kikar Ha'medina (The State Circle in Hebrew) is Tel Aviv's largest traffic circle. It houses some of the city's most exclusive shops. But on this Friday morning Gucci and Lacoste shoppers were nowhere in sight. The main event ended peacefully with a few scrapes and bruises. Overall, very few accidents for such a tight and fast race.

Time trial finish! This year's record of 1:03 was a course record. Five time trial heats were held at the end of the event. Tel Aviv road cycling competition, September 2010 / © 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bike Tel Aviv: Moutain Bikes Without The Dirt, Slick Road Bikes Too

Tel Aviv racing clubs annual race around Kikar Ha'medina. This annual event brings fans from all over the country. While the city was virtually sleeping on a Friday morning, enthusiasts were having a time of their life. World class cyclists did not attract much crowd. / © 2010

Tel Aviv has more dirt bikes on the streets than road bikes. They are simply more popular. The roads are actually fine, smooth and clean. The biggest problems in biking Tel Aviv are traffic during rush hours and theft in big tie-in areas (like the Arlozorov train station.) The weather is great for bicycling all year around. The city is flat and there are plenty of shops to buy and fix bikes. So why is Tel Aviv not like Amsterdam? Why can't Tel Avivians simply hop on bikes and get around the city easily? (instead of driving cars and searching for parking) Some think it is an emotional state of affair. Bicycling is not cool or is stigmatized as a lower class form of transport. But city hall is out to change these notions and they are taking a practical approach. The last few years the city put in nice bike paths, encouraged bike rental schemes and sponsored biking events. To the bikers all of this is really nice. I am not sure if it even nudges 100 drivers to abandon their cars for a nice bike.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teva Naot Sandals Shopping in Tel Aviv (and the world)

Early shoe production in Naot Mordechai. Picture from 1964 - 1966 - PikiWiki Israel (www.pikiwiki.org.il)

Editor: here is a bit of history about Teva-Naot shoes... Naot shoes have been making shoes for Israelis in Kibbutz Naot Mordechai for over 50 years. The first 25 years or so, Naot shoes were a staple of Israeli life. They made simple leather sandals and shoes. The kibbutz factory made a name for itself as practical good value shoes. I remember going to visit my aunt and uncle Miriam and Avram in the kibbutz and buying shoes at the factory store. It was a fun experience as a young kid. Israel did not have many factory stores and certainly I do not remember any for shoes. There were shoes that you did not see in stores and the people there knew about fit more than any shoe salesman in a Tel Aviv store.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Israel Start-Ups Need Change Again

If we can't make chips and iPod accessories, let's go to the beach! Tel Aviv beach with lots of skin and looks. End of summer 2010 / © 2010

In a recent article [here] Ha'aretz reports on failure of Israeli and American venture capital funds to keep the Israeli innovation engine going. To many this is shocking news. To the ones here "on the streets of Tel Aviv" or more accurately in and out of start-ups, this is not news. For a few years now, Israeli venture funds have stopped making investment in new start-ups. To some this is not such a bad turn of events. The attitude towards traditional venture capital has changed dramatically the last few years. From the 1980s to about 2005 American and Israel VC funds have been the most respected and adored organizations in business. But something happened from 2002 to 2007. From the investment perspective, VC funds suddenly "lost their magic dust". Suddenly, instead of making a great deal of money, they lost money. And LOTS OF IT! In a few meetings with small start-ups, most seem to think that Israeli venture funds are looking for safer, which means more mature start-ups. Today, it is harder to get funding for a company with a rough prototype and a good fresh team. Also, it seems like venture funds are avoiding the really new technologies until they are proven. So they miss the front edge of the technology cycle. This accounts for the very few WEB2.0, cloud computing, mobile devices (iPod/iPhone accessories) and display (LED, OLED) start-ups in Israel. The Israeli government, through innovation incubators and the office of the chief scientist have tried to get early stage start-ups going. They have programs for seed investment with almost no strings attached. As long as you have a good idea that you can get into a prototype form they will get you started.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time Magazine: Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace

Time Magazine cover story about Israelis not caring about peace got TV mention.

The Time Magazine article: Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace [HERE] got a mention on the TV news yesterday. The picture of the man on the beach with the star of David tattoo got air time. Morning talk show hosts on channel 2 had fun commenting on what American reporters focus on. The idea is that for Americans the ultimate of not caring is sitting on the beach, with a tattoo, smoking a hookah. The Time magazine article came at the same time Israeli news was covering two other stories: Benyamin Netanyahu's visit with president Obama to start negotiations with Mahmud Abbas the Palestinian president and changing of the Israeli commander in chief Ashkenazi. Both stories were much more interesting to Israelis.