How Google charmed the Israeli tech industry with this wild and beautiful office

Google came to Israel a decade ago, and its arrival made the nation’s tech industry both excited and nervous.

Google’s arrival was validation that the “start-up nation” had some of the best computer engineers in the world.

But they worried that Google would snap up all the best talent (which some startup founders say it has, indeed, done), drive up wages, and be yet another multi-national that doesn’t “get” the tight-knit Israeli startup culture.

Today Google is known as one of the most important parts of the startup community. It is helping startups succeed, giving them resources for free. Its $US1.1 billion purchase of mapping company Waze, a team still based in Tel Aviv, also helped jump-start a rush of lucrative exits for other startups.

And its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, who visits this campus frequently, is one of the most lavish investors in the land.

Part of Google’s success lies in its wild and beautiful offices in Tel Aviv.

Google occupies 11 floors of the 'Electra Building' in Tel Aviv. Google also has another office in the city of Haifa, about an hour north.

Google employs about 600 people here. Besides the Waze team, many engineers work on the search engine team.

Google offices in Tel Aviv, Israel

For instance, the Tel Aviv search engine team that created Google's 'auto-complete' feature.

Our guide for the day is Paul Solomon, head of communications for Google in Israel, the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. Fun fact about Paul: He's got four kids and just got back from paternity leave.

Google's main entrance was designed to look like 'Port Tel Aviv' an old sea port that's been converted into office spaces filled with tech startups. That's the Google Street View tricycle in the background. It mapped most of Israel.

Here's a closer look at the tricycle. Notice the wavy floor behind it? That's a Google joke. The port of Tel Aviv is filled with warped and wavy boards.

All of Israel's most important dignitaries and politicians regularly visit Google Tel Aviv. Story is: one of them almost tripped on this wavy floor on camera.

Fun fact: the longest hiking trail in the world that Google has captured via Street View is the 1000-kilometer Israeli National Trail. Volunteers from the 'Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature spent months this spring backpacking it for Street View.

Google's offices have spectacular views of the city. The economy is booming here and construction is everywhere, between new high-rises, a new Metro light rail project that started this week, and a new project to cover the city's freeway and build offices, parks and restaurants on top of it.

In the lobby is a satellite view of the world.

It's like a video game where you can move the globe and zoom into any part of the world you want.

The office walls are decorated with murals. It's both Google-y and Israeli.

Just like in Mountain View, the Google logo is everywhere, like this wall next to the elevator.

Naturally, there's a cafeteria here with free food.

... and big views of the city.

The cafeteria features many local favourites, from Israeli salad to organic produce to ...

... fantastic selection of pastries. Tel Aviv is a big food city.

This is Israel, so naturally there are restrictions in the food areas to respect Jewish employees who keep Kosher.

Employees who want a bacon cheeseburger for lunch can't heat it up in these Kosher microwaves.

There wasn't a fitness center but employees are encouraged to take the stairs when walking between the 11 floors of the building.

Google-y jokes are everywhere, like these Android restroom signs and ...

...this Android device charging station.

Campus Tel Aviv is the program that won the respect of the startup community.

Google offers a free space to any startup, or anyone in the community, that wants to hold a class, or a lecture, or a meeting -- no strings attached.

Startups also get access to Googlers and other community experts to help them with everything from marketing to raising funds. Google wants startups to thrive because a healthy tech community is good for all the players. It doesn't use this program to recruit or scout acquisitions, Solomon says.

This was the class going on the day we visited.

We weren't sure the topic, but it was a diverse crowd in the room.

In other classrooms, people were holding meetings or working quietly.

Google also offers a 'device case' so that any startup can test their apps for free, instead of having to buy test devices themselves.

Naturally, the device case includes Android devices like the Galaxy Tab.

It also includes others like the iPad.

Every floor has a different theme. This one was built to honour Israel's agriculture. It looks like an orange grove.

Those are not real Orange trees ...

But the room definitely feels like you're hanging out in a grove.

Even the doorways are decorated in agriculture style.

Here's some Google employees hanging out in a library nook in the Agriculture room, enjoying the vibe.

This is the beach floor. Tel Aviv borders the warm and beautiful Mediterranean sea. That slide is accessed from the floor above. The US Ambassador rode it.

Naturally the beach floor has plenty of beach chairs.

And umbrellas.

The kitchen is the main attraction.

It's filled with free food and surf boards.

Someone even converted an old board into the kitchen table. Lots of Israeli startups have beautiful offices, but Google's Tel Aviv office is definitely unique.

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