Siftech Startup Spotlight:
8 startup ventures were selected from the 50 that applied to Siftech’s Round 6 accelerator program, including Let’s Bench, a company that celebrates the intersection between Jewish tradition, creativity and technology.
Siftech sat down with the duo behind Let’s Bench, Daniel Laufer and Yitz Woolf, two Jerusalemites who have spent the last few years creating, defining and honing their product.
The table was strewn with a selection of glossy, colorful photo booklets. One of the covers featured a black-and-white wedding photo of a couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary in England. Another showed a smiling bat mitzvah class from Ohel Leah Synagogue in Hong Kong, while a third featured an orange basketball cutout; the choice for a sports-driven bar mitzvah boy hailing from Teaneck.
What’s the story behind the product?
Let’s Bench: We help customers create personalized photo album benchers (benchers — or ‘birkonim’ — are booklets that contain Jewish grace-after-meal blessings) as a way of marking special occasions.
It was an idea conceived by Laufer, an educator with more than two decades of experience working with high schoolers studying abroad, who gave his graduating class yearbooks as end-of-year gifts. One year, he decided to give them benchers in addition to their yearbooks, celebrating having learned the grace-after-meals prayer during their semester abroad. It was a novel idea: give the students benchers that included photos of their own personal experiences.
Laufer, a fan of online photo albums, thought that automating it online was the right direction, and it became an instant hit.
He needed a designer, and was introduced to Yitz Woolf, a print and web designer and photographer with a marketing background. Woolf was toying with the idea of creating a residual business model for his design business, and had always wanting to create his own bencher. Woolf took to the idea at once. Their collaboration created the version of Let’s Bench that secured them the opportunity to participate in Jerusalem’s Siftech Incubator, Round 6.
Let’s Bench is distinctly different from other bencher options, explained Laufer.
“Let’s Bench focuses on experiences and moments,” he said. “We create heirlooms that combine the functionality of benching with family photos. We are proud of that singular synergy.”
Why Siftech? What were you looking for here?
Yitz and Daniel had bootstrapped Let’s Bench out of their homes and needed professional guidance to scale their idea with an operative business model.
“We learned about Siftech through Jerusalem’s startup scene,” said Laufer. “Siftech offers a fantastic co-working space, mentorship and collaboration with the Siftech community.
“I love being around other startups,” explained Woolf. “We are benefitting greatly from the camaraderie, support and mentorship generously given by successful professionals.”
It had also become clear to Laufer and Woolf that word-of-mouth marketing was not enough to scale their product. During their time at Siftech, they were able to scale Let’s Bench to the top of Google organic searches and help grow their business.
“Oded and Nitzan, Siftech’s managers as well as Siftech’s team of expert mentors sit with us regularly to flesh out our business plan,” explains Woolf. “Their well-rounded perspective helped us evaluate a number of business models that forced us to focus on cost effective and agile strategies.”
Siftech’s encouraging environment combined with extreme professionalism also made a huge impact on the Let’s Bench business, added Laufer.
What’s in the future for Let’s Bench?
Let’s Bench is toying with several business expansion ideas that leverage their event-based business with volume in larger markets outside of the Jewish niche. The idea is still in its early stages, but in the meantime, Laufer and Woolf are content with fully capturing their current market and transforming the bencher business into a “must-have” for every family and organization celebrating a special event.
Founded in 2012, Siftech is Jerusalem’s First Startup Accelerator, located in JVP (Jerusalem Venture Partners) Media Quarter. Siftech’s platform is designed to help startup founders during their early stages of their venture creation. No equity taken.