If you’ve been following this column over the past two weeks, no doubt you are wondering, “OK, which start-ups from Israel – Start-up Nation – do you actually like?” I spent a full week in Israel – as part of a delegation of entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley – earlier last month. We met so many people, and so many organizations, and I’ve committed to writing a seventeen part series to capture the experience (this is part thirteen; I am almost done).
Still, I see the need to post an article about a small set of smallish companies that reflect what’s going on in Israel. Here are seven of the best start-ups and products I heard about. I am betting you will hear more about them — at least some of them — in the coming year. It’s not that they’re Israeli that makes them compelling. They are all excellent (though I’ll admit I have biases, based on what I know about their markets from my work as a consultant). It’s that the founders and their backers may be as bold as they are talented, and a few are stretching the boundaries of what we think about tech.
The brainchild of CTO Triinu Magi – a leader in an emerging cadre of women in Israeli-born tech – and others, Neura aims to be an Internet-of-Things platform that (a) helps to integrate all those devices that dominate your life and (b) helps to take the data you create to make suggestions for making your life more satisfying. It’s still early-days for the company. But it has vision, backers, and an idea for the marketplace of wellness that positions it very well for growth.
This is another hot company with another woman CTO, Kira Radinsky. Beyond that, SalesPredict is winning with customers and investors with a novel way for helping businesses discover their best customers through predictive analytics. As a consultant in this space, I can attest that this is a big opportunity in a super competitive market. But with the mighty government+business+connections machine that drives so much Israeli tech, SalesPredict has a more-than-fair advantage in the US marketplace, the biggest venue for sales and marketing software.
This is one of several start-ups led by Arab Israelis that we met during our visit. But as a long-time consultant to businesses in the super-geeky world of electronic design automation (EDA) – the technology that powers the design of computing components like chips – this one truly stood out. Led by Nazareth-based Jamil Mazzawi, Optima Design seeks to solve the big problem of “soft errors” in chip design: the malfunctioning of chips due to exposure to space (e.g., the sun). As electronics get more exposed to the elements—think wearables — Mazzawi’s solution becomes even more relevant. And there is not one company in the richly financed EDA market that is thinking like his company.
I wrote about this company – another Nazareth start-up led by an Arab Israeli (Firas Swidan) – a few weeks ago. Using a simple mobile app, Gene-Way creates personalized life plans for diet, exercise, and other health-related activities based on “epigenetic testing“ (blood tests and other instruments). The simplicity of the approach is noteworthy, but the science is even more. What we’re looking at here, potentially, is the productizing of decades of science on what makes people well. And Dr. Swidan – who has had an illustrious career in both academia and industry – might be the right person to pull it off.
This company, founded by Venezuala-born Leonardo Marcovitz, will be the subject of my penultimate post about my visit to Israel. What he’s doing: helping to address the impending crisis of global food production – we are struggling and will continue to struggle to produce enough to feed all the people on our planet – by attacking inefficiencies at the farm level, and in countries that most need innovation. The solution, says Marcovitz, is “a software data collection and analysis tool. It simplifies these processes to allow cooperatives to meet their certification requirements in an effective manner therefore providing access to formal/global markets for all the farmers involved.” Stay tuned.
OK, this was perhaps the most eye-popping demo we witnessed, and not just because our host treated our delegation to a round of Arak, an Anise-favored liqueur that’s popular in the Middle East (such a great idea; US start-ups, please take note). Imagine a pocket-size scanner that can help you determine the content of food, medicine, and plants … instantly. The creation of folks at Consumers Physics in Tel Aviv, Scio has raised millions via Kickstarter and institutional funders. I love the potential consumer use cases – “what’s in this drink called Arak” – but the industrial uses are just as compelling. With inventions like this, quality control of all the things we ingest may forever change.
Genie (from White Innovation)
And, OK, If I had to pick a front-runner – but I’m not sure I want to — I’d have to pick Genie, the latest creation of serial inventor Doran Marco, founder of the White Innovation product studio. Not just because it’s so audacious, but because Doran has scored so many times before (he has more than 100 patents in his name). Like many other Israeli entrepreneurs I’ve been following – including the founders of Goplatfarm and Scio – Doron is looking to impact the future of food (a huge and vastly unexplored area for tech innovation, as I recently observed in a feature about a US startup). How? Genie is a small appliance that prepares food in pods, similar to how products like Keurig help you prepare coffee.
Again, my experience may be the cause of my bias. As a consultant who has just recently begun advising companies in the food industry, I can confidently say that it’s only a matter of time before products like this become mainstream. But I am betting that people like Doron get faster to market, in part because of the tenacity that the Israeli start-up world breeds.