„In Israel, if you don’t innovate, you stay a desert.“
Michael Ronen and Daniel Paz on Tel Aviv, their startup “timecapsule” and the new concept of actorpreneurism.
Born into a family of theater directors and actors, 30-year-old actorpreneur Michael Ronen is an artsy guy himself. Before moving to Berlin, he too worked as a theater director in London. In his plays he focused on “conflict in theater” among other things bringing together Israelis and Palestinians on the stage. When the financial crisis struck London City a few years ago, he figured that Berlin was the place to be and moved.
Parts of his family had lived in Vienna prior to World War 2, and for him as a Jewish Israeli citizen, moving to the “heart of darkness” as he puts it, meant to overcome a violent disruption in his very own family history – but also a necessary one seeing that living in the Diaspora is an essential part of his heritage. Moving back and forth from Europe to the Middle East, he by now has an ambiguous view of his home country: “Of course, there’s a lot of offshore investment, but on the other hand, Israel could also become the next Greece!” – “While things always seem to be on the brink of becoming big in Berlin, they’re already happening in Tel Aviv”, Michael’s friend and compatriot Daniel Paz adds. “In Israel, innovation is a necessity. People don’t have the time and patience to be artistic like here in Berlin. If you don’t innovate, you stay a desert!” For Daniel, in the absence of any serious industries, Internet startups are a vital asset to the country’s economy.
Together, the two are developing their own startup “timecapsule” in Kreuzberg’s popular co-working space Betahaus. Michael likes to sum up timecapsule as “geocaching meets twitter meets vimeo”: a location-based service allowing artists, celebrities, and anyone else to share their personal experiences about a specific place, be it a restaurant, a park, or a building. “People can deposit videos, audio files et cetera at certain spots, and their followers – think twitter – can later relive the experience once they, too, get to the place. It’s connecting the internet to the offline”, Michael describes their vision. The project has not been launched, yet, but according to INSEAD-graduate Daniel will prove very valuable to the managers of featured restaurants and the likes, and of course the collected data of these “virtual plaques” can give important information to anyone who is into marketing.
Until timecapsule takes off, the two will bootstrap. Michael for one has been offering surprisingly well received workshops on “actorpreneurship” for the past month. He tries to view pitching startup ideas as a theater performance, requiring both the actor/entrepreneur’s authenticity as well as his being aware of the role he’s playing in front of his audience. “The skills of an actor such as improvisation, story-telling, and creativity are also important in any business surrounding, be it management, marketing or consulting”, Michael assures. In his workshops, he doesn’t intend to tell the participants how to act, but rather, like a theater director, tries to bring up the best of everybody.