From Startup Nation to B Corp Nation, Israel Joins the Movement.

(3BL Media and Just Means) – It’s been called the “Startup Nation,” producing more startups per capita than countries like Japan, China, Canada and the U.K. And this past Sunday, after months of work and collaboration, it’s joined a global movement where innovative startups meets profit meets mission. Give a round of applause for ESCO, KitchenBug, MobileODT, Tulip Winery and VoiceITT—winners of the first Israeli “B the Change” competition. Welcome, Israel, to the B Corp movement! Mazel tov!

Creating buy-in for the B Corp movement in Israel has been no small feat. In 2013, Impact First Investment became Israel’s first Certified B Corp, and it has taken the efforts of five volunteers— Hallel Artzi, Yossi Hayut, Elysa Rapoport, Jordan Feder and Vanessa Bartram, Founder of one of my favorite B Corps, WorkSquare—to build momentum for the movement. Over the course of several months, they met with over 50 entrepreneurs to educate them on why B Corp certification is meaningful and necessary.

“There is a lot of skepticism in Israel, explains Bartram. “[People question] is a "social business" just a matter of good PR and marketing? Israeli entrepreneurs and investors are increasingly appreciative of having a yardstick like the B Corp model with which to meaningfully measure impact.”

Part of the goal for the B the Change Competition is to help redefine social business in Israel. According to Bartram, social business in Israel is traditionally understood as something relatively unsophisticated: a coffee shop or bakery employing a handful of youth at risk or individuals with disabilities. 

“Now, we celebrate [as B Corps] five businesses who have won global awards for their technology, have scalable business models with strong investor interest, and are creating products that can improve quality of life for millions of marginalized people,” says Bartram.

So who are these companies and how are they creating change?

 

MobileODT provides affordable healthcare technology to low-resource communities:

“When five billion people have access to mobile phones but not to physicians, we at MobileODT can't imagine working     on anything more important than leveraging those mobile phones to save lives,” says CEO Ariel Beery. “The B-Corp framework ensures we balance profit with purpose as we work towards saving as many lives as possible, as quickly as possible."

ESCO is a social business that supports other social businesses.

“At ESCO, we chose [to become] a B Corp because it gives us and the social businesses we build the stamp of a new type of business—one that puts social and environmental impact the forefront,” says CEO of ESCO, Nir Gordon.

As described by Israeli publication Haaretz, VoiceITT “speaks for those who cannot.” Through an app called Talkitt, VoiceITT is creating usability for the speech-impaired with voice recognition programs like Siri. KitchenBug, a free, online recipe box, educates users about healthy eating and nutritional information. Tulip Winery, “wine that loves people,” is located on a mountainside in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope), a small pastoral settlement whose population consists of people with special needs. Through hiring and training, Tulip Winery “aspires to enable members of the community to develop and realize their potential.”

Personal anecdote: When I heard Tulip Winery had participated and won the B the Change Competition, I was thrilled, but not surprised. Two summers ago, I visited Tulip Winery because I heard they produced Israel’s best tasting wines. Yes, yes and keep pouring. But it wasn’t only tasting their great wines that left a lasting impression on me. It was the joy of their community. The moment you step onto their property, you can sense the shalom and equality of the friendship they share. Tulip Winery doesn’t boast in their commitment to the Village of Hope community. It’s just part of who they are. With or without B Corp Certification, it’s who they will always be--which, I find is true of most companies who become B Corps. Congrats, Tulip!

Thirty companies entered the B the Change Competition, 15 were selected and five became Certified B Corps. The winners represent a variety of companies across business sectors and sizes.

“We selected several top tech entrepreneurs that represent Israel's innovation and potential for global impact, as well as some more traditional businesses which are well-known for their strong social agenda,” says Bartram.

Walking through the B Impact Assessment and becoming a B Corp will help these companies raise capital, connect with global customers and join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs with whom to share ideas and business practices; the same reasons we all decide to join the B Corp movement. Additionally, for Israeli companies, the B Corp model is a powerful tool which will strengthen their role in the larger global dialogue on impact business and investing.

The B the Change Competition is just the beginning. Bartram and her team hope to certify 25 companies by 2016. They are determined to have the most B Corps per capita of any country.

“We need 15 more to beat the US, 21 to beat Chile, and 24 to beat Canada. We're all over it,” says Bartram.

70 people were expected to attend the B the Change celebration on Sunday in Tel Aviv. 150 RSVP’d and enjoyed a festive chagiga (celebration) on a rooftop decorated with B Corp balloons. I think certifying 25 more companies will happen in no time. Entries for the next Israeli, B the Change Competition are due by May 15th.  Yalla, Israel! (Let’s go, Israel!). 

Read about Impact First Investment, Tulip Winery,  ESCO, KitchenBug, MobileODT, and VoiceITT Understand why B Corp. Read about WorkSquare. Like Israel's B the Change Competition.