As Israeli tech continues to evolve from Startup Nation to something a bit more mature, call it Scale-up Nation or Unicorn Nation, I become aware of more and more remarkable people doing extraordinary things to disrupt and enhance our lives.Over the past few years, I have noticed a growing number of couples and siblings who are doing some incredible things and since Israelis are so good at tech and so weak at marketing (Yes, I am generalizing.), chances are you never even heard of half these people, so I figured I would highlight them.
One of the many perks of doing what I do, (What do I do anyway?) is that I am fortunate to meet people every day from whom I learn and gain expertise in what it means to be a great entrepreneur.
A lot going on in the mobile industry in the last few days and Israel is in the hot spot (no pun intended). Let’s start with the fact that all 3 cellular providers; Orange, Cellcom, and Pelephone recently announced that they will be launching the iPhone 3Gs over the next few months. The word on the street, and when I say street, I mean Twittersphere of course, is that at least two of the three providers bought 100 thousand iPhones from Apple. Now you have to understand that fact in the context that these providers max out at 150 thousand mobile devices sold annually! So out of the 150 thousand phones they will sell in 2009, 100 thousand will be iPhones?!
I know you haven’t heard from me in a while but things have been pretty crazy around here. I launched my company’s online forum this past week and its a lot of work to get it off the ground. I haven’t been reading anything this past week except for the blog, and my Google Reader shows it, over 1000 unread. It’s really great that I have a partner in crime, Hillel, who has taken over the work and done a really great job, Thanks man!
Ok, on with my rant. Apple has extended its country list for planned iPhone distribution. On this list Botswana, Kenya, Mali, Malta, Senegal, Guinea, Egypt and Jordan. Why is Israel left off this list? I am not saying anything bad about Kenya but come on Apple, are Israelis that hard to deal with??
Today’s biggest industry news, as far as I am concerned, is the Apple store launch in Ramat Aviv, Israel. According to reports (who am I kidding? There are no reports, I am talking about what was written on the designated Facebook group), the grand opening has been in planning for months, and the new store will offer the Israeli consumer the same experience provided in Apple stores around the world (I wish I knew what that meant first hand, but from what I heard, it is a fun one).
What is left now, is 2 things:
- To get this store up to date with the most current Apple products (I know it has not opened yet, but I have a hunch that they will offer year-old products there), like the new iPhone for example.
- Once the store is current, we need to somehow get Apple to sell their products at the same prices they are sold in the U.S. The fact that it is opening in Ramat Aviv is not a good sign (that is the Beverly Hills of Israel). A man can dream, can’t he?
OK well today’s opening is a big step forward, I am sure we will have a long way to go until we have an Apple store like in NYC, but I am still in a good mood today.
Roi Carthy- TechCrunch- He did forget www.myflyscreen.com – Original article
Israel seems to have been the country with the single biggest foreign contingent at TC50 with no less than 6 of the 50 companies presenting on stage. Some more Israeli startups could be found in the demo pit, the exhibition space and just walking around the venue floor shopping for investors, customers and partners.
Here is a round-up of the 6 Israeli companies that presented on stage:
Registered Investment Advisors (RIA’s) typically provide advice to individuals with assets of $500K and above on average. The alternative to individuals with less assets are mutual funds which lack in transparencies (what your money is invested in) and individual attention (you get to talk to customer service reps, not the fund manager). Personalria wants to change all this by bringing the same high-end advice and investment transparency “rich folks” get to “ordinary folks” with much fewer assets to invest, say $10K.
The Personalria platform requires buy-in from both users and RIA’s. Users are required to open a brokerage trading account at Ameritrade or eTrade, for example, in order to use the Personalria service. RIA’s will need to create profiles describing their education, experience, etc.
The big question is whether the company can pull off the chicken-and-the-egg challenge, meaning, getting a critical mass of users and RIA’s that make it worthwhile for each group to join. The judges on the panel also noted the challenges the company will face in customer acquisition and the density of competition, both offline and online such as Cake Financial (a company that launched at last year’s TC40).
AlfaBetic has developed a propriety language translation engine based on statistical machine translation and human QA to translate English to Spanish, French, German and Portuguese.
The service is initially being targeted at bloggers which can provide AlfaBetic an RSS feed that will then be translated and consequently monetized globally. Their engine will do most of the work, but human intervention is used to edit and proof every piece of content. The engine employs domain language templates such as technology, sports and finance. These are improved over time through machine learning and as a result of the human QA.
The company’s planned business model requires it to provide the translated content to portals and then the selling of ads against it. This will be “non-intelligent” targeting, i.e. basic demographics, sponsorship, etc.
Panel judges Om Malik & Tim O’Riley were asked whether they would use the service and indicated they would not use a translation model. Instead they would opt for a full-blown localized operation such as fr.techcrunch.com.
The story of Tweegee begins in Israel where the company is active as Tipo.co.il, a kids community site with 800K monthly uniques (out of a total population of 1.2M kids aged 8-14).
TechCrunch50 marks the company’s launch of its American play—Tweegee.com—a social network aimed at being MySpace for kids aged 8-14. Positioned as a destination site, TweeGee is intended to offer tweens a safe environment to express themselves and interact with others in their age group.
