Google's Tel Aviv Campus set for overhaul that leaves startups' future under a cloud

Google's is reinventing Campus TLV in a move that could spell a new home for Waze, and homelessness for some startups.
Written by Niv Lilien, Contributor

Google is shrinking its Tel Aviv Campus in a move that could spell upheaval for the startups based there.

Campus, Google's startup-and-entrepreneurship space, is housed in the Electra Tower on Yigal Alon Street, also home to the company's Tel Aviv offices. While Campus TLV is to stay in its current location, it will move from the 26th floor of the tower to the 34th.

According to a Google+ post from the Tel Aviv Campus account, the move will take place in a few weeks and is about "reducing our square meters and shifting resources to new programs after realising that some of its physical space was "underutilised".

In the post, Google announced several new programmes that will be launched in the new smaller campus, and would focus on education, mentorship, and events aimed at specific groups, such as women and young people.

Among the new programmes scheduled to be launched at the new, upper floor campus, are Campus EDU, a series of one-day workshops "on subjects of interest to the tech community"; events focusing on presentation and public speaking skills for women; training programs for young entrepreneurs; and a series of talks given by key figures in the global tech and business world.

It's understood that the floor vacated by the move will be used to host the navigation app creator Waze. The startup was acquired by Google last year for around $1bn, but is still based in its original offices in nearby Ra'anana. Waze will move into the Tel Aviv offices next year, sources said.

In contrast, the future of startups residing in Google's Tel Aviv Campus may be less bright.

There is uncertainty regarding the prolonged stay of at least some of the tens of startups currently using Google Campus as their base of operations, and the search giant is unable to guarantee them a place to stay in the following months, ZDNet has learned. Some Campus-based startups may have to find new homes, and potentially paid office space.

MESH, the entrepreneurship hub in Modi'in, has already announced it will offer a new home for any startups that might have to leave the Campus on Yigal Alon Street, offering to host the displaced companies for free for a month.

The move has also caused some consternation among hacktivists that are part of the independent projects currently using the Campus' hackerspace for meetups, who fear the move may impact their ongoing use of the space.

A Google spokesman said: "Providing a permanent space for startups was never one of Campus TLV's goals, and we stated that clearly when we opened the campus."

He said there are many other services for startups in the region. "There are enough incubators and accelerator programs in the Tel Aviv vicinity, and we are not aiming to compete with them, but to co-operate with them — they are working with us. For example, the startups from our Launchpad programme [Google's one-week pre-incubation scheme] are coming from those places."

According to the Google+ post announcing the change, over the past 18 months, Google’s TLV campus has hosted more than 900 events, 13 Launchpad cycles involving more than 200 startups, and more than 60,000 people taking part in the events held there.

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