Philly Faces: Entrepreneur Tackles Veganism


After years in Israel and New York City, Chen Atlas has found a new home in Philadelphia.

Chen Atlas | Photo provided

Originally from Rehovot, Atlas studied software engineering and served five years in the Israel Defense Forces before diving into Tel Aviv’s start-up culture, to which he attributes his entrepreneurial spirit.

Atlas continued from there to New York, where he started two tech companies, Cleanly — which Atlas described as Uber for laundry — and As You Stay, a hotel app. A year ago, he moved to Philadelphia, and in December, he branched out in an entirely different direction and opened a vegan restaurant in Philadelphia called Vegan or Not.

While he has other potential business ideas swirling around in his head, for the moment, he is focused on his current projects.

We caught up with Atlas via phone this week.

Q: Would you consider yourself a serial entrepreneur?

A: Yes. A lot of times I can see the end result, and I am trying to get it, whatever it is in life. It always works for me, being consistent and determined about success, all of this with my motivation and everything. I like to create. If it’s software or physical product, I see it as some kind of an art. I have a list of things that I want to do, and I want to make the world better.

Q: How have your experiences in the Israeli military shaped you?

A: I was very lucky being in such a great unit with great people. The start-up scene in Israel and the tech scene in Israel is very huge, but the community is not as big, so you get to know a lot of people and companies … a lot of your friends opening their own companies and so on. … The Israeli mentality is to actually own a business and not work in a business or something like that. It’s a mix of everything specifically in the army. I had a platform to learn a lot and to manage a data center on a scale that is the biggest in Israel. The infrastructure and everything is not usually something you’d handle on a private or small company. Even a big company doesn’t have the same equipment. I developed a lot in the army, which also helped my self-respect.

Q: Why did you move to Philadelphia?

A: I didn’t like New York after a few years of living there. It was too much for me. I felt that I need someplace that is filled with less of that energy or people trying to push each other in the subway or no one is smiling when you go on the subway, that kind of feeling, rushing, it affects you when you go to work. Everywhere you go, you feel like everyone’s rushing. It was too much for me eventually, and my best friend lives in Philadelphia. I have a highly active dog, so I also need the space and nature.

Q: Why did you decide to start a vegan restaurant?

A: This is something that is very close to me and my friend, which is for the last year, we’ve been vegan ourselves. I started being vegan for health reasons, and as I learned and got more into this field, I saw that basically there’s a lot of animals that suffer for no meat actually. After you stop eating meat and cheese and everything, you just see it in a different way. Automatically, we just eat whatever we’ve been born to. Most of all, we wanted to create for [my best friend] some kind of restaurant where he can actually express himself and have really good food that is vegan for people who eat healthy.

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  1. Incredible vegan restaurant in Philly. I am a Manhattan-born vegan and my nephew, Aaron Greenwald, started a gluten-free frozen pizza business.

    My brother, Drew Greenwald, went to the University of Pennsylvania, so Philly was always a special walking city for me.


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