UpStart History Timeline

How do I create an expression of Jewish life that meets the needs of today’s Jewish population? How do I build and sustain something meaningful? And, how can I most effectively ensure that Jewish tradition remains relevant for years to come?

These are some of the questions that have driven the bold leaders UpStart has supported for the past two and a half decades.

Here’s how it went down: In the early 2000s, individuals with new ideas and initiatives to shape Jewish life were springing up across the country. But there were few, if any, places to turn for the critical resources necessary to turn ideas into reality– how to start a nonprofit organization, how to fundraise, how to know if you’re actually making an impact, and more. Bikkurim, Joshua Venture, UpStart Bay Area, and PresenTense emerged as partial responses to this need from 2000 to 2008.

In 2012, the study: From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Jewish Startups (LINK to Study) commissioned by Bikkurim and carried out by Wellspring Consulting called for deeper collaboration across the field and better integration of financial investment, capacity-building, and network weaving to support Jewish social entrepreneurs.

In 2017, Bikkurim, Joshua Venture Group, the U.S. programs of PresenTense, and UpStart Bay Area merged into one organization–UpStart. The merger brought together a collective 18 years of experience partnering with the Jewish community’s boldest entrepreneurs to make Jewish life thrive.
Our goal was to provide a stronger launch pad and support system for anyone willing to move the Jewish community into a more just, vibrant, and inclusive future.

Since our inception, UpStart and its three merging organizations have fueled the impact of over 1,450 initiatives and trained more than 3,200 of the Jewish community’s most inspiring social entrepreneurs. View some of the ventures in our Network (LINK) to get a glimpse of the meaningful work these leaders are bringing to light every day.


Founding of Bikkurim

Martin Kaminer approaches UJC (now JFNA) about serving as an incubator for new Jewish ideas. Together with UJC and JESNA, he establishes a residential incubator for nonprofit start-ups inside the headquarters of UCJ. Over a 19-year history, Bikkurim incubates 33 ventures.


Founding of Joshua Venture

Three program officers at the Nathan Cummings, Righteous Persons, and Walter and Elise Haas Foundation founded a fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurs Joshua Venture is in development for two years and runs from 2000-2005, pauses from 2005-2008, and re-launches in 2009. Over 13 years, they support 38 fellows.


Founding of UpStart

Toby Rubin and Maya Bernstein conceive the idea for UpStart with the vision of ensuring the vibrancy of Judaism and Jewish life.

UpStart is established as a “Jewish Professional’s Co-op” to support emerging innovators develop and scale new ideas.


Founding of PresenTense

Ariel Beery and Aharon Horrowitz develop the PresenTense Institute as a training ground for social entrepreneurs. In collaboration with Federations and other Jewish institutions, they run hackathons and boot camps around the country.


From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest

Bikkurim in collaboration with UpStart and Joshua Venture publishes a study to mark its 10th anniversary. The study highlights the need for more collaboration among players in the field. The study was supported by the Lippman Kanfer Foundation, Natan Fund, PELIE Foundation, Samuel Bronfman Foundation, and UJA Federation of New York.


Collaboratory Launch

UpStart, Joshua Venture Group, Bikkurim, PresenTense, and ROI Community create the Collaboratory, the largest gathering of Jewish innovators in the United States.

The Collaboratory reflects a shared vision to combine resources and work together towards Jewish innovation. Collaboratory runs from 2012-2022 (with a two year break for COVID) – eight Collaboratories in all.


Executive Directors Retreat

The senior leadership of UpStart, Joshua Venture Group, Bikkurim, PresenTense, and ROI hold their first retreat with the sponsorship of the Lippman Kanfer Foundation. At the retreat, the idea of a merger is raised.



The Boards of Directors of UpStart, Joshua Venture Group, and Bikkurim agree to a merger. The North American Programs of PresenTense are integrated into UpStart as part of this arrangement.

The merger aims to consolidate innovation resources under UpStart, providing comprehensive services to entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and communities in pursuit of Jewish innovation.

A commitment is made to expand programs, increase resources for Jewish social entrepreneurs, invest in data collection and evaluation, and harness the full potential of an integrated alumni network.


As a result, UpStart now offers programs in 33 communities and has served over 1,400 ventures and 3,000 leaders since its founding. The UpStarter Network (LINK) currently supports 150 ventures working to create a just, vibrant, and inclusive Jewish community.