The Silicon Valley of the Middle East

17 07 2013

start-up-With more than 600 tech startups in its 20 square miles, Tel Aviv is second only to California’s Silicon Valley, attracting investment and guidance from giants including Google and eBay.

It’s all about an ecosystem of talented people eager to work together and tackle tough challenges. “You have everything you need and all the people who can help you get a startup going and make it successful,” says Roy Man, founder and CEO of DaPulse, which offers a new approach to internal corporate communications.

Click on the video to find out what makes Tel Aviv a startup city:

Thanks israel21c.org for the story





Google buys Israel’s Waze to keep mobile maps lead

12 06 2013

waze_logoGoogle Inc.’s $1.03 billion purchase of Israeli navigation software maker Waze marks an important milestone for the country that affectionately calls itself “Start-Up Nation.”Google’s acquisition ranks among the largest purchases of an Internet company this year.

The acquisition is not only among the largest-ever purchase prices for an Israeli start-up. It also cements a recent push by the local high-tech industry into the fast-growing consumer market.

“I think it’s a big step forward,” said Erel Margalit, a leading Israeli entrepreneur and opposition lawmaker in parliament. “Israel is no longer just a R&D center. It’s a creative hub.”

Waze is a company that makes a popular and fast growing mapping app available for iOS and Android devices. The snappy official description is as follows “Waze is the world’s fastest-growing community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute.” The company points out that real people providing real-time info on road conditions is of great utility for navigation and can help you “outsmart traffic” every day.

Four-year-old Waze was the brainchild of Ehud Shabtai, a software engineer with a degree in philosophy and computer science from Tel Aviv University, who hit upon the idea when he realized commercially available GPS software could not reflect real-time conditions speedily enough, or provide certain useful data – such as speed traps.

According to Waze’s website, Shabtai teamed up with entrepreneurs Uri Levine and Amir Shinar to found Waze in 2008. It now has 47 million users, raising $67 million in funding to date from firms including: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Blue Run Ventures and semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc.

Sources: 1 2 3





See for Yourself

4 06 2013

home-mobilityOrCam was founded in 2010 with a clear mission – to use advanced computer vision to help the visually impaired and blind regain the functionalities that were lost.

For the past three years, the system was developed, tested and refined in Israel by a team of engineers, most of whom came from elite technological units of the IDF and academia.

OrCam harnesses the power of Artificial Vision to compensate for lost visual abilities. It is a sensor that sees what is in front of you, understands what information you seek and provides it to you through a bone-conduction earpiece.strip-product-closeup-2000x321

OrCam can read, recognize faces, identify objects, products and places, locate bus numbers and monitor traffic lights. It does all that with the most intuitive user interface you can imagine.

The device currently recognizes English-language text and beginning this week will be sold through the company’s Web site for $2,500, about the cost of a midrange hearing aid.





Can’t use the hotel reservation? Sell it online

28 05 2013

Two Israeli startups, Roomer and Cancelon, help find a buyer for your cancelled room reservation so you won’t lose on fees and no-refund deals.
If you have to cancel a hotel reservation and stand to lose money, two Israeli startups will help you find a buyer more than happy to take the reservation off your hands.
Both Roomer and Cancelon arose from the same situation: Out of every 100 hotel reservations in the United States alone, six incur a cancellation fee for a last-minute change of plans. Plus, many discounted advance reservation deals are non-refundable. These online services, which differ from one another slightly in the details, help the reservation-holder recoup losses; offer buyers attractive deals on rooms even in fully booked hotels; and boost occupancy rates in hotels. “We are proving the concept that there are enough cancellations every day to create this market,” says Gon Ben-David, 26, co-founder of Roomer. “It happens all the time — 86 million times per year in the US”. Like many good ideas, Roomer and Cancelon both started from personal experience.

Cancelon

Israeli attorney Efrat Kaul and veteran high-tech executive Omer Granot launched their website in autumn 2011. “We were the first to have a marketplace for non-refundable hotel reservations,” Kaul tells ISRAEL21c. “We were both living in the US, where people travel a lot and use online travel agencies, and if you cancel you’re stuck with a reservation you cannot use, and lose your money.”

Cancelon founders Omer Granot and Efrat Kaul.

Cancelon founders Omer Granot and Efrat Kaul

It’s free to post and search. “Once we find you a buyer for your reservation, we take a handling fee of 10 percent,” she explains. Cancelon’s team is based in Ra’anana in central Israel, and handles reservation transactions in countries worldwide. One of the recent deals was a six-night reservation at a five-star Cannes hotel, listed by the hotel at $13,000, bought for $7,200 and resold through Cancelon for $3,000.

“The advantage of using such a platform for buyers is not only that you get the best price, because often people are willing to give you a big discount, but also you can get rooms at pre-booked hotels.” You can negotiate if you think the seller’s asking price is too high. “I haven’t seen a seller who did not agree to a reasonable offer,” says Kaul.

Both Cancelon and Roomer had listings for hotel rooms for Super Bowl Sunday 2013 in New Orleans, even though all hotels in the area were booked solid.

Kaul estimates that 30-40% of transactions on the site (with a mobile app soon to follow) are for the upcoming week. However, many are for months in the future. That’s because many travelers make non-refundable advance reservations to get a lower price, taking the risk that their plans may change.

“Competition in the travel industry is immense, so everyone is doing what they can to reduce prices, and cancellation policies are prevalent,” she says. Cancelon has an alert feature for users interested in specific destinations. “We see our business as a service to the public, and as part of the social trend,” says Kaul.