The site offers email with a feature called WordUp, a patent pending application which works in a very similar manner to T9, but attuned to the 8-14 age group with relevant blacklisted words and such. Kids can also use a calendar app, build avatars, play multiplayer games and create their Zones which are websites built on Flash and HTML.
One of the big challenges the company will face is an issue panel judge Ron Conway raised and that is how to get gain a share of the time kids are already spending online in places such as ClubPenguin. Curiously, the company is adamant about not widgetizing its offering.
Next week the company will launch a Russian version called Tvidi.ru , the result of a partnership with Russian Media company RBC which paid $6M for 50% of the license. A Turkish version is in the works.
MytTopia wants to reduce the headaches and costs associated with developing games for mobile phones by allowing developers to write code once and have it immediately ported to all available smartphones and mobile operating systems.
The company’s solution—similar to that of Mo’Minis—is a Rich Content Authoring Environment called RUGS which utilizes a customized Eclipse-based IDE. Developers can use this environment to develop any number of mobile game applications without any platform-specific knowledge such as Symbian, PlamOS, or iPhone SDK. The application designer works independently of the programmer to design the app skin & layout—the code remains the same.
MyTopia claims that a single cross-platform game developed on RUGS required one developer four weeks at a cost of $50K, while it would cost $1M using current development methods.
MyTopia is also running a game destination site called MyTopia Online which was considered a distraction by the panel of judges.
Think of devunity’s collaborative coding platform as Google Docs for code. The key pain point it is trying to solve is providing developers the ability to interact with fellow developers in real time, thereby creating a “healthier” development process which would theoretically reduce dev costs.
There’s also no need to worry about versioning issues such as waiting for other developers to check-in code—devunity does all of this in real time. It also allows the developers to create discussions right on top of the code and gain additional visibility by way of a mini feed which is automatically created for each project.
The company is aiming for a two pronged business model approach. The first is a service play where developers would pay for usage based on a subscription model. The second is a white label approach where companies can form their own devunity environment. An interesting example for the latter would be to allow an outside development firm to use devunity in order to work and interact along side an in-house dev team.
plaYce believes there’s a gap between high-end and casual games, where the former is expensive and might not give you the bang for your buck you expect, and the latter being free but flat in game graphic quality.
plaYce is attempting to bridge this gap through a propriety graphics rendering technology that requires no-download yet still delivers high graphics quality and fast frame rate, right within the browser. While still restricted to IE—it requires a DirectX plugin—the company claims the technology will be applicable on other browsers and is optimized for low-end computers. It is also able to recreate dense scenarios streamed over slow web connections.
The company has no intent to develop the games itself, rather it sees itself as both platform and publisher. It intends to lure independent game developers by offering them what it calls “Game Infrastructure as a Service” which would include everything from the game infrastructure to user acquisition.
The major challenge for plaYce will be to find 2-3 killer games that will bring the critical mass of users necessary to attract game developers to the platform.
For more information on plaYce, see John Biggs’ post, here.
Founded by Nir Ofir, a co-founder at BlogTV, iamnews is taking a crowed-sourced approach to the newsroom. Once news tasks are created, reporters from around can contribute into them. This can include pure textual content, photos and videos. The platform handles the entire process, from task creation to management of the contributions. With the newspaper business continuing to struggle, a solution such as iamnews can help them deliver quicker news more cheaply.
ConTrust provides a real-time UGC moderation platform able to identify content threats including profanity, pornography, racism and brand abuse. It is then able to block these threats according to a set of pre-defined customized levels. The company also claims their platform protects against traditional security threats such as spam, phishing, and malware.
Joongel considers itself a platform for the creation of web-based toolbars. These are toolbar “strips” in the header area of a web page that require neither download nor installation. Site publishers can use Joongel to offer a search engine aggregator or a vertical search engine for travel, video, cooking, etc. The motivation for publishers is mainly through monetization via affiliation and ad rev-share.
Update: A prominent angel investor walking the TC50 DemoPit has expressed interest in investing in the company.
2Pad is a web service that integrates with your email service—currently limited to Windows Live, AOL, Gmail, MobileME and IMAP service providers—in order to mine it for pictures and videos. 2Pad then automatically tags them with the email’s subject, sender, recipient—all of which are then available as filters. The service is very similar to xoopit with the major difference being that 2Pad does not require an installation.
Delver has developed a search engine designed to uncover knowledge and information that exists in users’ social graphs. Delver is packaging themselves as both a destination site and a white label solution for intra social network search.
Payoneer provides a payment solution for web-business that utilizes MasterCard debit cards to facilitate the actual payment at the end point. While similar in concept to PayPal, Payoneer sees itself more of a complement than competition in the sense that it can bring its expertise in international payments into the PayPal ecosystem—an area PayPal is generally considered as lacking.
The company recently closed an $8M Series B round from Greylock and Carmel Ventures.
Wix offers a webtop publishing platform for the creation of Flash-based websites, social network profiles, comments and more. (Disclosure: I advised the company in the past).