Zvi Landsman was determined to make a living in Israel, and he also wants to help other educated and motivated immigrants make ends meet.
In September, the ‘8-year-old Teaneck native launched JobShuk, a Web-based employment network that seeks to pair Israel-based freelancers and service providers with employers in the global marketplace. ("Shuk," pronounced "shook," is the Middle Eastern word for "marketplace.")
"The alarming numbers of poverty, hunger, and unemployment in Israel are incongruous with the advanced, democratic society which we are developing," said Landsman, a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Engineering who moved to Israel five years ago.
"The country-wide financial benefit of exporting the services of Israel’s unique population of educated, native foreign-language speakers is well-known. Nevertheless, it has only been exploited by a few organizations, and has never been organized in a simple, user-friendly way for individuals and small businesses."
JobShuk’s searchable, cross-referenced online business profiles and biddable job listings ease business matchmaking for a niche market of Israeli businesses and overseas business supporters.
Landsman said that JobShuk stimulates the feasibility and growth of freelance work in Israel while encouraging and supporting immigrants, providing untapped financial opportunities for current Israeli citizens, and creating an awareness and involvement of Israel’s talent base.
Landsman, a self-described "computer nerd," started dabbling in Web development and e-commerce as a sophomore at The Frisch School in Paramus. He’s built up two Web-based businesses, and since his aliyah has worked for several high-tech companies.
His parents, Rabbi Dan and Rise Landsman of Teaneck, helped pay the rent on his Modi’in apartment while he started JobShuk with his own resources. (They also handed out fliers about JobShuk at the recent UJA-sponsored Ben Yehuda street fair here.)
Landsman confided that while he’s pleased with the progress of the venture thus far, he has a ways to go. On April 8, he ran a virtual American-Israeli business expo using voice over Internet-protocol (VOIP) technology, but it did not attract as many participants as he would have liked.
"I was expecting about 1,000 people, and we got about 300," he said in a phone conversation this week from Los Angeles, where he was visiting his wife Meira’s relatives for Passover. "I was hoping to get a lot of people from the U.S. involved, but it turned out most of the participants were from Israel, mostly those looking for work rather than those offering it."
His task is to persuade outsourcers that it isn’t difficult to do business with Israelis. "Often they think it’s too complicated," he said. "I need to get the word out, and try to make it as easy as possible to help people recognize this is an option. Those who are already outsourcing have a feel for how it works; those who aren’t will be pleasantly surprised with price quotes from Israel."
JobShuk does not charge a fee, although buyers and service providers may buy a featured spot on the site. It serves as a clearinghouse for everything from tour guides to massage therapists to property managers.
Some of the posters are former Teaneckites like himself. Lisi Feit Geffen, who grew up in Teaneck and lives with her family in Beit Shemesh, is using JobShuk to publicize www.aboveand-beyond.com, her own business, which offers programming, Web design, and search-engine optimization services. As of earlier this week, her profile had been viewed ‘6’ times and she had received five inquiries.
"When developing an online marketplace, we need to anticipate both a seller’s market and a buyer’s market, and create tools to take the buyer from the initial interest stage through the final payment stage of the transaction," said Landsman.
Accordingly, JobShuk.com includes business blogs and advice forums, a customizable business card page, and feedback, messaging, and rating interfaces. Buyers or sellers may initiate contact by searching through seller profiles or bidding on buyer opportunity postings.
In a blog entry before JobShuk went live, Landsman wrote that finances are "the modern international language and the most common reason why people don’t move to Israel." His mission, he continued, "is to close the gap of wealth between those living in Israel, and those outside by demonstrating that people in Israel can work as hard as others, and be compensated on a similar scale so that they are as comfortable in Israel at the end of the day as anywhere else."