Thank you Israel21c for the story





Google Launches Startup Incubator in Tel Aviv

11 12 2012

pm-netanyahu-campus-tlvYesterday, Google officially inaugurated its start-up incubator located in Tel Aviv, Israel. Located in Tel Aviv’s Electra Tower, Campus Tel Aviv as it’s being called is part of Google’s efforts to support early-stage internet and mobile startups. At Campus Tel Aviv, entrepreneurs get full access to smartphones and tablets to help them design and test apps and other programs.

After ceremoniously cutting the red ribbon (via touch screen), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the entire team at Google Israel saying  “We are committed to promoting and supporting entrepreneurship, which is not only important economically, but also socioeconomically, especially in the reality in which we live. Nonetheless, we must invest more. Although entrepreneurship and technology have boosted us to the top of the pyramid, we have a problem with the achievements of Israeli pupils in international tests, and we are dealing with matter and investing billions in this area.”

Google Israel R&D Center managing director Yossi Matias said, “The Campus Tel Aviv joins Campus London. It is Google’s step to provide support for Israeli technological innovation, both because of the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship and the centrality of Israel in fostering these values. Israel’s leadership in initiating innovation is part of its DNA.”

Coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Channukah, Prime Minister Netanyahu took the time to make a Google-doodle of his own

Coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Channukah, Prime Minister Netanyahu took the time to make a Google-doodle of his own

Thank you Isrealli for the story.





The World’s First Cardboard Bicycle

19 10 2012

The world’s first cardboard bicycle

The world’s first cardboard bicycle, invented by Izhar Gafni – an Israeli expert in designing automated mass-production lines, is just months away from mass production lines. Gafni and his business partner Nimrod Elmish say the environmentally friendly bikes will likely sell for a mere $20.

In addition to offering a green product, the Israeli team says it has created a business model that could allow for bicycles to be given away for free in poor countries. They say their plan does not allow for financial benefits in cheap labor markets.”

This is a real game-changer. It changes the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labor markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change,” said Elmish

Elmish explained that those who make the bikes would bring in financial rewards from advertisements and government grants. “We are copying a business model from the high-tech world where software is distributed free because it includes embedded advertising.”

Initial production of three bicycle models is set to begin on Moshav Ahituv in Israel in the coming months and they will be available to purchase within a year.

Planning for the first production lines for an urban bike (with an electric motor), a youth bike and a balance bike will be completed within the next six months.

The Israeli team was also requested to make a cardboard wheelchair – based on the same principles used for the bike prototype – for a non-profit organization working in Africa.

For further reading please click here





Make Way for a Hand-Drying Revolution

30 08 2012
 

Move over paper towels and jet dryers. Israeli-manufactured UltraClean is coming to transform the way we dry our hands in public restrooms.

 
The UltraClean machine won a prestigious design innovation award. 

Here’s a multiple-choice question: What is the most hygienic and ecologically responsible way to dry your hands in a public restroom?

(a) paper towel

(b) forced air dryer

(c) fabric towel on a continuous loop

(d) an Israeli invention soon to hit the market

The answer is (d), says Avi Kafzan, a Technion-trained mechanical engineer and owner of Manal-Israel Clean Towels, the largest hygiene company in Israel.

The volume of paper manufactured and thrown away is wasteful, and hauling it to and from customers eats up energy and causes pollution. Less obvious is the drawback to jet dryers, which are popular in high-usage sites such as airport restrooms.

“These units collect the germs from the air and spray them onto your hands,” Kafzan claims. “The amount of germs that stays is three times more than before you washed your hands. It’s the mechanical work of rubbing your hands that removes the germs. With paper and towel, you can remove 95 percent of the germs.”

A recent study conducted by the University of Westminster also pointed out that because jet dryers are noisy and take 15 or 20 seconds, people prefer to leave the bathroom with wet or damp hands, which become magnets for bacteria on door handles.

About eight years ago, Kafzan founded UltraClean, a company dedicated to designing a “green” hand-drying system effective against the spread of germs while convenient for the consumer and the servicer.

UltraClean is a patented, non-touch linen towel dispenser with a self-laundering system inside. The gadget won the top 2008 Innovation Award at the ISSA/Interclean international conference in Amsterdam, which is the Academy Awards of the hygiene world.

Wave a hand in front of the machine’s sensor, and a laundered section of towel appears. After you dry your hands, that segment disappears inside, where it’s soaped up to await a pre-programmed hot-wash-and-dry cycle that will kick in at the end of the workday. Using heated tap water and internal brushes and detergent cartridges, the system can be customized for each site’s needs, including the length of the towel, what time to start laundering and how heavy-duty the cleaning and sanitizing must be. Kafzan is finally ready to say that UltraClean will be released on the market at the beginning of 2013.

He hired consultants in engineering, design and software, and engaged a lab to develop and test the product, which uses 10 to 12 liters of water and environmentally friendly detergent.

Kafzan explains that distributors would get a week of training to install and service the machines they buy, replacing towel, cartridges and cleaning brushes yearly.

“One and a half years after the first investment, the distributor will save more than 50 percent of costs,” predicts Kafzan. “If you buy 300 units, you can charge $40 per month per machine, so at the end you’d see an income of $12,000 per unit, with only one person needed to operate that system.”

Manufacturing is expected to be mainly in China, with some parts and assembly done in Israel.

For further reading please click here