Start And Stop for Jewish Startups?
Feb. 18, 2009, The Jewish Week — What do independent minyanim, JDub Records and the environmental group Hazon have in common? Seemingly nothing. Yet they’re all young Jewish startups founded in the past decade that are attracting legions of disconnected Jews. Together, these organizations make up what has been dubbed the “Jewish Innovation Sector.”
According to the 2008 Survey of New Jewish Organizations, sponsored by The Natan Fund and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, more than 300 Jewish startups with operating budgets of under $2 million have been founded since 1998, and they’re engaging close to 400,000 Jews. Since the mid-‘90s, nearly $500 million has been raised by new Jewish startups, with the Jewish Innovation Sector representing a $100 million economy in 2008 alone.
“It’s time to take these organizations seriously,” says Felicia Herman, Natan’s executive director. “It’s a substantial, growing sector that cannot be pigeonholed as a collection of ‘next-generation’ experiments or a product of luxurious times.”
The survey, which was released Tuesday night during “The Lean Years, Part II: Strategies for Survival” event hosted at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, is the first of its kind to examine the contours of the Jewish startup sector, and how the economic climate may impact growth in this sector. Not surprisingly, New York and California are home to 56 percent of Jewish startups, with the remainder located in 22 other states. Most of these startups are small; 37 percent have a budget of $50,000 or less and about half have one or fewer employees on payroll.
Other key findings include the fact that close to half of these Jewish startups categorize their missions as religion-related, with the remainder focused on education, arts and culture, social justice and youth development. Only 2.9 percent of Jewish startups self-identified as human service organizations, fewer than 1 percent deal with health care or mental health and none were primarily involved with employment or housing initiatives.