Tel Aviv had the honor on Thursday to be named one of the world’s most innovative cities, alongside London, Sydney, Stockholm and Shanghai. A special report by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper proclaimed that “while Tel Aviv is small, it’s one giant innovation engine.”
“The entire population of Israel may only number seven million—smaller than New York City,” the report says, “but this Middle Eastern state spends more of its GDP on research and development than any other nation.”
The writers highlight two main examples of Israeli innovation. One is the facial recognition software called Face.com, founded by Gil Hirsch and three other colleagues in Tel Aviv. “Face.com really made waves when Facebook integrated its site,” the report says. “Two Facebook-specific apps—Photo Finder and Photo Tagger—spawned calls from other developers eager to work with the technology.”
The second example of Tel Aviv’s technological creativity is Waze, a crowd-sourced GPS navigator. The software, developed by Ehud Shabtai and two other colleagues in 2009, optimizes driving routes with drivers contributing their data in real-time. According to the article, “since its arrival in the U.S. last year, two million users have begun contributing data, and Waze is now working to develop partnerships with broadcasters.”
This is not the first time Tel Aviv is mentioned alongside the world’s most popular cities. In 2010, the National Geographic magazine published a list of the world's 10 best beach cities and rated Tel Aviv alongside Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Nice (on the French Riviera) and Cape Town.
The prestigious magazine's article said: "Call it Miami Beach on the Med. Tel Aviv is the Dionysian counterpart to religious Jerusalem. In the 'bubble,' as it's known for its inhabitants' tendency to tune out regional skirmishes, some restaurants, discos, and clubs are open until dawn.
In the same year, the Lonely Planet travel guide named Tel Aviv third in a list of the world's best cities, praising the coastal metropolis for its art and music scenes and relaxed, liberal culture.
Tel Aviv came in third, with New York the somewhat predictable winner, and the Moroccan city of Tangier a surprising second. Iquitos on the Peruvian Amazon and Ghent in Belgium were also improbable entrants to the top 10.
As Tel Aviv got ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary 2008, the New York Times called “the capital of Mediterranean cool,” adding that the city “has been getting more and more practice at being a host over the years, and it’s starting to show.”