Since its founding in 2000, Bikkurim has provided over $3.5 million dollars of direct and in-kind support to more than 33 new ideas. Currently, five groups are in the Atid Hazak program (our post-startup initiative), and 20 groups have graduated from the Incubator program. Bikkurim aims:
- To help new ideas grow, flourish, and endure over time by nurturing innovative projects through the initial stages of organizational development and supporting post-startups as they prepare to grow;
- To facilitate cross-fertilization, collaboration, and community building among Jewish social innovators;
- To promote interface between new Jewish ideas the established Jewish community;
- To foster and cultivate entrepreneurial energy in the Jewish community and advance the field as a whole.
Our main program, Atid Hazak (‘Strong Future’), ensures compelling new Jewish ideas thrive and endure by supporting post-startups as they ready themselves for significant growth and impact. The phrase Atid Hazak is drawn from ḥazak, ḥazak, ve-nit’ḥazek (‘strong, strong, and may we be strengthened’), the pronouncement that the congregation makes when it completes the reading of a book of Torah. Atid Hazak is the direct outgrowth of recommendations set forth in the report “From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Impact of Innovative Start-Ups”. One of the report’s key findings is that the Jewish community lacks coordinated funding and capacity building mechanisms attuned to the unique needs of post-startups.
Atid Hazak was piloted in 2013 with Hazon. The initial round of financial investment was provided by the Natan Fund, with Bikkurim providing capacity building assistance. In 2014, Keshet and Footsteps were accepted into Atid Hazak with full funding from Bikkurim. Encounter and AVODAH joined the program in 2015. Each round of Atid Hazak lasts two years. Participants receive $100,000 ($50,000 per year) to cover hard-to-fund expenses, such as infrastructure and planning. Additionally, Bikkurim provides guidance and support valued at $155,000 to help these organizations analyze and strengthen operations, management, and other critical functions.
Bikkurim is also a proud co-creator of the The Collaboratory, the largest annual gathering of Jewish community visionaries, activists, and catalyzers of change in North America. Leveraging the collective wisdom of philanthropy professionals, high-quality trainers, and seasoned entrepreneurs, The Collaboratory provides a forum for our communities’ best and brightest doers to build relationships, strengthen skills, and connect the right dots to advance their work. Bikkurim—together with Joshua Venture Group, PresenTense, ROI Community, and UpStart—conceived of The Collaboratory, a joint project to activate our alumni networks and to provide young leadership with the tools they need to build a strong and vibrant Jewish future.
The Bikkurim Incubator program, based in New York City, was in operation from 2000-2015. Participants benefited from free office space, consulting services, a peer community, and access to professional networks and training. Each group received stipend and subsidy funds commensurate to its organizational needs and developmental stage. To participate in the program, resident groups went through a competitive application process and participated in ongoing evaluations during their time at Bikkurim. Through the Incubator, Bikkurim helped startups in the Jewish community set and realize programmatic goals, streamline operations, attain financial stability, improve governance, and determine the most appropriate long-term structure for their organization. 31 groups passed through the Incubator, and 20 graduated the full program. Many Bikkurim alumni organizations have grown to be vital change-makers in the community at large, fully integrated with and now essential to the collective landscape of Jewish life. The Bikkurim Incubator program also catalyzed the field of capacity building for Jewish innovation, which today numbers dozens of organizations across North America and beyond.